Review: the Oris Rectangular

When I first got into watches, it was the vintage world that really captured my attention. These were the days (not really too long ago) when you could still find genuinely great deals on eBay for vintage watches in remarkable condition. These days, not only have prices gotten more than a little insane for previously unwanted watches, but the market is littered with watches that have been polished, redialed, or otherwise messed with. It’s hard to tell if sellers (often well known dealers we’d all recognize) are intentionally withholding that information, obvious at a glance to anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of these things, or if they themselves are blissfully unaware that the suspiciously perfect looking mid-century dress watch they’re stocking has a dial that’s been fully refinished, repainted a little bit sloppily by hand, and relumed with a Colgate-like substance the watch clearly wasn’t born with. Yes, “all original,” sure. 

I love these old watches, even if I’ve basically stopped trying to acquire them. I have some unusual vintage watches that I could never replace in my collection, as well as some actual time capsules that these days I like to quietly admire for their history and style more than I actually enjoy wearing them. I’ve learned to enjoy watches on these terms because for me, as I’ve noted in the past, they aren’t primarily tools, but beautiful objects. The pleasure is in simply enjoying their aesthetic. A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and all that. 


The new Oris Rectangular reminds me in a lot of ways of the types of watches that I’d troll eBay for in the early days of my watch collecting. The brand names on the dial would always be something basically unrecognizable, their own little miniature rabbit hole to dive into (or not, sometimes it’s more fun to just wonder and not really know). Aesthetically, the Rectangular is a clear throwback to another era, and wearing it around for a short period of time connected me back to those formative years when you could easily score a gem on the big auction site for almost nothing (relatively speaking). 


Review: the Oris Rectangular

Stainless steel
Oris 561
Yes, hands and hour markers
Water Resistance
3 bar
25.5 x 38mm
Lug Width

I’ve always liked the idea of wearing dress watches casually. It goes back to that notion of just appreciating these things as objects, I think. In a certain respect, a dress watch deployed with a suit or a tuxedo is actually pulling tool watch duty in the same way a Pelagos would be with a wet suit. But if you just appreciate the watch for its own style on its own terms, it doesn’t really matter what you wear it with, and a “dress watch” quickly becomes just a watch. 

That was my approach with the Rectangular. I didn’t go near a necktie in the week I had with it, but stuck to my usual wardrobe of jeans, Oxford-cloth button downs, simple sneakers, and whatever jacket is appropriate for the lousy Smarch weather we’re currently experiencing here in the Granite State. This watch is definitely not purpose built for a New England sleet storm, but it handled itself just fine, as you’d expect. It might seem trivial to discuss the weather when evaluating a watch, but vintage watch owners know that it’s anything but. 

This, to me, is the real strength of watches in the vintage inspired category. Owning actual vintage watches, you really do have to be conscious of how exposed they are to the elements, particularly moisture. It can be a drag if you simply feel like enjoying your 1930s or 40s Art Deco, rectangular, stepped case watch, but need to remind  yourself that with showers in the forecast, you really should switch to something modern and robust if you’re headed out. I’m fully expecting a chorus of enthusiasts to comment something to the effect of “wear your watches, don’t let your watches wear you” in the comments, and I get it. And I’d also like to take your mailing addresses offline, so I can forward you the bill from my watchmaker when I need to bring them in because the crystal is fogging up from the inside. It’s a risk that if you treasure these things is not really worth taking, particularly if you have an alternative. 

And a watch like the Rectangular really seems like that sort of alternative. It’s sized right and wears like a vintage watch, but clearly benefits from the modern machining and manufacturing you expect from a brand like Oris. The case is more complex than I initially gave it credit for based on press photos. There’s a pronounced step running down each side that gives the case a sculpted look and feel, and the whole case is very subtly curved. This is a critical difference in construction compared to the JLC Reverso and Cartier Tank, likely the two most iconic rectangular watches ever made, and the watches most likely to be mentioned in the same breath as this Oris, fairly or unfairly. Those watches, importantly, have completely flat casebacks, and that colors the wearing experience in important ways. I’d argue that this Rectangular by Oris might actually have more in common with the slightly more exotic Cartier Tank Cintree, a watch with a majestic and almost overpowering case curvature. There’s nothing quite that dramatic here, but the lack of flatness is still key. 

Let’s talk about numbers. The Rectangular measures 38mm from lug to lug, and is 25.5mm across, not including the small crown at 3:00. At the middle of the case, I measured it at about 10mm thick, but because of the case’s curvature, I’d argue that it actually wears a bit thinner, maybe more like 9mm. Regardless, we’re talking about a very slight watch. When I pulled it out of the box, my immediate thought was that it was unfortunately just going to be too small for me, and I’m a guy who enjoys wearing a watch that you might initially think is a bit undersized. I attribute this to my relative lack of experience wearing square or rectangular cased watches, because once I had the Rectangular on my wrist, it wasn’t long at all before it began to make sense. 

This watch’s big draw is the comfort factor. It just doesn’t take up a lot of real estate on the wrist, and that slight curve to the case keeps it sitting low and planted, to the point where you honestly just don’t notice it’s there. This is also, for me, the reason dress watches work so well with casual clothing. I don’t know about you, but when I’m lounging around in sweats, loose fitting comfort is the name of the game. While watches like the Rectangular might seem anachronistic or stylistically opposed to ultra casual clothing, they can have the same impact of that impossibly soft hooded sweatshirt in that both are unobtrusive and a pleasure to wear. There’s also, I think, a certain amount of casual elegance in matching a dressier watch to clothing that is on the opposite end of the spectrum. This is coming from the same part of my brain that thinks I’d wear the hypothetical Daytona I don’t own with the screw down pushers unscrewed, by the way.

