Creative Watch Shapes Take the Spotlight
by roberta naas
The H.Stern/Diane von Furstenberg Sutra watch ($2,900) is crafted with a stainless-steel case and set with diamonds. The dial is enamel and the crystal is sapphire. This piece pays homage to the many facets of Diane von Furstenberg and her creations. Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave.,312-642-5900. Handcrafted in 18k white gold, this Ralph Lauren Stirrup Diamond Link watch (price on request) features a 24.7 carats of pavé diamond on the case and bracelet. The case shape is inspired by the brand’s equestrian influences and takes nearly three months to complete. 750 N. Michigan Ave., 312-280-1655. From Vacheron Constantin, this 1972 Small Model watch ($42,900) is set with 232 diamonds on the case and 159 diamonds on the dial, as well as diamonds on the buckle, for a total weight of 2.5 carats. The 18k white-gold watch houses a caliber 1202 quartz movement and was inspired by a brand archive model that dates back four decades. Trabert & Hoeffer, 11 E. Oak St., 312-787-1654. This Cartier Délices de Cartier watch ($72,000) is crafted in 18k white gold and set with diamonds on the femininely curved case, which was inspired by the brand’s exquisite jewelry creations. 630 N. Michigan Ave., 312-266-7440.
With their strikingly unique look, watches with nontraditional shapes are statements of individuality, artistic allure, and a sense of adventure. Conscious of the couture-wearing woman, creative watch brands today offer a vast array of bewitching silhouettes—sometimes sprinkled lightly with diamonds, occasionally bedecked in gems. More often than not, design inspiration comes from brand archives, but in some instances, the muse is a brand’s jewelry collections or comes from the artistic sensibility of their fashion and style DNA.
In the case of Ralph Lauren, the classic theme of the Stirrup watch stems from the brand’s equestrian influences. Similarly, H.Stern, in its development of the Diane von Furstenberg line of jewelry and watches, created a highly unusual geometric case shape that recalls the aesthetic influences of this dynamic woman and emulates her jewelry inspirations. “A watch should be designed for the woman with a powerful and feminine spirit,” says Roberto Stern, H.Stern’s president and creative director.
Creative case shapes have long been popular with sophisticated watch lovers and are currently enjoying renewed attention in Chicago. Watch brands began creating these shapes as early as the 1920s, with many inspired by the floral forms of Art Nouveau. Suddenly round wristwatches gave way to bejeweled beauties in the shapes of flowers, leaves, or ribbons and bows. Not even a decade later, a new genre of shaped watches emerged—shimmering pieces in oversize rectangular, marquise, or triangular shapes as watch brands emulated the architectural and geometrical motifs of the art, fashions, and designs of the Deco age.
The post–World War II era saw a renewed interest in flora and fauna, and animal-inspired watches burst onto the scene. Later, bolder styles contradicted this style, with many brands unveiling rectangular, oval, and tonneau (barrel) shaped cases with sleeker profiles and more classic designs. The venerable house of Cartier was inspired by its exquisite jewelry designs to turn shape into time on the wrist with its Délices collection of femininely curved timepieces. Its elongated, fluid form is both whimsical and weighty, calling to mind the art of Salvador Dalí. Vacheron Constantin’s 1972 has an asymmetrical form based on an archival timepiece from 40 years ago; in fact, this brand (the oldest continually operated Swiss watchmaker still in existence) unveiled its first tonneau-shaped watch to the world a full century ago and has never hesitated to look to its rich past for design inspiration.
“With watches such as our 1972 collection,” says Hugues de Pins, president of Vacheron Constantin in North America, “we pay tribute to our history while celebrating the values of classic, elegant design and technical mastery.” With that in mind, it should be noted that imagining a stunning new case shape doesn’t necessarily mean it can be brought to fruition. Generally, according to several watch brand executives, bringing a truly unique shape to the market requires additional research and development, new tooling, and many more steps in the production process, often translating to an additional six months or longer (as compared to a round case) before it becomes a reality. What’s more, newly shaped dials and crystals also need to be created for the case shape. For these reasons, such beguiling beauties generally command a slightly higher retail price than their round counterparts but are well worth it for their abstract, timeless appeal.
photography by antfarm
Michigan Avenue celebrates with cover star Harrison Ford at Chicago Cut Steakhouse.