Retailers who revel in offering watch seekers something away from the norm, but not at the risk of alienating them, will be pleased to hear that oval-shaped watches are making something of a resurgence.
Basking in the joy of offering wearers an alternative to round, square, rectangle or tonneau-shaped cases, oval watches are quietly but confidently claiming their place in displays for autumn/winter 2013 and spring/summer 2014.
Historically popular, oval watches have never gone away but the perhaps more traditionally accepted likes of round and rectangle watches have evolved in greater numbers based on higher demand. However, BaselWorld 2013 confirmed that the often delicate, yet strikingly different, oval shape has maintained its desirability and is edging its way back into the limelight.
The brilliance of the oval shape is its versatility, offering a style that can be thoroughly vintage or carry futuristic overtones. “Watch shapes are quite formal, most of the models you can find on the market have round or rectangular cases,” says Sylvain Dolla, CEO of Hamilton International. “Offering new shapes is a matter of differentiation within the brands and also to renew the offer.”
There’s no doubt that connotations with oval-cut diamonds, antique cameos, oval brooches and lace cuts mean oval-shaped watches are automatically associated with a delicate vintage look. While some brands are staying true to this genre and using oval shapes for jewellery watches, others are combining the traditionally feminine look of the oval with high-tech advances and modern looks or are giving them a more masculine edge. This combination of the traditionally feminine with something more masculine is not confined to watches.
The coupling of soft shapes and feminine nuances with substance and bold forms is being embraced on the catwalk. In August, designs by Australian fashion label 33 Poets took to the catwalk during StyleAID 2013, revealing Art Deco-style floating white dresses with a punk edge. Chunky dark shoes, hair accessories and jewellery combined with light layers and sparkle, creating a bold, confident and feminine look. It’s a style that’s already diffusing onto the high street – think pretty floral tea dresses paired with chunky biker boots and a leather jacket.
The pairing of delicate with dramatic is translating into watches. The soft lines of the oval are combined with a modern look, backed up by technology, in the Rado Esenza Ceramic Touch. Introduced at BaselWorld 2013, the watch has an oval shape, finished in polished black or white high-tech ceramic, with a pressed-on stainless steel case back with PVD coating.
Ceramic touch technology features in the watch, allowing wearers to control it by the gentle press and sweep of a finger along the side of the case. The high-tech ceramic is an insulator, giving the wearer the power to influence the enclosed electric circuit. There is no crown to impedes on the quartz watch’s gently curved oval form.
Although the oval shape is being used for a novel watch, it’s certainly not a first for the brand. “From a Rado perspective the oval shape is really in the DNA of the brand,” says Matthias Breschan CEO of Rado. “The first big success for Rado was the DiaStar 1 in 1962. It changed the face of watchmaking in more ways than one. It was the world’s first scratch resistant watch, and the first Rado watch to feature the oval case – although the dial was circular. Since then there have been a number of oval-shaped collections in the Rado collection, including the Esenza family which was first introduced in 2001. The Rado D-Star, D-Star 200 are all recent collections that feature oval cases. For Rado fans, an oval-shaped watch is almost expected among the collections and they continue to prove popular with our customers worldwide.”
Another brand creating exciting oval watch designs is Parmigiani-Fleurier, which is launching its Ovale Collection into the UK in September. The oval-shaped collection from the brand, which comprises the Ovale Pantographe and the Ovale Tourbillon, has its origins in a restoration piece – an early 19th century watch with telescopic hands and a pantograph complication, created by English jewellers Vardon and Stedman.
For the soon-to-launch pieces, Michel Parmigiani and his team worked hard to bring a masculine edge to the oval’s curves, by pulling it outwards diagonally. Systematic bevelling of the surface helps provide an additional sharp-edged look.
Other brands, such as Hamilton, are now delivering a more masculine take on the oval. For instance, the Jazzmaster Face 2 Face brings together an avant-garde arrangement and look, in a classical oval shape. The model’s rotating case houses two dials – one features a “boy racer” chronograph, the other an elegant three-hand timekeeper. Both automatic movements have decorated, skeletonised rotors, fully visible in the oval-shaped case.
While some brands are taking oval-shaped watches and giving them a more masculine twist, others are embracing the oval shape’s traditional femininity. Girard-Perregaux’s Cat’s Eye collection was launched in 2004 and has evolved, while maintaining its distinctive oval shape. Recent takes on the Cat’s Eye include a steel case version and the Tourbillon with Gold Bridge model. The oval shape has remained the defining feature of these watches. Meanwhile, the Ulysse Nardin Jade model also uses the oval shape for an unapologetically feminine look. However, behind the beauty is substance thanks to the brand’s first in-house designed and produced self-winding calibre for women’s watches, the UN-310.
Oval shapes have held firmly popular despite changing fashions, providing brands with an option to diversify collections. The Calvin Klein Selection collection, launched at BaselWorld 2013, has the additional element of the oval case unusually suspended.
The oval shape contrasts with the slenderness of the wristband, which features a dainty black or white leather cord strap. The two ends are tied in a knot. The oval and the bracelet provide highly identifiable features.
For Storm, recent takes on oval watches are the Zody and Ovel models. “We have designed many oval watches over the years – they come and go but we always have an oval watch dial in our collection,” says Lisa Dack, watches marketing manager at Storm. “It brings something different to the usual round watch face, offering more of a dress watch while also appearing more like a piece of jewellery than just a watch.”
Georg Jensen has consistently had oval watches too, beginning with the 1977 Vivianna Oval watch. “Oval-shaped watches are slightly more expensive to produce,” says Nina Dalkjær, vice president of watches at Georg Jensen.”The oval shape makes it more difficult to polish the case and produce the dial compared to normal round watches, which is just uniform all around.”
At Girard-Perregaux, the requirements of an oval watch are also noted. Girard-Perregaux’s Research and Development department works on the movement and adapts the complications to the oval-shaped case, in order to assure a perfect readability and a balanced display.
Oval watches have contributed their own special style to collections throughout history. With a winning versatility, which can add either vintage class or futuristic overtones to a timepiece, no doubt the oval shape will hold its own in watch design for years to come.
This article first appeared in the September issue of WatchPro. You can see the full digital version here.