8 Luxury Square Watches For Men Who Want To Stand Out
They may not be the most obvious choice but that’s why square timepieces are the last word in discernment.
The first men’s wristwatch was square. The Cartier Santos-Dumont was created in 1904 for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont by his friend Louis Cartier after Santos-Dumont complained about having to take out his pocket watch mid-flight.
The design was based on an early Cartier pocket watch, but more than that this angular design echoed the Paris of the age. The French capital was in the process of being rejuvenated by Georges-Eugene Haussmann, who reimagined the sprawling chaotic city as a bright modern space radiating outwards from the Arc de Triomphe.
It loved modernism – the clean steel lines of the Eiffel Tour, the concrete geometry of the Théâtre des Champs-Élyseés. And what could be more avant garde than a square watch?
There were practical reasons as well, though. It was easier to put a square case on a strap because the lugs could be incorporated in the case construction rather than having to be soldered on later.
The history of the square watch
Throughout the 1920s angular cases dominated, with the likes of Rolex turning it into a chronograph with its Ref 3830, and Jaeger-LeCoultre adopting it for its dress styles.
However, WWII and the military’s demands for more legible round-cased styles, as well as the challenge in water-proofing a case this shape, saw its popularity dwindle. Surprisingly, given the trend for more sporty styles, the square case had a resurgence in from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. This was when Vacheron Constantin launched its Ref. 6290; when Omega’s Ultra Thin DeVille graced the wrist of a newly inaugurated JKF; and when Patek Philippe unveiled its Ref. 3555.
And then there’s probably the most famous square watch in history: the Heuer Monaco. Home to the first-ever automatic chronograph and wrist companion to Steve McQueen when he took on Le Mans in 1971. As CEO Jack Heuer explains in his memoir The Times of My Life, square case sports watches weren’t a thing, “because it was impossible to make a square case fully water resistant”. And Heuer, since 1941, had a policy of only putting chronographs in a water-resistant case.
Case designer Piquerez finally managed it, with the Monaco’s case being resistant to 100m. He also thought competitor Breitling wouldn’t go in this direction, giving Heuer the edge.
After this high point in the square case’s history, fashions changed again. Cartier’s Santos was revamped in 1978, making it on to the wrist of money-obsessed corporate raider Gordon Gekko, but the Monaco didn’t sell well, and both consumers and brands retreated to the sartorial safety of a round case – a shape that continues to dominate today.
While the horological landscape is more varied in 2023, square cases are still not spotted on wrists very often. Whether that’s because sports-inspired styles dominate or because many find a non-round design jarring to look at is hard to say. What is true is if you want a timepiece to make you stand out from the crowd, squaring up is the way to do it.
The best square watches available in 2023
First, a caveat: this could have been a longer list if it had included watches that are rectangular, but that technically isn’t a square. These watches are all quadrilateral, with equal sides. Bevelled corners have been allowed, irregular side lengths have not.
With its Bauhaus leanings, it’s hardly surprising that Nomos is able to create a perfect square. The Tetra was one of the four core collections when the minimalist watch brand relaunched in 1992 and it’s easy to see why, over 30 years later, it’s still so popular.
While the perfect proportions of the case haven’t changed, there have been subtle evolutions. The core collection now contains the marque’s in-house hand-wound Alpha, with the Neomatik models coming complete with Nomos’s in-house escapement, the swing system, in larger models.
It has also undergone a number of dial colour changes, including a contrasting sub dial collection, of which the Die Fuchsteufelswilde (translating to ‘The Mad One’), with its dusty pastel dial, is the most eye-catching, not to mention on trend.
Cartier Santos de Cartier
The original and still going strong. It’s been turned into a sports watch, skeletonised, and even retired for a decade, however it keeps coming back.
The latest rejuvenation saw Cartier revive design cues from the vintage models, while modernising with its use of materials and a SmartLink system. This allows at-home bracelet adjustment without necessitating a visit to the jewellers or risking a bodge job at home.
Our current favourite is the Ref WSSA0037. Offering a contemporary take on this classic model, the bezel is made from amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC), with a black spinel (rather than the traditional blue) set into the crown and a stunning sunbrushed metallic grey dial.
It’s a muscular, elegant square timepiece made for the modern gentleman.
