6 of the best tonneau-cased watches you can buy now 6 of the best tonneau-cased watches you can buy now

6 of the best tonneau-cased watches you can buy now

Fergus Nash

Although the tonneau case is generally seen as a small niche these days, it was born before wristwatches even became popular. Literally translating to ‘barrel’ in French, Louis Cartier designed the first of its kind in 1906, intended to conform to the wrist with its sumptuous curves. Today, the shape maintains its old-world charm, but it has also been adapted into pieces of extravagant eccentricity or even high-tech sports watches. From classic to contemporary and affordable to exorbitant, let’s take a look at 6 of the best tonneau watches you can currently buy.

Cartier Tonneau

Cartier Tonneau Skeleton XL

We have to begin with the original, where all things tonneau began. After creating what is debatably the first modern wristwatch in the Cartier Santos-Dumont in 1904, the Cartier Tonneau of 1906 embraced a more sophisticated style and made a distinction between dress watches and sports watches well before its time. It wasn’t too long after that the likes of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin had released tonneau shapes of their own, effectively democratising the shape and bringing it into watchmaking’s greater vocabulary. The modern version of the Tonneau is an authentic representation of the original with its Roman numerals, internal minutes track and Breguet hands – however it’s larger than the OG at 26.2mm wide, 46.1mm tall, and 8.8mm thick. Price: A$50,500

Franck Muller Crazy Hours

Franck Muller Crazy Hours

Franck Muller’s creations are often compared to the aesthetic of Alice in Wonderland, to the point where their headquarters in Geneva is called ‘Alice in Watchland’. It’s easy to see why, as this psychedelic display of randomly placed numerals cascades across the dial with shadows of numbers scattered hypnotically. On the Franck Muller Crazy Hours, the hour hand instantly jumps to the correct numeral when the time comes, but it will always keep you on your toes when checking the time. The tonneau case has become a calling card for Franck Muller’s brand, which perfectly fits their playful and complicated designs. Price: A$30,995

Longines Evidenza

Longines Evidenza Champagne

The latest versions of the Longines Evidenza lean heavily on Art Deco designs, as the first Longines watch to bear the tonneau shape came about in 1925. It’s evident in the subtle curvature of the case, twisting slightly towards the lugs, that it retains the decorative and powerful elements of Art Deco architecture, and now that’s been backed up by a bold sector dial and minimal Roman numerals. There are 7 variations with varying colours and strap options, but my favourite is the champagne version which drifts elusively between golden and smoke-grey. It’s also one of the more affordable options for a Swiss tonneau case with a mechanical movement. Price: A$3,475

Hamilton American Classic Boulton Mechanical

Hamilton Boulton Mechanical

Although the quartz-powered version of the Hamilton Boulton as featured in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a fantastic option for those who want a 1940s replica, the Boulton Mechanical version of the Hamilton American Classic earns a lot of respect with its eggshell dial, blued hands, and hand-winding movement for the ultimate engagement experience. Originally released in 1941, the tonneau shape of the Hamilton Boulton is much more subtle than most, reducing the alienation that some customers may feel from unusual shapes. Splitting the difference between a full barrel and a rectangle, the Boulton is accessible both in style and price. Price: A$1,450

Richard Mille RM 66

Richard Mille RM 66

As we’ve seen, even modern renditions of tonneau cases generally cling to some vintage sensibilities. So what does a tonneau watch look like when it’s entirely stripped of traditional thinking? The Richard Mille RM 66 could either be seen as genius or an abomination depending on your thinking, but it’s earned its place on this list through sheer daring. The thick tonneau case has been a staple of Richard Mille’s catalogue for years, often found on the wrists of incredible athletes, and here it’s been made from carbon composite, titanium, and gold. The dial shows off an openworked movement with a flying tourbillon, and a literally-skeletonised hand throwing out devil horns. Price: US$1,095,000

ArtyA Curvy Purity Tourbillon

ArtyA Curvy Purity Tourbillon 2

Proving that you don’t need to spend over a million dollars on a high-luxury tonneau watch, the ArtyA Curvy Purity Tourbillon brings together the rarely-joined concepts of haute horlogerie and value for money. The transparent sapphire case is designed with comfort in mind as well as technical prowess. Its main showcase is its 17mm tourbillon cage, which is both way larger than usual and also smoother with a 4Hz beat rate. Its twin mainspring barrels are also laid bare, providing a healthy 72-hour power reserve. It is a limited edition of only 13 pieces, however, it is still available on the brand’s website at time of publishing. Price: US$152,000