The Evolution of Designing a Watch Case

The Evolution of Designing a Watch Case

The case, more than any other feature of a watch, has the biggest influence on its overall appearance, and certain watches are immediately recognized only because of their case forms. However, no matter how unique a watch casing seems, it will nearly always fall into one of a few groups. What follows are those categories, so that when you hear someone say a watch has a “tank” casing, you know what they’re talking about. 

The Evolution of Designing a Watch Case

Common shapes when designing a watch case

The round casing

The great majority of wristwatches on the market employ a form of watch casing known simply as “round”—no fancy names or intriguing tales here. When a circular display provides the clearest method to show and read time, round casings simply make sense, and you’ll find everything from dress watches to diver’s and field watches – and even ones with chronographs in them. Round casings, in general, radiate a feeling of authenticity, and hark back to simpler times.

Tank casing

The famous Cartier Tank which was introduced in 1917 was actually inspired by the popular Renault tanks used during WWI. They were slightly rectangular, but they were so influential that many fans now refer to dress watches of similar shape as “tanks.” Regardless, the Tank appeared early in the history of the wristwatch, and several other watchmakers, like the famous Hamilton, Jaeger-LeCoultre as well as Gruen, made rectangular versions, making the form very popular throughout early decades in the 20th century. Rectangular watches are significantly less common nowadays, and the ones that do remain are primarily relics of the early wristwatches.


The square watch, similar to the rectangular watch, was significantly more widespread in the early as well as the mid-twentieth century. The shape was popular on slender, beautiful dress watches from manufacturers like Piguet Audemars and Constantin Vacheron. But as the 1970s progressed, several watchmakers used the square casing for making sports watches, with the Heuer Monaco being the most well-known example. Square watches have made a modest but noticeable comeback as watchmakers continue to pay respect to that period in watchmaking and because, in today’s world, where the round watch reigns supreme, a square makes a far more powerful statement.

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Materials used when designing a watch case

When examining the relevance of the case’s construction, we cannot overlook the materials employed. Due to its durability and corrosion resistance, gold was the most frequently utilized material until the early 1920s.

Although the official consecration occurs years later, the introduction of stainless steel in 1913 constitutes a true watershed moment in the building industry, opening the door to the development of new materials and assembly procedures.

In addition to the most precious gold and platinum, and specifically stainless steel, we discuss the usage of aluminium, which is well-known for its light weight, carbon, which is well-known for its solidity. With also discuss ceramic, which is famous for its scratch resistance; brass for its low cost; and titanium for its weight, which is twice that of steel, and its great due to its high resistance to corrosion. This is one of the reasons why it is used in the manufacture of divers’ watches.

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