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It’s cool to be square

The hottest shape of the season among horology’s trendsetters

What do Madonna, Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt have in common? A penchant for square watches, of course. Broad and daring in design, square timepieces have long been adored for their edgy, dressy vibe by some of the most influential luminaries in watchmaking – the aforementioned pop provocateur favouring Cartier’s emblematic Panthère, while the icon of rugged masculinity that is Steve McQueen and the three-times Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen both opt for the TAG Heuer Monaco.

The basis of any respectable collection, the square watch is finding new life in 2023 as luxury watchmakers bring fresh energy to the classic design, incorporating square-shaped silhouettes into their horological offering in fine materials and unexpected settings.

Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney in the film Le Mans (1971) Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen, both wearing a Tag Heuer Monaco.

It was Hublot, a brand known for some of the most unapologetically bold timepieces on the market, who rebooted the trend in 2022 with the unveiling of its Shaped collection during the Watches & Wonders trade show in Geneva. Drawing on the unique hallmarks of its Big Bang, a disruptor of watch design first unveiled at Basel in 2005, and the tonneau-shaped Spirit of Big Bang, the Swiss watchmaker welcomed the new Square Bang in a covetable 42mm size. Marked by all the visual quirks of its predecessors, like the six H-shaped titanium screws in the bezel, the modular sandwich construction of the case and rubber-clad chrono pushers and crown, the Square Bang differentiates itself with a truly mesmerising shape, available in high-tech sapphire, ceramic, titanium and King Gold cases.

Different interpretations of the Hublot Square Bang Unico, ceramic (left) and sapphire (right).

“This new collection fully embodies Hublot’s DNA,” says Ricardo Guadalupe, Hublot’s CEO, on the new Square Bang. “This model falls into our “Shaped” collection together with the Spirit of Big Bang, a collection which we have seen increasing in popularity,” he continues. “Hublot is always pushing the boundaries of form and design, so creating a square watch was always something I dreamt of doing. The square shape is one of the most difficult shapes to make, and this is why we decided to undertake this challenge. So far, the collection has been a great success, so we look forward to developing it further.”

Low-key Swiss brand Rado has pioneered square watches since 1990 with the debut of Ceramica, the brand’s first square watch made from high-tech ceramic. With the success of this initial release, Rado has expanded its offering of square-shaped timepieces, including the True Square – an archetypal Rado motif – and, most recently, the True Square Thinline Les Couleurs Le Corbusier, a new collection of three limited-edition models inspired by the emblematic Bauhaus artist, one of the most revered architects of the last century. Imagined in vivid colours from Le Corbusier’s famous palette of 63 shades from the mid-20th century, which Rado has licensed for use, the new watches are equipped with Rado’s in-house R420 quartz movement and titanium caseback, each with a slim, square shape that combines the True Square and True Thinline families.

The three models in Rado’s new True Square Thinline Les Couleurs Le Corbusier.

At Nomos, a modern marvel of minimalist design born in the traditional watchmaking town of Glashütte in eastern Germany, the square shape takes on an equally vibrant look with a limited-edition run of its signature Tetra range. Unveiled in four intriguing colourways, including pops of red and blue, as well as a tonal off-white and pitch black, the new Tetra Neomatik – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte collection marries an atypical square case with the distinctive design language of the 33-year-old watch manufacturer – think glossy enamel finishings, an automatic movement and a svelte profile that delivers plenty of visual punch.

Three of the new Tetra Neomatik – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte models.

Across the border, Paris-based watchmaker Bell & Ross, has introduced the market’s latest rendition of the square case with its new BR 03 collection, unveiled earlier this year. “September was a big step for Bell & Ross with the restyling of our iconic BR 03, one millimetre shorter and a more modern design that gives our icon a completely new look,” says Carlos A. Rosillo, co-founder and CEO of the company. “This development marks a major milestone in the history of the brand, since in 2023 the BR 03 celebrated its 17th anniversary, the first time it has been redesigned since its creation.” One of the more alluring updates to the BR 03 collection – a flagship of Bell & Ross’ identity since 2006 – is the BR 03 Black Matte, a sleek, full-monochrome automatic watch, embellished with a rubber strap and luminescent numerals, which highlights the piece’s rounded sapphire dial and black ceramic casing.

Bell & Ross BR 03 Black Matte, the latest model in the collection launched this year to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the brand’s iconic model.

Favoured by A-list icons and modern-day rulebreakers alike, the square watch is the very height of horological nonconformity. Whether wrapped in colourful ceramic or carved in solid titanium, it’s also an easy way to add heat to your collection. And as one of the hottest trends in watchmaking right now, there are plenty of wrist-worthy options to choose from.

Words: Joshua Hendren

Opening image: Nomos Tetra Neomatik – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte.

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