What Are Tonneau-Formed Watches?

What Are Tonneau-Shaped Watches?

Studying about watches can usually really feel like cracking open a textbook. Shopping—and even shopping for—means being barraged with inscrutable phrases and phrases like “tourbillons,” “perpetual calendars,” “minute repeaters,” and so forth. So right here, we’ll be breaking down the which means, historical past, and significance of various watch phrases. Welcome to GQ’s Watch Glossary.

Time to take a seat cross-legged, seize a cup of applesauce, and wait patiently for naptime to start: we’re right here to speak shapes. Watches, it seems, don’t are available all styles and sizes. A big chunk are available rounded instances, whether or not that’s a circle, or barely boxier variations just like the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Rectangles and squares are subsequent on the totem pole of recognition. However you might have observed one other, inscrutable time period floating round within the watch ecosystem: tonneau. Whereas the phrase sounds florid, it’s actually simply the French phrase for barrel. And within the watch world, it describes any piece formed like a curvy rectangle.

A Richard Mille 11-02

An Omega Status De Ville

The historical past of lowercase-t tonneau watches begins with the uppercase-T Tonneau. Louis Cartier’s biggest contribution to watches was his inextinguishable perception that what we put on on our wrist doesn’t have to be round: he designed the sq. Santos, the oblong Tank, and the melty Crash. However his firm’s second-ever wristwatch, the Tonneau, grew to become one among its most influential.

The watch and its curved case was initially designed to contour to the wrist. The Tonneau was, and is, a sublime form. And so, initially, these weren’t purposeful watches, except you think about going to elegant soirées a goal. The skinny case of early Tonneaus left barely any room for complicated actions.

A Franck Muller 8880 CC AT

A Hublot Spirit of Large Bang

However a scarcity of utility doesn’t imply a scarcity of notoriety. The tonneau case was usually utilized by manufacturers trying to diverge from custom. Six years after Cartier debuted the Tonneau, the following model to embrace the design was Vacheron Constantin in 1912. On its web site, Vacheron chalks up the choice as one meant to “break free from the standard spherical form of the watch within the avant-garde spirit of a progressive age.” The takeaway? Circles are lame; barrels are the long run.

In more moderen historical past, newcomer watch manufacturers have leveraged the tonneau form to differentiate themselves from the rounded competitors. When Franck Muller launched his namesake model within the early ‘90s, he dedicated himself to barrels solely. Tonneau watches had been a lot much less frequent, and the design was a manner for Franck Muller to differentiate the model and make it virtually instantly identifiable. After which Richard Mille launched a decade later, virtually all of that model’s fashions got here in barrel-like shapes, too.

A Longines Evidenza

A Vacheron Constantin Malte

To paraphrase one particular person within the watch world I texted on the topic: circles are drained. A model won’t be capable to make a lot noise within the swarmed market of round items, however a tonneau is funky sufficient to face out. Richard Mille defined about how he landed on the tonneau as an early signature in an interview with Revolution. The reason is breathtaking:

“I arrived on the form one evening once I couldn’t sleep. I used to be making an attempt
to create a kind that might sit completely on the human wrist, and that
had a sure natural sensuality but additionally expressed my obsession with
efficiency and technicality. I went to a resort lavatory, unwrapped a
bar of cleaning soap and started carving it with a knife. I carried this piece of
cleaning soap with me again dwelling. Finally it broke and I created a cardboard
prototype. That was the genesis.”

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