Rado True Square Automatic Skeleton
There’s something of the sixties television set about this watch; it feels retro but, with its high-shine ceramic case, also of the future.
Rado first started experimenting with scratch-resistant high-tech ceramic in 1986, at a time when it was more commonly used for ultra-high-speed aircraft. Since then, it has become a trademark, with the brand innovating with colour use and material science.
This True Square is watchmaking as innovation. The case is monobloc, and has been injection moulded, as well as the bracelet, but what really draws the attention is the decision to skeletonise Rado’s R808 movement, which has 80 hours of power reserve and is resistance to magnetism and temperature variations. Two anthracite bridges complete the steampunk vibe.
It’s a bold design for which the angular constrictions of a square case are wholly suited.
Hublot Square Bang Unico
Hublot likes to portray itself as the iconoclast of the watch world, thumbing its nose at convention. So, it comes as no surprise that is has a square collection. What is surprising is that it took so long to do so.
This model only entered the Hublot home in 2022. Apparently, it was the answer to the question “is there anything that has not been explored in watchmaking?”, which was posed to Hublot’s R&D department. Someone might want to give Louis Cartier a ring.
However, it has taken the square watch and given it a uniquely Hublot flavour. Rather than have a closed caseback and leave the wearer guessing at to the shape of the movement, it has proudly allowed its (round) Unico movement to be seen through the dial.
The ‘Black Magic’ version is the pick of the bunch. Its substantial 42mm case is microblasted and polished black ceramic, creating a beautiful light interplay, and is resistant to 100m. On a rubber strap with a ceramic and titanium deployant clasp, this is not for those who are delicate of wrist.
TAG Heuer Monaco
This is the watch that took the square case out of the dress wardrobe and onto the racetrack. It was cool in 1969 and still is now. There are variations in livery, but in our opinion the one to buy is the Monaco Gulf Edition.
The association between the Monaco and Gulf goes back to Le Mans in 1971. Jo Siffert, the racing driver who was friends with Jack Heuer and taught Steve McQueen to drive, drove his Porsche 917 in the Gulf colours at Le Mans; the very same car that appeared in the film. And so a partnership was formed.
It’s easy to see why. The sunbrushed blue dial is beautifully complemented by the stripe of Gulf’s orange and blue, which, for the latest edition, are broken up by the minute ring, giving a more refined profile.
In another first, the 30-minute chronograph scale is surrounded in orange and blue as well, further emphasising the Gulf partnership. There’s also the addition of a white Gulf logo at six o’clock, the 12 has been turned into a 60, and the perforated leather strap lined in blue and orange.
It was a daring watch when it first launched but is now considered a classic timepiece that’ll never age.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Steel
The military need for tool watches was a key factor in the shift away from square cases back in the 1930s. So it’s interesting to see Bell & Ross adopting the shape for its watches, seeing as they are widely used by astronauts, fighter pilots, divers, mine-clearing experts and elite police officers as tools.
The BR 03-92’s clean legible dial, with its SuperLuminova-coated numerals, indices and hands, is inspired by cockpit instruments. The matte black of the dial is interrupted only by a miniscule date window between four and five o’clock. The thick rubber strap adds to the general air of austere functionality, which is emphasised by the screws on the four corners of the case.
It’s about as far from the square watch’s dress origins as you can get.
These two aren’t perfect squares but more square-adjacent.
Hermes’ H08 is a circle in a square in a tonneau. Launched in 2021, it marked a new direction for the French luxury brand; a move away from Cape Cod elegance and whimsical complications into sports watch territory.
It’s modern and highly stylised, with the numerals in a font designed specifically for this watch. Yet the aesthetic doesn’t tip into over-designed and fussy.
The orange-tipped seconds hand is a lovely nod to Hermes’ signature colour, while the rotor is decorated with the marque’s ‘infinite H’ pattern.
In its understated brilliance it’s very Hermes.
Another almost-square watch that is very on brand is Gucci’s Grip. Designed when Alessandro Michele was still creative director, its cushion-shaped case is a stylistic nod to the places on a skateboard where your feet go.
Deceptively it resembles a jump hour, however the circle at the bottom reveals the date while the two apertures at the top show the minutes and hours.
It’s very 1970s, and the epitome of Michele’s legacy.