The weird and wonderful: Six Watches with Unusually-Shaped Cases

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A couple of weeks ago, we covered an article on watches with square cases. We thought that it might be a good idea to dive deeper into the topic of watch cases.

In a world where most of the watches are circular in shape, we think that it is extremely interesting to see watches that do not conform to the norms. It is notably quite rare to see watches that are square, but what if we take this up to another level? How about watches that are neither circle, nor square in shape? What can we yield from that?

In this week’s article, we will be taking a look at watches that are cased in more unusual shapes. What are some of the watches that we have selected? Let us find out!

Hamilton Jazzmaster Face 2 Face II

From the brand that brings us the Ventura, Pulsar, and ODC X-02, Hamilton does not fall short when it comes to intriguing watch designs. The Face to Face II, a reversible oval timepiece, is another incredible creation from the much-loved watch manufacturer.

The Face to Face was first launched in Baselworld 2013, in which it features a rotating case with a dial on each side. While the concept was interesting, it didn’t excite us mechanically – the watch utilises one movement for each dial. That prompted Hamilton to go back to the drawing room, which culminated in the Face 2 Face II. The watch still features the interesting rotating case, but it is now powered by a single movement: the Hamilton H-41 (a modified version of the Valjoux 7750).

Aesthetically-speaking, the Face to Face II is a visually stunning timepiece. Its oval case is unusual, and there is a contemporary touch in the design of the watch dial as well. Despite its size at 53mm, the oval case allows the watch to sit comfortably on the wrist. The Jazzmaster Face to Face II is priced at S$5,730, and it is limited to 1,999 pieces.

Romain Jerome Subcraft

Even though Romain Jerome has only been around for less than two decades with its bankruptcy declaration in 2020, the brand had provided us with some rather interesting watches within its short lifespan.

The Subcraft, which was a derivation of the Spacecraft, is one of such watches. A collaboration between Romain Jerome and Alain Silberstein, the watch was born after the latter thought that the original Spacecraft is too angular. The resulting timepiece is one that is organic, akin to a smooth piece of pebble. Together with the linear retrograde hours, the Subcraft is an interesting watch that is unusual all round (no pun intended).

Powering the timepiece is a Jean-Marc Wiederrecht designed Caliber RJ2000-A, with a respectable power reserve of 38 hours. The 99-piece limited edition watch was priced at CHF19,500 (approximately S$28,192), and it might perhaps be one of our favourite watches from the now-defunct watch manufacturer.

Roger Dubuis Symphatie Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Bi-retrograde

When we talk about Roger Dubuis today, the first thing that comes to mind is perhaps their modern and avantgarde-looking watches. However, there is certainly more to that for this manufacturer from Geneva.

Take this Symphatie Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Bi-retrograde for example. Produced in the earlier days of the brand, the watch is an amalgamation of both form and technical prowess. The watch is cased in a complicated mix of curves and sharps points, in which the sapphire crystal also follows the same shape (which, unfortunately, was done away subsequently due to the high cost of producing such an odd-shaped crystal). This, together with the double bi-retorgrade calendar complication and the chronograph, makes it a rather compelling and mesmerising watch indeed.

The movement is no-slouch either. The Roger Dubuis Cal. RD 5637 is based on the time-tested Lemania 2310, and Mr Roger Dubuis’ experience in Patek Philippe certainly shows with the excellent finishing and great complications. Both the chronograph and perpetual calendar functions flawlessly, even after more than two decades since the watch was produced. Talk about quality.

However, this watch has long been discontinued. We would highly recommend collectors to keep a lookout for it in the secondary market (if one has the means to do so), especially in a world where sublime watches like such are far and few.

Vianney Halter Antiqua

The Vianney Halter Antiqua is a classic in the world of independent watchmaking. But the tiny details and concept behind it certainly makes this timepiece an icon in its own right.

With portholes being used as an inspiration, the esoteric-looking timepiece notably features five circles: four are being used as indicators (time, date, day, and month), while the last one serves as a base to hold the “deconstructed” dials. The concept is highly unusual even by today’s standards, but imagine what sort of reaction that the Antiqua would have received back in those days.

Since its first preview in Baselworld 1998, this steampunk timepiece – which is more than two decades old – is no longer in production. However, once in a blue moon, a few examples do pop up in the secondary markets. If one has some spare cash lying around, this is surely worth a look.

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1L

Ferdinand Berthoud is an intriguing project by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele of Chopard. The idea behind the brand is to recreate watches by the late master clockmaker Ferdinand Berthoud – but re-imagined and modernised.

The FB1L is one of the latest pieces from the brand itself. While initial pieces feature a large negative space, the FB1L comes with both the patented power reserve indicator and “age of the moon” complication, aside from the large central seconds hand and a sub dial indicating the time. This is all packaged in an octagon-shaped case, with a round bezel and face. The idea is bold, but it works rather well on this watch.

The surprise does not stop only at the dial. The movement – Calibre FB-T.FC.L. – is certainly a treat, with brilliant finishing and different technical bits incorporated. It also features some of the most sought-after complications, such as a giant tourbillon (measuring 16.5mm) and fusée and chain system. This is a visual treat for watch collectors.

Not surprisingly, the FB1L comes attached with a hefty price tag. Price for the titanium model with white gold bezel begins at CHF 250,000 (approximately S$361,430), while the full white gold variant retails at CHF 265,000 (approximately S$383,115). This is, however, something that is truly special – not only in terms of shape, but also how the entire timepiece has been executed in near-perfection.

MB&F HM6

MB&F is a brand that has constantly amazed us with interesting concepts and mind-blogging designs. The Horological Machine 6, or HM6 for short, is one of such amazing timepieces.

Seeking inspiration from Capitaine Flam, Maximillian Büsser had created an organic looking timepiece that drew semblance to the Comet Spacecraft in the Japanese animation. This ending result is a timepiece with sensuous curves, and five different spheres that highlights the time, turbine, and the tourbillon. It is a great piece, but definitely polarising especially for those who are more conservative and prefer something less unconventional.

There are numerous editions available, each with a different material and some cosmetical differences. One of our favourites is the SV edition, which replaces some metallic portions of the case with sapphire crystal. This makes this timepiece a tad even more interesting as one gets to see the inner-workings of the watch. However, all these come with a rather hefty price tag: US$368,000 (approximately S$494,778), for the red gold variant.

Concluding Thoughts

As expected, most of the watches are from independent watch manufacturers. This is not a surprise, considering that they have more free reign in the things that they produce, as well as the niche market that they are catering towards. Admittedly, and understandably, not many regular collectors have a penchant for something that is too bold or deviant.

However, we are certainly glad to see that manufacturers are breaking down barriers and producing interesting watches with an unusual case shape. This further reinforces the watch’s narrative, as well as the inspiration behind each of the time pieces. The MB&F HM6 is a great example of this, with a design that was inspired by the Comet Spacecraft in Capitaine Flam. Our only hope is that more conventional and mass market brands will start doing the same too, to make this more accessible to regular collectors like you and me.

We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s article. As there are certainly more unusually-shaped watches (think Cartier and Urwerk, amongst others) out there, we would love to hear what are some of the watches that you think deserves a spot on this list. Also, do let us know your thoughts on such watches – and whether they deserve a spot in your collection.

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