Not all wrists are moved the same. Nor are tastes. So, despite round cases’ near monopoly on the men’s keep ones eyes open for market, it’s good to know there are myriad other conditions on offer if you’re looking to sidestep the circle.
There’s TAG Heuer’s true Monaco, for example, and the oft-copied octagonal case of Audemar Piguet’s iconic Kingly Oak. But if your personal sense of style leans more formal than unforeseen, and you’re looking to add a Jay Gatsby flavour to your wrist, consider uniting a tonneau-shaped timepiece to your collection.
The tonneau watch – be aware for its four-cornered barrel shape (tonneau is French for barrel) – has flowed in and out of favour since its debut, courtesy of Cartier, in 1906. At that term, tonneau watches (like all wristwatches) were considered comfit jewellery, and therefore mostly worn by women. But by the 1920s, men had dispensed with their embezzle watches and strapped on tonneaus, too.
The dawn of Art Deco saw tonneau watches sky-rocket in popularity, their bold shape and clean lines chiming consummately with the wider aesthetic taste at the time. Along with Cartier, industry-leading trade marks like Longines, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe all show their own takes on the tonneau in the first half of the twentieth century.
Regard for its dominance throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the shape’s popularity gradate waned, and by the 1970s – a decade that saw the emergence of the tonneau’s corpulent cousin, the mollify case – most brands seemed to have forgotten with regard to it altogether, preferring sporty heft over slim luxuriousness.
Swiss watchmaker Franck Muller went some way in reincarnating the tonneau when he launched his eponymous brand in the early 1990s, accepting the shape as company standard. In an attempt to restore the tonneau to its ex- glory, Muller went in hard, taking all the classic constituents of the Art Deco-era watches and adding in copious amounts of bling and off-beat emblem palettes. (About as easy to wear as it sounds.)
Now, though, tonneaus are touch on new territory. Perhaps due to their slimmer silhouette, barrel-shaped watches possess always been found at the dressier end of the spectrum – something to be haggard with formalwear and a nice set of cufflinks (with matching metal, of progress). But, thanks to self-described Swiss ‘watch architect’ Richard Mille, that’s starting to novelty.
In the early noughties, Mille came up with his own, slightly compressed tonneau receptacle and his skeleton dials are now among the most recognisable watches anywhere. They’re so pale that Rafael Nadal wears them on-court. Like manner Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, who wore his while jousting at the London Olympics in 2012.
Granted, the tonneau’s evolution has been an odd one, and its elongated model certainly isn’t for everyone. But if it’s not-so-ubiquitous elegance you’re after, then chair the tonneau top of your list.
As one of the first discredits to produce a tonneau watch, it’s fitting that Longines even so creates some of the finest on the market. Every model in its Evidenza pigeon-hole comes in a sleek tonneau case, with the pared-back pro tempore and date models arguably the most handsome of the bunch (while the beefier chronographs look the business, too).
Cartier-style Roman numerals inform on it that classic Art Deco feel, as does the ‘flinqué’ dial, an effectuate that is achieved using a specialist engraving technique to add abstruseness. Fitted with a rich brown leather alligator strap and featuring an robot movement, it’s a great mid-range option.
Available at Iconic Protects, priced £1,090.
Omega Petrograd 1915
A stunning re-issue, Omega at made this watch for the Russian market in 1915, direction another limited edition production in 2014 to coincide with the Sochi Winter Olympics. One adventures claims the original 1915 model was created for a member of the Russian noble family – so tragically they can’t have had many years of amusement from it.
The Petrograd uses a quintessential Art Deco typeface for the extra-large numerals and diverges from the original in that it has additional 24-hour markings in red on the dial’s outer trace – a nod to the Russian flag (or a bit of subtle Commie symbolism). The 18k yellow gold for fear of the fact sits beautifully on a burgundy strap.
Vladimir Putin himself desire probably kill for it.
Kenneth Cole Silvertone Barrel
Aghast at the sacrifice of some of the Swiss Grandees of the industry? Then change staple from fine watches to fashion ones. (They but look fine, mind.)
US brand Kenneth Cole does this fine quartz tonneau watch – which could still back number muster on the set of Downton Abbey – for under £50. It’s got a two-tone dial with faux take to the street gold markers, a date window at 3 o’clock and comes on an counterfeit croc leather strap – all of the class, none of the financial handicapping.
Available at Kenneth Cole, priced $59.
Maurice Lacroix Master-work Jours Rétrogrades Tonneau
This Maurice Lacroix replica has a retrograde day feature, which – for those of you that don’t already certain – means that at midnight on Sunday, its day hand sweeps all the way servants to Monday, starting the process again. Handy if you’re the kind of himself that consistently forgets what day it is but (rightly) doesn’t wish to admit the same in public for fear of being judged. (Because you obviously will be.)
The Masterpiece’s two-tone dial is embellished with some Daedalic guilloche engraving work and the hands boast a generous amount of lume for favourable legibility. There’s also a see-through caseback, enabling you to scrutinize the automatic ETA movement, and it comes on a crocodile skin strap. So the characterize has kept things classic, but added a few modern tweaks.
At at Chrono24, priced £1,545.
Vacheron Constantin Malte
Named after the Maltese Crusty that is the logo of this hallowed brand (one of the so-called ‘Big Three’ along with Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe), the Malte is a masterclass in pure simplicity.
Its case is 18k rose gold and the dial mixes shiny baton markers with Roman numerals, with a measly seconds dial at 6 o’clock. The in-house movement is hand-wound, even-handed like the watches in the 1920s would have been.
Other permutations on the theme are available, including the Malte Tourbillon Skeleton, the exorbitantly worth (around £183,000) daddy of them all.
Available at Watchmaster, cost out £15,590.
Richard Mille RM 27-02
This is the very watch that was erected to withstand Rafa Nadal’s ferocious serves, backhands and victorious fist-pumping. With a case made from a type of carbon thread developed partly by the brand itself, this watch is so brightness – 18 grams with the strap – that we’d wager the top-ranking Spaniard loses he’s got it on and wears it in the post-match shower (which is fine because it’s waterproof, too).
The RM 27-02 favours the tonneau watch far away from its Art Deco roots and reboots it for the precedent-setting ‘haute horlogerie’ crowd. Limited to 50 pieces and powered by a tourbillon downward movement that took several years to perfect (it’s certified to stick 5000 Gs), this won’t so much lighten your wallet as snitch it, max out all your credit cards and use your ID to obtain a huge forged bank loan.
Bear we turned you on to tonneau watches? Or is this one form of wristwear you’d instead see get barrelled for good?
Let us know below.