Four straight sides, four right angles—it’s a recipe for uncool if the colloquialisms of the 1960s are anything to go by, the shape of the box we all strive to break free from. But that’s unfair, because squares can be cool, too. A crisp edge and a clean line can mean more than law and order; they can be beautiful, beguiling. But don’t just take my word for it—check out these nine phenomenal polygons and see what you think. If, by the end of this article, you don’t agree that it’s hip to be square, then I’m afraid you’re probably a bit of a circle, man . . .
Starting us off are three sportier choices from the more affordable end of the scale: SevenFriday’s P3-3, Bell & Ross’s BR01-92 and Cartier’s Santos 100, three bruisers fighting to prove that straight edges belong in watchmaking. The Santos 100 is a modern reinterpretation of a classic watch, built for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who liked nothing better than flying one-man airships of his own design to his favourite restaurants in Paris, floating lazily over the rooftops to the amazement of fellow patrons. Sounds like quite the reverse of untrendy if you ask me. The 100 boasts a muscular steel case with rubber bezel and strap, quite the contrast from Cartier’s more reserved designs.
Bell & Ross are no strangers to square cases, borrowing inspiration from the cockpit instruments made by its former case-maker, Sinn. The screws set in each corner not only hold the case together, they also serve as a reminder of the watchmaker’s catalyst, adding a functional aesthetic to the design. More so is the turn coordinator layout, which borrows with less subtlety from the cockpit. The three rotating discs not only fit the aeronautical theme, but also provide a digital display that’s surprisingly convenient to read. The same design can be found in SevenFriday’s P3-3, which also has an industrial quality about it. Clever use of a layered dial also gives the P3-3 a multi-faceted, three-dimensional look, making its sub-£1,000 price a pleasant surprise.
Like your squares a little bit more . . . well, round? These cushion-cased beauties are not to be ignored—three great brands, three rich heritages, three entirely different looks. Panerai’s Radiomir 1940 PAM00512 has a big, round dial, yes, but the case has four distinct corners that sit it quite firmly in the square camp. With a design lifted from the archives—somewhere between the creation of the Radiomir and the Luminor, it seems—the Radiomir 1940 marries the best of both styles into a svelte, elegant, hand-wound gem. Unlike other Panerai, its thin case and smaller diameter make it a more universal choice, just like the Monaco. An inspired design that hasn’t aged a day since its release in 1969, the Monaco is hard to say no to.
Center>IWC Da Vinci IW376407
The twin registers, left-handed crown and trend-setting square case were all ahead of their time in the 1960s, and still to this day they have a visual punch that puts it up with the best. In silver with orange accents, this version stands alone from its contemporaries, sporting both modern and retro detailing in equal measure. For more heritage-inspired horology, the IWC Da Vinci honours one of its most famous watchmakers, Kurt Klaus, whose Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar of the 1980s was a game-changer. This Da Vinci may not have quite the same complexity, but its design and quality are unmistakably IWC, as is the twin-hand chronograph sub-dial, a hallmark of the modern IWC chronograph.
Watches with corners don’t just have to be sporty, they can be smart, too, as this group from Jaeger-LeCoultre, Patek Philippe and Baume et Mercier clearly show. Despite the sporty origins of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Ultra-Thin on the polo fields of India, its design is reserved, classical and eminently tasteful. The reversible case harks back to the original use of the watch: to protect against knocks from polo balls and mallets. The art deco styling is ideally paired with a dashing formal suit, a theme that extends to the other two contenders here. The first is the Patek Philippe Gondolo, a similarly art deco slice of civility. The addition of a seconds sub-dial at six o’clock on the silvered dial makes the whole design pop against the black hands and markers. Baume et Mercier’s Hampton takes things forward in time, using similar themes with a distinctly more contemporary feel. But the result is similar: the Hampton is a strikingly smart timepiece befitting of any black tie event.
That’s nine watches in all, with not a round case to be seen. From black PVD to polished stainless steel, refined crocodile leather to a sporty rubber strap, its hard to ignore the temptation of a more angular watch. Whether it’s an affordable piece from SevenFriday, or an offering from one of the world’s greats like Patek Philippe or Jaeger-LeCoultre, there’s no ignoring them. With this many to choose from and more, there’s only one question left: are you too hip to be square?