The standard shape for pocket watches was round; therefore, when the progression to wristwatches started taking hold, it was only natural for wristwatches to follow the familiar silhouette. However, Louis Cartier was not a man to follow norms and made a name for himself and his family’s business by championing non-round watch designs, also known as “shaped watches.” Hot on the heels of the square watch made for Alberto Santos Dumont in 1904, Cartier debuted the Tonneau watch in 1906. Named after the French word for “barrel,” tonneau-shaped watches have long since been adopted by other brands. Whether elegant, sporty, or industrial, here are a handful of different approaches to tonneau-shaped watches.
Cartier Privé Tonneau
In keeping with the brand’s graceful design approach, the new Cartier Privé Tonneau watches are exceedingly elegant—retaining the essence of the original Tonneau model. The Tonneau Large watches feature cases that measure 46.1mm long and 26.2mm wide, with a slim profile at 8.8mm thick. Cartier announced two versions of the Tonneau Large: rose gold with a champagne dial and platinum with a silver dial—both punctuated with a pair of blued hands and applied Roman numeral indexes. The platinum version (limited to 100 pieces) includes a ruby cabochon in the crown while the rose gold model has the familiar blue sapphire cabochon. Power the new Cartier Privé Tonneau models is the in-house Caliber 1917 MC manual-winding movement.
Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Tourbillon Carbon Black
As its name suggests, the Spirit of the Big Bang is a spinoff of Hublot’s signature Big Bang watch collection—but rather than round cases, this collection opts for tonneau-shaped cases. The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Tourbillon Carbon Black is a perfect example of a modern execution of the classic barrel silhouette, where the 42mm tonneau case is crafted from carbon fiber with black composites yielding a striking finish. The star of the skeletonized dial is the tourbillon mechanism oscillating at 6 o’clock, accompanied by a power reserve indicator on its left and an off-center time display above it. While the watch comes fitted with a black structured lined rubber strap, the quick strap changing mechanism allows for easy switching whenever the mood strikes.
Richard Mille RM 11-03 Le Mans Classic
When it comes to ultra-high-end haute horlogerie manufactures, no brand comes close to Richard Mille’s dominance of the tonneau form. In fact, most of Richard Mille’s catalog is comprised of tonneau watches, including this RM 11-03 Le Mans Classic. The 49.94 mm x 44.50 mm x 16.15 mm tonneau-shaped case is fashioned in white ceramic and includes touches of British racing green on the crown, chronograph registers, and tachymeter scale. Named in honor of the racing event Richard Mille has supported since 2002, the Le Mans Classic flyback chronograph is driven by the skeletonized Caliber RMAC3 automatic movement and is limited to just 150 pieces.
Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpagraphe Chronomètre Titanium
The Kalpa collection houses Parmigiani Fleurier’s approach to the tonneau-shaped case, fitted with the brand’s signature “teardrop-style” lugs. New for this year is the Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpagraphe Chronomètre Titanium, which includes a 48.2mm x 40.9mm barrel-shaped case in grade 5 titanium with a micro-blasted finish, which gives the watch a sleek industrial style. Emphasizing the sporty nature of this Kalpagraphe chronograph is a black rubber strap while the open-worked dial is laser-cut to mimic a car radiator grille. The automobile inspiration carries through with the speedometer-like subdials and the exhibition caseback provides a view of the automatic Caliber PF362 integrated chronograph movement.