A perfectly proportioned rectangular watch is like a different species from your typical round watch: it simply can't be judged in the same way. We're talking about a rare style from modern watch brands — and it's even rarer to find an example that manages to strike the right balance and proportions to pull it off well.
All too many watch brands have failed to get the rectangular watch right, despite its apparent simplicity. Now, Oris has resurrected its descriptively named Rectangular collection to general acclaim. Is this finally the archetypal rectangular watch for the 21st century we've been waiting for?
When many people want a dressy rectangular watch as worn with such panache and charisma by characters and celebrities they've seen on film, they want a Cartier Tank. I thought I wanted one, too. But the Oris Rectangular has shown me that that elegant rectangular silhouette on the wrist doesn't have to be a Tank.
After test-driving this Oris for a month, here's what I found.
At a Glance: The Oris Rectangular
Case Diameter: 25.5mm x 38mm
Case Depth: 10.3mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: ETA 2671 automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
What's Good About the Oris Rectangular
The proportions are dead on
The success of a watch such as this hangs almost entirely on its size and proportions. Nearly every brand that attempts a rectangular watch gets them wrong: too long or too thick, and they've missed the point completely: a watch like this should be relatively small.
Small, that is, by modern standards, and the Oris Rectangular is that, measuring only 25.5mm across. That would sound tiny in round-watch terms, but you simply can't apply the same standards to a rectangular watch. (Apple knows this and gives its dimensions by length to offer a better sense of how it'll fit on your wrist.)
Using those terms, the Rectangular measures 38mm — and yes, it wears on the small side. But smaller watches are increasingly popular, and this is how a watch like this should fit. The Rectangular is evenly framed by my 6.5-in wrist, very subtly curved, and — and this is key — it's reasonably thin, despite its automatic movement inside.
It's an affordable Cartier Tank alternative
Okay, $2,000 for something you don't need isn't "affordable" in absolute terms. But for someone who wants a Tank, this is a full thousand dollars less than a quartz version and half the price of an automatic one (and a fraction of the higher-end models) — and of course, the Oris runs on a Swiss automatic movement.
The Oris Rectangular plays the part of the Tank, not just as a well sized and proportioned rectangular watch, but one with refinement and the sheen of quality. And, as noted above, if you want the Tank's classical looks there are relatively few good options. The Baume & Mercier Hampton ($1,600+) and the Longines Dolce Vita ($1,675) come to mind, but in my opinion Oris beats them both with its balanced dimensions and more interesting overall design. Something like the Bulova Joseph Bulova Breton ($1,050+) is an example of one that looks right, but turns out just way too big.
Of course, if you just want a super-affordable, pragmatic Tank knockoff, Seiko's old quartz alternative (~$195) is still available on Amazon.
It's not a Cartier Tank wannabe
It's only a Tank alternative insofar as it's one of the few modern watches that manages to successfully offer a comparable style. In fact, its Art-Deco dial is more reminiscent of certain versions of the other rectangular icon: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.
This style of watch was essentially invented by Cartier, so yeah, they kind of own it. But many respectable watch companies, especially in the early 20th century, offered their own take on it, too. Simply making a rectangular watch doesn't have to mean being a copycat, and Oris's take is enough its own that it doesn't have to feel like a compromise.
I don't want a wannabe watch, and the Oris Rectangular isn't one. Aside from its overall shape, the details like its prominently stepped case sides and Art-Deco dial design give it a unique style — and together, they feel harmonious and interesting.
What's Not Ideal About the Oris Rectangular
It could use some more traditional straps
Oris made an effort to avoid the stuffy air that can come with something like the Tank. They wanted to make these watches more fun. Overall, they succeeded, in my opinion, but the dial and strap colors skew slightly toward the fashion range for my tastes.
Watches such as this don't have to be relegated to dress duty, but the colors Oris offers can make them hard to match, especially to something like a basic suit. (Unless you're a fashionista, maybe...but I'm not). The gray dial version I tested comes on a dark olive-green strap; it's comfortable and of good quality, but I'd love to see it on a more traditional black leather strap.
Probably all the versions would be more versatile on such a strap, particularly the white dial one — currently shipping on a yellow strap which, personally, I just couldn't pull off.
The date display is so small, it's hard to read
I praised this watch for its size and proportions, but those come with their compromises, too. The crown is small, but still usable. The date display, on the other hand, is pretty damn tiny. There's a whole subset of watch collectors who are broadly anti-date display, preferring dateless watches for their aesthetic symmetry.
I generally find date displays practical and useful, and appreciate when they're thoughtfully integrated into a design. The Oris Rectangular, though, might be one of those instances in which a watch would be improved by forgoing the date.
Too small / dressy / anachronistic / even feminine? Maybe, for some
This is highly subjective, of course, but small, rectangular watches come with some baggage. I mentioned that many watch brands have ceased making them, but in truth, many still do — only designed for and marketed to women. Some people might see the Oris Rectangular and simply call it a "woman's watch," which happened to me while testing it for this review. I'm not personally bothered by that, but some people might be.
This feminine association has developed over the last several decades, but the watch world is looking to its history now more than ever. If you look back far enough, you'll find that this was a men's watch style, and that the men who wore it back in the day were plenty "manly" enough. Personally, I love the look of such watches worn casually by serious-looking guys in old photographs.
The world was an overall more formally dressed place when these watches were more common — and the style simply says "dress watch" to many people. Sure, it can pull dress duty, and do it very well (especially with a more traditional strap), but I personally relish dressing it down. Of course, with only 30m of water resistance, it's no rugged dive watch — but it will do just fine for 90 percent of day-to-day existence.
Oris Rectangular Watch: The Verdict
While the Rectangular doesn't offer the same history and recognition value as the iconic Cartier Tank, I'd say it offers an even more versatile wearing experience. It's easier to dress down and it's got its own personality. As a Tank alternative, it's a step above entry-level Swiss watches in terms of price, but you probably wouldn't want to compromise on finishing and quality for a watch like this.
For anyone enamored with the Tank's archetypal silhouette, but not specifically needing the Tank itself, I can heartily recommend checking out the Oris Rectangular. And for those that find such watches too small, feminine, dressy or old-fashioned, well, there are plenty of rounder options for you.