The Timeless Allure of Asymmetrical Watches

Needless to say, these timepieces defy conventional design. From Rolex to Breguet, watch brands continue to interpret asymmetry in their own unique way
The Timeless Allure of Asymmetrical Watches
May 6, 2024
The Timeless Allure of Asymmetrical Watches

In the world of horology, where precision is inextricably intertwined with artistic expression, watches reign supreme not merely as utilitarian tools but also as captivating pieces of wearable art. Amidst the plethora of watch styles, one particular category stands out for its boldness: asymmetrical timepieces. 

These timepieces defy conventional norms of aesthetics, offering a mesmerising fusion of form and function. From unconventional dial placements to daring case shapes, asymmetrical watches command admiration at every turn of the wrist. Join GMT India as we spotlight some of the most audacious asymmetrical watches in the world of horology.

Rolex The Midas Marvel

An Unusual 18k Gold and Diamond Left-Handed Wristwatch with Bracelet, Christie's

In 1962, the Rolex King Midas emerged as a daring departure from tradition. Crafted meticulously by renowned designer Gerald Genta, this left-handed timepiece, with its iconic pentagonal case and saw-tooth crown, paid homage to King Midas and Greek mythology. Fashioned entirely from gold, it became the heaviest and most expensive wristwatch of its time, transcending mere profitability with only 790 pieces ever created. Symbolising luxury and sophistication, it has captivated collectors and connoisseurs, experiencing a recent resurgence in popularity among art and music icons. Transitioning from a standalone line to Rolex's Cellini collection, the King Midas continues to enchant us with its timeless elegance and unparalleled craftsmanship. Accompanying its reign was the Queen Midas (ref. 9904) and the Princess Midas (ref. 9903), each being a testament to opulence and precision in a shrinking profile.

Patek Philippe The Albert Touch

Patek Philippe Ref. 3424: A 1962 pink gold wristwatch by Gilbert Albert, Sotheby's

Influenced by artists like Brâncuși and Mondrian, designer Gilbert Albert defied norms at Patek Philippe. Rising to lead the creative department, he crafted iconic timepieces, such as the 3422, blending asymmetric cases with traditional dials. Further pushing asymmetry were models like the ref. 3412 and the ref. 3270, featuring triangular cases. Despite their uniqueness, reference 3424 garnered considerable success among enthusiasts, prompting Patek to turn its prototype into a production model. However, only a very limited quantity of this model was produced with a few variants, including cases in white gold, rose gold, yellow gold, and platinum; one of the variants with a platinum case was adorned with white baguette-cut diamonds. Even after 50 years, the shape continues to fascinate collectors worldwide, making it one of the most sought-after and beautiful asymmetric watches ever.

Audemars Piguet 5158: A Collector's Dream

An exceptionally rare 18k gold asymmetrical wristwatch by Audemars Piguet, Geneva, Ref. 5158, Movement No. 63'403, circa 1960, Christie's

Audemars Piguet's 5158 epitomises the brand's daring exploration of case designs during the dynamic decades of the 1950s and 1960s, a period marked by intense competition in the watch industry. This model, although produced in limited quantities, symbolises a divergence from the prevalent circular cases that dominated the post-World War II era. The 5158's design is a captivating fusion of square, rectangular, and circular shapes, creating an asymmetrical yet harmonious aesthetic. Its unconventional case is complemented by a dial configuration that enhances its distinctive allure. Alongside its rare counterparts like 5828 and 5159, 5158 boldly challenges traditional norms of watch design, pushing boundaries with its innovative dial placement. Crafted in 1960, only seven pieces of this reference were ever manufactured, and today, a mere four are known to exist, rendering it a highly sought-after treasure among discerning collectors.

Vacheron Constantin The Vacheron Charm

Historiques American 1921, Vacheron Constantin

Since 1921, Vacheron Constantin has also been a formidable explorer of asymmetry, showcasing its penchant for the unconventional. Imagine this: a zealous automobile aficionado commissions a timepiece with a dial artfully tilted at 45 degrees, ensuring seamless timekeeping amidst the twists and turns of the road. Fast forward to 2024, and the Historiques American 1921 stands as a 36.5mm marvel, adorned with a chic red strap. But that's not all! Let's rewind to 1972 when Vacheron Constantin was presented with the prestigious "Diplôme Prestige de la France", lauding its unrivalled mastery in authenticity, technical finesse, and sheer elegance. Paying homage to this accolade, the illustrious "Prestige de la France" model emerged—a masterpiece of asymmetry, boasting a trapezium-shaped case and a uniquely contoured design. 

Cartier The Crash Phenomenon

A limited edition yellow gold Cartier Reference 2488 Tank Asymétrique wristwatch, crafted in 1996, Sotheby's

Cartier, renowned for its mastery of asymmetrical cases, has produced iconic timepieces such as the Cloche and the Tank Asymétrique. Yet, no discourse on Cartier's asymmetric watches is complete without the legendary Crash. Emerging from a watch warped by flames in a vehicular mishap, the Crash made its debut in 1967, transcending conventional luxury norms to become a coveted item at elite auctions. Meticulously crafted in Cartier's Wright & Davies workshop, the case, fashioned from gold sheets, underwent rigorous filing and polishing to ensure a flawless fit for the oval-shaped Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 841. This meticulousness extended to the watch's profile, with its distinctive dome-like curvature enhancing comfort. Throughout its evolution, from a rose gold skeletonised rendition to the 2018 limited-edition Crash Radieuse, each iteration has added a unique twist to the model’s timeless design.

In 2022, a 1967 Cartier London Crash timepiece fetched a staggering $1.5 million at auction, nearly doubling its initial high estimate and setting a new global record.

Breguet Off-Centred Designs

Crafted in luxurious 18-carat gold, the Breguet Tradition GMT timepiece features an elegant off-centred local time subdial in silvered gold

In terms of case design, previous examples showed asymmetry. But there are asymmetrical innovations in dial placement as well. The Breguet Tradition 7067 GMT watch stands out, flaunting its 18-carat gold brilliance with a second time-zone indicator, a day/night indicator, and an off-centred local time subdial in hand-engraved silvered gold on a rose engine. While Breguet typically evokes images of traditional dress watches and tourbillons, the Tradition 7067 disrupts this expectation. This timepiece ingeniously melds the brand's classic elements with contemporary flair, notably relocating the movement's main components to the forefront, enhancing its sleek, modern aesthetic. Over the years, numerous brands have explored their interpretations of off-centred and asymmetrical dials. 

Insofar as today’s modern asymmetry in watches is concerned, independent brands bring fresh perspectives. De Bethune echoes past design sensibilities, while MB&F's Horological Machines showcase experimental forms and unconventional time-telling methods. Urwerk pushes boundaries with designs optimised for discrete time reading. Jacob & Co’s Astronomia Revolution in White Gold also stands as a remarkable example of asymmetry in dial design.

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