The Watch Expert's Guide: T For Tonneau

Watches

September 8, 2017 | BY Celine Yap

The A-Z of luxury watches: How Franck Muller has come to be defined by the tonneau shape of its watches. 

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 The word tonneau is French for barrel and it refers to the shape of watch cases that’s a marriage between a circle and a rectangle. There aren’t many tonneau shaped watches on the market and even fewer are as strongly recognisable as Franck Muller’s Cintrée Curvex. This breathtaking case was introduced in the late 1980s but it truly rose to fame in the mid-1990s thanks mostly in part to watches like the Master Banker.

What made the Cintrée Curvex stand out was its domed, three-dimensional sapphire crystal that seamlessly melds with the tonneau case. At that time, it was the only one of its kind to be made with a curved crystal, and thanks to this unique case profile, the watch hugged the wrist comfortably and ergonomically in spite of its heft, unlike many of its contemporaries.

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Creating those curves necessitated a more sophisticated machining process and the sapphire crystal, too, was challenging to produce. Being extremely hard but also very brittle, sapphire crystal is prone to shattering. Milling and then polishing them on anything but a flat plane is a delicate process to say the least. Today domed sapphire crystals are increasingly common, but it’s worth noting that Franck Muller was the first to use them.

Encouraged by the consistent popularity of the Cintrée Curvex, Franck Muller introduced another watch in the tonneau shape, the Vanguard. Since 2014, this new collection offers a sporty and vibrant alternative to the Cintrée Curvex’s neoclassic and elegant style.

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