Given its position as one of the grande dames (or hommes depending on how you gender your brands) of the luxury watch world, you don’t necessarily equate Cartier with being on trend. Desirable, yes. Classic, of course. But a trend leader, not so much. However, its revamp of its Santos collection unveiled at SIHH was the first inkling that square and rectangular, rather than round and oval, were going to be the case shapes of 2018.
Obviously the iconic case of the Santos is nothing new; it’s a design invented at the turn of the century when pilot Alberto Santos Dumont mentioned to his friend Louis Cartier that he found it difficult to check his pocket watch while flying. Cartier responded by creating the first-ever pilot watch – the Santos-Dumont wristwatch. With its bevelled-edged square case it became an instant style icon, representative of the modernist period that was influencing design at the time.
Skip forward a mere 114 years and it is now available in a very female-friendly 35mm version and in various iterations, including a very fabulous all pink-gold option with Cartier’s new SmartLink adjustment, which means you can change the strap size at home.
Hermès, meanwhile, has relaunched its Carré H, with the 2010 original given a make-over by designer and furniture maker Marc Berthier. With its deceptive simplicity, square case and minimalist aesthetic, it has a mid-century modern vibe that still feels relevant.
The trend continued at this year’s Baselworld. Nomos put its Tetra back in the spotlight with a series of deliciously candy-coloured dials called the Petit Four series; the best of which being the Tetra Azure with its powder-blue dial and contrasting emerald hands.
Meanwhile Rado went 1960s and rectangular with a reissue of its Manhattan, now called the Tradition 1965. Its boxy indices and brown colour palette, were inspired by Manhattan’s 1960s skyline and it’s the kind of thing you could imagine Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen wearing to prove she’s not like other women. It’s a bold slice of retro style that’s perfect for today’s gender-fluid times.
However, if you want the watch that most encompasses gender fluidity and the trend for angular cases, then it has to be Chanel’s Boy.Friend Skeleton that houses the Maison’s newest in-house movement. By exposing the mechanics, the Place Vendôme-inspired case takes on a more masculine aesthetic, while the flashes of gold and the option of diamonds draws it back to the feminine.
It is a perfect distillation of the appeal of this new breed of angular cases – a flirtation between male and female design codes that feels both bravely modern but also eminently classic.