Wristwatches gradually replaced pocket watches in the early 20th century, a critical stage in the watch industry's history. Ideas for the new trend blossomed among watch manufacturers. Some of the early models became instant hits, and they have gone on to become today’s great classics.
Though wristwatches were becoming more and more popular, their designs remained circular, keeping to the same familiar shape of the pocket watches at that time. While World War I was raging in Europe, Louis Cartier came up with an idea that would forever change the way we looked at watches. He was inspired by the powerful tanks which Renault produced for France, and after much research and development, Cartier launched the brand's very first retangular watch in 1919, the Tank, to celebrate the end of the conflict. His unprecedented design pioneered a new watch design that remains a classic today.
During the 1970s, a luxury sports watch was practically non-existent on the market. Audemars Piguet created the Royal Oak collection in 1972, and it filled a gap. Its rugged shape belies its haute horologerie tradition and the sophisticated craftsmanship inside. Design Gerald Genta got his inspiration for the watch’s shape from the windows on a 1830 British Navy ship. He transposed the unique octagonal shape into a wristwatch and added eight screws onto each corner of the bezel.
Women’s timepieces also played an important role in watch history. Breguet created the world’s first wristwatch for the Queen of Naples in 1810. The royal-worthy timepiece had a minute repeater and a thermometer function. The Queen of Naples ordered a total of 34 Breguet timepieces in her lifetime and became the watch manufacturer’s most valued female customer. To commemorate the Queen of Naples, Breguet launched brand new designs of the iconic oval-shaped watch in 2002. What is unique about the watch is not only a moonphase display patent, but also the automatic movement inside that adapts to the shape of the case, with beautiful craftsmanship that is rare amongst ladies’ luxury watches in today’s market.