When discussing watch sizing and how appropriate a watch is on a given wrist, I often hear the term “overhang” used to describe what is seen as an undesirable extension of the lug tips past the wrist itself. This look always makes me think of Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff, not realizing he’s lost the ground beneath his feet. Anyway, is there an appropriate term for the opposite of lug overhang? Is underhang a thing? I ask only because that’s what I experience wearing the Rectangular, and I imagine it’s what many will see when they look down to check the time if they purchase this watch or try it on at an Oris retailer. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a look that’s as unwanted as the opposite, but I want to push back on that a little. 

On my wrist, the Rectangular really doesn’t come close to reaching the end of my wrist, and I think that’s appropriate for this style of watch, and also looks quite good. At some point during the Big Watch era that is thankfully behind us, it was decided that watch lugs, if they fit, should span the length of the wrist perfectly. Not too long, like Wile E. Coyote, and certainly not too short, like the Rectangular. While I think a case can be made that a large watch with lugs extended far past the wrist can be universally considered “too big,” it bugs me that the opposite idea might be similarly ingrained in our collective watch consciousness. The Rectangular is designed to fit exactly as you see on my wrist in these photos. It’s not too small at all. There’s a certain amount of discretion that’s intended with a watch like this, both in visual terms (how the wearer and others see it) and in how it feels while it’s strapped on. 


Of course, as with anything else in this hobby, it all comes down to personal preference, and I’m not here to tell anyone that a watch is too big or too small, regardless of their wrist size or what the lug would see if it had eyes and looked straight down. But in terms of real world wearing comfort, there’s just no getting around that a smaller watch taking up less space is easier to wear in almost any situation than a watch that’s chunkier, longer, heavier, or wider. 

There’s a trade-off, though, when it comes to enjoying a smaller watch, and that’s the ease with which one can tell the time. This, it turns out, is not an unimportant thing when it comes to how a watch performs. A smaller watch means a smaller dial, which in almost every case will mean smaller hands and indices, and that can cause no small bit of squinting when it comes to reading the time. The Rectangular is not illegible by any means, and I actually found it pretty easy to get a good approximation of the time at a glance, but the dial elements are so fine and detailed that precision was tough with a short look, which probably shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for a dressy, throwback watch like this. 

The dial itself is actually very nicely executed. My sample watch is in a glossy dark blue, with matching rectangular tracks running along an interior section as well as the dial’s perimeter. These tracks are connected by long white rectangles, serving as hour markers. The lumed hands are small and sword shaped, different enough in length to easily tell one from the other. We also have Arabic numerals at the cardinal positions, except for 6, which is where you’ll find the date window. The presentation is unabashedly Art Deco influenced, and seems to be a mashup of what people like most in the Reverso and Tank. The end result is a nice looking and effective dial, and while it gains zero points for originality, it makes up for it in the charm department. 

The movement used in the Rectangular is the Oris 561, a rebadged ETA 2671. This movement isn’t too common in the typical watches we cover here, but is found frequently in watches targeted toward the women’s market, and similarly small rectangular watches like the Baume & Mercier Hampton. It’s visible through the caseback, and is incredibly small, measuring only about 17mm across. It really makes an impression if you’re used to looking at standard sized movements, and is a good reminder that miniaturization in watchmaking was once considered a complication unto itself. It has 38 hours of power reserve and all the functionality you’d expect from a full sized movement, but in a smaller package. I would assume that because of its size it might be a bit more delicate, but I certainly didn’t experience any issues with timekeeping or operability in my brief time with the Rectangular. 


So who is this watch for? The obvious answer is that it will likely appeal to collectors who might want to simulate the experience of wearing a Tank or a Reverso, but don’t want to spend (at least) twice as much. At $1,950, you’re buying into a very specific style and aesthetic that few brands do exceptionally well. After all, you don’t hear me drawing comparisons to, for example, the Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945. Or the Lang & Heyne Anton. And that’s not a knock against GP or Lang & Heyne. The truth is, there are a lot of square and rectangular watches out there, but the Tank and Reverso just inhabit a completely outsized place in this little niche. It’s impossible not to draw the line from the Rectangular to those watches by Cartier and JLC. 

I think a more compelling case for this watch can actually be made to the vintage enthusiast, either current or, like me, recovering. Every once in a while I’m struck by a vintage inspired watch in a way that surprises me. They almost always leave me cold, and feel like a component of a costume. But there’s something about this watch being made by Oris, a brand that very quietly covers an enormous breadth of styles and has been around for ages, that is appealing. Oris has been making rectangular watches for decades, so this truly isn’t an homage to the watches I’ve mentioned above – it’s an extension of their own history. And the watch has a certain magic in its proportions (and that step on the case flank) that goes a long way to meaningfully connecting it to watches of the past that weren’t particularly special then, but have become fascinating and beautiful objects to modern observers given the opportunity to look back. The power of hindsight. 

I don’t want to oversell it – this isn’t a watch that the average person should rush out to buy. It feels like a very niche product, and it’s not destined to be a hype piece or collectible. But if you ever dabbled in vintage or have an interest in this very specific style that has (mostly) fallen out of favor, you’ll probably find something to like in the Rectangular’s simplicity. And I’d encourage anyone leaning in the Rectangular’s direction to pay no mind to any popularly held notions relating to watch size, or the appropriate times to wear a more formal watch. If you think it’s beautiful, it’s ok to enjoy it on those terms and those terms alone, regardless of wrist size or how many times you’ll need to dust off the tux this year. It’s 2022, anything goes. Oris

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.