Round or square dials with flat display cases are pretty much the norm in the world of high-end timepieces. A few daring watch manufactures, however, venture beyond these traditional forms, experimenting with domed displays, transparent cases and unusual timekeeping apertures that are as avant-garde as they are stunning.
Here, we cast a discerning eye over the latest crop of unusually shaped wrist adornments.
Cloche de Cartier by Cartier
First on our list is the bell-shaped Cloche de Cartier. Inspired by luxury maison Cartier’s Cloche design of the ’20s, this idiosyncratic creation boasts a bell-shaped case with the dial’s hour markers rotated some 90 degrees from its usual orientation, giving it the aesthetic of a traditional desk clock.
Six different iterations of the new Cloche de Cartier have been unveiled. Versions encased in yellow gold, pink gold and platinum are equipped with a hand-wound 1917 MC movement, while three skeletonised models – available in pink gold, platinum or platinum with diamonds – feature a calibre 9626 MC movement.
Purnell Escape II Absolute Sapphire
Similarly boasting a see-through appeal is Swiss watchmaker Purnell’s Escape II Absolute Sapphire, which claims the honour of being the world’s first-ever double triple-axis tourbillon to be housed in a full sapphire case with movement bridges and a dial crafted from sapphire crystal.
This delightful open-worked motif affords direct views of the intricately engineered double Spherion movement, as well as the six barrels that power it. Just one piece will be made, so this exceptional 48mm watch is a guaranteed collector’s edition.
Vacheron Constantin American 1921 Pièce Unique
Another one-of-a-kind model with an unusual case is Vacheron Constantin’s American 1921 Pièce Unique, which the marque has painstakingly recreated from the 1919 original. When that vintage timepiece debuted, it was the world’s first-ever cushion-shaped design, and this unique feature has been revived for its 21st-century descendant.
In keeping with the historic nature of its legacy, almost every component of the watch has been constructed exactly as it would have been a century ago, with even the logo reading a period-accurate ‘Vacheron et Constantin Geneve Suisse’.
Greubel Forsey GMT Sport
Injecting an element of 3D sophistication, meanwhile, is Greubel Forsey’s updated GMT Sport. Certain to appeal to jetsetters, its three-dimensional blue dial is punctuated with a second time zone indicator, a rotating globe with universal time and day-night indicator, and a tourbillon at the 2 o’clock position.
Limited to a release of just 33 pieces in titanium, it sports a distinctive ovoid case that gently curves at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock for a more streamlined look.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem Minute Repeater
Not to be outdone, high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton has pulled back the curtain on the Tambour Carpe Diem Minute Repeater, a fantastical horological creation featuring a dominant relief sculpture of a skull on its dial, replete with an intertwining snake. A legion of moving mechanisms stud this truly stunning piece of engineering, be it the snake’s tail that acts as a retrograde seconds indicator, the skull’s jaw gaping open to reveal the words ‘carpe diem’ or the moving lattice that changes the brand’s floral emblem into a star. In short, this is one minute repeater and ‘time on demand’ timepiece that elevates dial art to a whole new strata.
Christophe Claret X-TREM-1
Taking the number one spot on our list of unusually shaped dials is independent Swiss watchmaker Christophe Claret’s X-TREM-1. Having debuted in 2012, this latest edition comes burnished in an eye-catching blue hue. Turning traditional timekeeping completely on its head, it eschews hour and minute hands entirely, instead displaying the time via two orange steel spheres moving up and down demarcated hour and minute displays. Seconds, meanwhile, are indicated by the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock, which rotates every 30 seconds. Powered by a hand-wound FLY11 mechanical movement that takes place of pride on its open-worked fascia, this remarkable creation represents innovative haute horology at its very best.
Feature image: Vacheron Constantin’s American 1921 Pièce Unique movement assembly