Pioneers of Style: 7 Watches Inspired by Architecture

The buildings we inhabit and the watches we wear are everyday facts of life. We usually take them for granted and scarcely even notice them – until a creation crosses our path that captures our undivided attention. Here we look at seven timepieces that call to mind — and, in some cases, are inspired by — modern architectural landmarks.

Last August, Mido continued its work in the design and architecture fields by announcing a partnership with the International Union of Architects. The brand ended up spending all of 2017 traveling the globe to visit some of the world’s most prominent buildings to pick the structure that would inspire Mido’s next watch. Mido and the International Union of Architects eventually settled on the ascending nature of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Previous Mido watches inspired by architecture include 2015’s Big Ben Limited Edition, 2012’s Great Wall Gent Chronometer, and the All Dial Special Edition inspired by Rome’s famous Colosseum.

Mido Inspired by Architecture LE
The Mido Inspired by Architecture Limited Edition
The Mido Great Wall Gent Chronometer from 2012.

Buildings by architect Zaha Hadid, who passed away in 2016, soar through the laws of mechanics and gravity to create forms that seem almost unreal. The spaces and lines of her Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, seem to flow into one another, as do the individual elements in the design of the Endeavour Tourbillon Dual Time with automatic caliber from H. Moser & Cie. ($75,000). The impression is further enhanced by the watch’s fumé dial with a color gradation that seems to arch three-dimensionally across the face.

Moser Endeavour Tourbillon
The Moser Endeavour Tourbillon
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea
Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea (Credit: Lestor Nacle)

The Reverso is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most popular and historically significant watch. Its art deco motif is mirrored in one of the greatest achievements of that period’s architecture as well: William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building in Manhattan. The timepiece and skyscraper share the same geometric forms and modernist ideals that the art deco movement is known for.

JLC Reverso
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo from SIHH 2017.
The Chrysler Building (Credit: Riley Kaminer)

Despite its economic and population advantages, California isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of horological innovation. That changes with the Corum Golden Bridge Stream. Directly inspired by the the world-famous Bay Area structure, the timepiece uses a lattice microstructure that forms each side of the watch’s case and evokes the skeletonized design of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also a reinterpretation of a classic 1970,s design by master watchmaker Vincent Calabrese.

The Corum Golden Bridge Stream
Golden Gate
Golden Gate Bridge (Credit: Marion Volt)

Controversy surrounded the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, Germany for many years. Was this building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, really worth its enormous cost? But soon after its completion, everyone agreed: Yes, it was indeed worth the expense. The Elbe Philharmonie is fascinating, thanks to its undulating roof ridges, its playful alternating oval and rectangular shapes, and its transparent aura. Its design is reflected in the Richard Mille RM 0701 Nephite Edition. The light-colored materials and open work dial emphasize the connection between form and function that Herzog & de Meuron are known for.

Richard Mille RM07-01
Richard Mille RM07-01
The Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, Germany. (Credit: Tobias Held)

The Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition isn’t actually influenced by architecture, but instead references the famous photograph by Tokyo-based photographer Daido Moriyama of his girlfriend in fishnet tights. The pattern of his photographed fishnet artwork is transferred onto the extra-long leather strap, giving an urbane, filigreed, black-and-white look to this chronograph. Moriyama’s fellow countryman, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, is known for using paper and wood in his building materials and for his sensitive handling of structures. If you compare the roof of the Centre Pompidou-Metz Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Metz, France with the strap on the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition, you can tell the shared ideals between the two.

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic LE
Grand Seiko Black Ceramic LE
The Centre Pompidou-Metz Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Metz, France
The Centre Pompidou-Metz Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Metz, France. (Credit: Manuel Svay)

“Concentrate on the essentials” is good advice, but it’s easier said than done. It also raises a fundamental question: What is essential? For Japanese architect Tadao Ando, it is the undisturbed and almost meditative experience of the space, which he designs for this reason with minimalistic clarity. Watches can have many features, but their essential function is to show the time clearly and unmistakably. Nomos targets this objective with the purist design that characterizes many of its models. Love of clarity and fascination with water are equally evident in Tadao Ando’s architecture and in Nomos’s watches. The architect integrated aquatic surfaces into the Museum of Fine Arts in Kyoto, while the watch brand gave a luminous water-blue dial to its self-winding Ahoi neomatik signalblau.

Nomos Ahoi neomaik signalblau
Nomos Ahoi neomaik signalblau


Garden of Fine Art, Kyoto (Credit: Zach Ware)
Garden of Fine Art, Kyoto. (Credit: Zach Ware)


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