The watch case is a crucial component of a wristwatch because it protects the movement inside, but it's also important from a design aspect. More than any other watch feature, the case has the most significant influence on a timepiece's overall appearance, and certain watches are instantly recognized only due to their case shapes.
However, no matter how unique a watch case appears, it will nearly always fall into one of a few groups. Here are six common categories, so whenever you go to a watch store near you, you may be able to distinguish the different watch cases.
Round Watch Case
Round watch case is the most common type of watch case in the market. You'll see everything from dress watches to divers to field and chronographs in round cases because a circular display is the best way to show and read the time. In general, round cases convey a sense of minimalism, implying that no extra materials were used in their construction.
Square Watch Case
The square watch was a popular choice in the early and mid-twentieth century, showcasing a slim and elegant dress watch design. However, towards the latter part of the 1970’s, some watchmakers began using the square watch case in sports watch concepts. Square watches made a noticeable comeback, as watchmakers paid homage to that era in watchmaking. Today, even as the round watch design reigns supreme, the square case progressively makes a bolder statement in current fashion trends.
Cushion Watch Case
The cushion-cased watch has an angular profile with smooth edges and bowed-out sides, resembling a circle. The style first appeared in the 1940s, and since then, it's mostly been seen on divers and other sports watches. While there are some similarities between the terms "cushion" and "tonneau," they are technically two different shapes.
Tonneau (Barrel) Watch Case
The word "tonneau" comes from the French word "barrel”, describing the taller and more extended look compared to the Cushion watch case. Tonneau design is further enhanced with softer edges giving dress watches an art deco feel. The style was gained trend popularity on chronographs and diving watches in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Rectangular Tank Watch Case
This case shape was inspired by the Renault tanks used in World War I. It resembled the rectangular war vehicle, that many watch collectors referred to their rectangular watches as "tanks." Its popularity was established in the early twentieth century but became much less common nowadays. The “Tank” Watches that do exist are mostly relics of the early wrist watch models.
Asymmetrical Watch Case
The majority of asymmetrical cases appear to be circular at first impression. However, with a closer look, the crown-side of the casing is slightly wider. This gives some added protection for the watch's crown and stem, similar to what you can find on a dive watch.
Now that you know more about wristwatch cases, you’re probably wondering what’s the perfect watch strap for those shapes. Click the button below to learn more about the different types of watch straps and their use cases.