Since the days of the first pocket watches, standard watch dials have been round. This was a natural evolution in timekeeping technology, since watches were based on sundials, where a shadow sweeps around in a semicircle. And with centrally-mounted, sweeping hands, it makes sense to arrange the numbers in a circle.
But as with any other aspect of watch design, there are exceptions to the rule. A square watch might be a less intuitive design than a round one, but it creates an entirely different profile when you wear it. Instead of curves, you’re looking at straight lines, which opens a whole new world of fashion possibilities. Today, I’m going to talk about three of my favorite iconic square watches. These watches break the mold in all the best ways, and make a bold watch enthusiast statement; here’s a quick overview of each.
JLC Reverso Classic Small Seconds
The JLC Reverso Classic Small Seconds watch isn’t technically square; it’s rectangular, with a height of 42.9mm and a width of 25.5mm. This rectangular shape lends the watch a retro charm, and at only an inch in width, it has a small wrist presence that’s right out of the 1950s. The case itself is crafted from stainless steel, with grooves above and below the dial. On the right side, you’ll find a knurled crown that’s easy to access; the water-resistance is 30 meters, enough for showering or casual swimming.
The back of the Reverso is smooth by default, although for a few extra dollars you can order one with a personalized engraving. The crystal is scratch-resistant sapphire, and sits flush to the smooth, wide bezel.
The dial is textured in the center, with a guilloche pattern that glitters in the light. The outer border has a smoother, brushed silver-grey finish. Along this outer border, there are black Arabic numerals, printed in a plain font that’s both easy to read and uncomplicated. In the inner portion of the dial, around the edge, you’ll see a series of hashes, with fatter hashes at the five-minute marks. As with any square watch, the hashes are packed more tightly towards the middle, and thin out near the corners. Near the 12 o’clock position, there’s a JLC emblem, which is the only other decoration.
The hands are a bold electric blue, with a baton-style shape. The hour hand reaches only to the inner index, while the minute hand extends all the way to the outer Arabic numerals. There is no second hand. However, there is a 60-minute subdial at the 6 o’clock position, with its own small blue hand. This subdial is also rectangular, with similar proportions to the main dial.
The Reverso utilizes a manually-wound movement rather than an automatic, so you’ll have to wind it yourself. That said, there’s a 45-hour power reserve, so if you forget to wind your watch for a day, it won’t die on you. The accuracy isn’t chronometer-grade, at +/- 10-15 seconds per day, so you’ll have to reset it more often than some other watches. Then again, this is a dress watch, so accuracy isn’t necessarily a huge concern.
Along with the watch, you receive a beautiful calfskin leather strap. You can choose between 12 different colors, and additional straps are available with an order.
Cartier Santos Blue Sunburst
The Cartier Santos Blue Sunburst has a genuinely square profile, with a width of 39.8mm. It has a medium wrist presence, although the dial itself is relatively modest. This is due to the wide, stepped bezel, which is decorated with several tiny screws that are functional as well as attractive. These screws pair well with the overall design, which features similar screws down the length of the bracelet. The bracelet itself is made of identical stainless steel, and you can unscrew individual links to make your own adjustments. The watch also ships with a navy blue calfskin strap, which you can swap in easily at home.
The case has a thickness of 9.08mm, including the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The crystal sits flush with the bezel, although there’s a beveled edge so you’ll see a fine groove. The case back is flat, and engraved with a Cartier emblem. On the side, you’ll see a 7-sided crown, which is easy to grip and tipped with an attractive blue gemstone. The watch is water-resistant to 100 meters, so it’s perfectly safe for swimming.
The dial is metallic sunburst blue, with a lightly brushed finish. Around the outside, there’s a ring of Arabic numerals, which are painted with white lume paint. Inside of these numerals, there’s a ladder index, with fatter “rungs” at the five-minute positions. The only decoration inside of the index is the word “Cartier” at 12 o’clock, and the word “Automatic” at 6. Outside the ladder index, in place of the Roman numeral VI, you’ll see a small date window. The colors here are inverted, with white numbers on a black background.
The minute and second hands are broadsword-shaped, with a silver base and white lume stripes. The second hand is longest of all, with a needle-like profile and a fat back end.
The Santos is powered by a Caliber 1847 MC chronometer-grade automatic movement. Accuracy is no concern here, and you also get a 42-hour power reserve to get you through a day without wearing it.
Tag Heuer Monaco
The Tag Heuer Monaco is similar in size to the Cartier Santos, with a width and height of 39mm. That said, the actual dial is much larger, since the bezel is more narrow. The sides of the case are slightly bowed, so it’s not a perfect rectangle, but the dial itself is. This makes for a unique appearance, with a bezel that’s broader in the center of the watch than at the top or the bottom. On the right side, there’s a knurled crown, along with a pair of pushers to operate all the chronometer functions.
This watch is water-resistant to 100 meters, which is remarkable given the design. The front sapphire crystal rises high above the bezel, with an edge that slightly distorts the dial when you view it from an angle. There’s also a back sapphire crystal, which provides a beautiful view of the movement. This movement is an in-house Heuer 02, which provides chronometer-grade performance. Not only that, but it boasts an 80-hour power reserve; you can take this watch off for three days and still not have to wind it.
The dial is metallic blue or black depending on which one you order, with silver applied indices at the five-minute positions. Inside of these, there are fine hashes to indicate the minutes, along with small lume dots at the bases of the applied indices. The hour and minute hands are sword-shaped and silver, with lume stripes down the centers. The second hand is actually located at the 6-o’clock position, on its own tiny subdial. The large red hand that looks like a second hand is actually part of the chronometer, not the main watch. Just beneath the second subdial, there’s also a small square date window.
There are two square chronometer subdials located on the dial. To the left, you’ll see a 12-hour subdial, and to the right, a 30-minute one. Each has a small white hand, with black Arabic numerals. The Monaco ships with an attractive three-link bracelet, although you can also order it with a leather strap.