The notion of a revived national brand is rare these days. French watchmaking has Cartier at the top and Yema on the accessible end of the spectrum, while Italy has Bvlgari. But what about the southern part of Europe? Do you remember Cauny?

Familiar to lovers of mid-century vintage, the brand was based in La Chaux-de-Fonds for manufacturing but was and is a Portuguese-owned national treasure. With only three years until the Cauny’s 100th anniversary, vintage enthusiasts have high expectations for the brand.

Eduardo Souto Moura

Cauny’s significance

As you can see from these photos from my visit to Cauny’s head office, its heritage archive offers rich pickings. Cauny had an enviable position in the ’60s and ’70s and boasted huge sales figures in Portugal and Spain. A Cauny watch was the gift of choice for a graduation, work anniversary, or Catholic confirmation. Now the brand is rebuilding its past and transcending the image of fashion watches through architecture.

As a watch enthusiast and watch-focused writer, I find it easy to find niche love, which doesn’t necessarily translate to a sustainable production base. So, while I love Cauny’s quirky ’60s chronographs and sports watches, the folks at Cauny are rebuilding a brand in a market with less focus on small vintage than in Northern Europe. That means one of Cauny’s biggest sellers, the Prima, has a 41mm case, but for me, the suave blue guilloché-patterned dial is worth it. But this is about architecture for the wrist and starchitect Eduardo Souto Moura.

Eduardo Souta Moura

The architectural series and a chat with Eduardo Souto Moura

Cauny has a very successful range called the Architects of Time. Designed by award-winning architects, such as Álvaro Siza, the watches are big sellers for retailers and museums. Now a new sub-line of models bears the design signature of Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Eduoard Souto Moura. Ahead of the evening’s launch event, I got to interview Mr. Souto Moura before a journalist from El Mundo, Spain’s second-largest daily paper, had his turn.

Meeting over a drink in a Lisbon hotel before the launch party in Cascais, Souto Moura takes off his watch. With a 15-minute lateral conversation in English, my poor Italian, and interpreted Portuguese, he explains his thoughts behind the elegant piece of minimalism.

Cauny Souto Moura 38mm

Souto Moura tells me about the inspiration behind the design: “I like this watch because it’s simple. You can tell the time well, and it’s like a building: it has to be simple, functional, and if possible, beautiful…” With Souto Moura being known for going off on a tangent, we veered off to Le Corbusier and Porsches but managed to steer the conversation back to this 38mm watch he designed for Cauny.

Eduardo Souto Moura

A design true to Souto Moura’s principles

Souto Moura tells me, “I was asked to design a watch, and as a collector, I like watches. I once did a design for Nomos, which didn’t happen due to my quirky design having the 12 where 10 was, and it wasn’t made due to production complexities. Back to this Cauny, I don’t like the watch being separate from the strap; I want the strap to be an integral part.” This explains the curved strap end and open, non-lugged case design, which works making the design both cohesive and comfortable.

“The second point of consideration was the thickness of the three distinct partsthe sapphire crystal with its bezel, a brushed mid-case, and a polished base. And as Van der Rohe said, God is in the details.” Souto Moura’s sense of humor also comes into play, with the indices on the watch merging with the Roman numerals while doing their job. Souta Moura also said, “For me, square watches do not work. They’re like the expression ‘fitting a square peg in a round hole,'” which elicited some laughter as the last Cauny Architects of Time watch was a 30mm square designed by his close friend Rafael Moneo.

Cauny Souto Moura 38mm wrist shot

The new Cauny Souto Moura 38mm

This 38mm watch is clean, elegant, and different from the norm. It adheres to the minimalist principles we see in Junghans and Nomos offerings, making it appeal to a design-and-monochrome-led demographic. But that is a good thing as I have had countless meetings with architects and designers who adhere to a no-watch aesthetic. And like a Cartier Must with a svelte case and quartz movement, the slender Miyota quartz caliber inside is there for a simple reason — to give peace of mind while ensuring a super-slim 5mm thickness. Combined with a soft, curved-end German leather strap, the Cauny Souta Moura offers a big, architect-designed bang for only €185. There is a 32mm ladies’ model, and I suspect we’ll also see a mechanical version eventually.

Eduardo Souto Moura

What’s next for Cauny?

The Cauny Souto Moura’s light gray dial and quirky lugless case work well for a svelte, suave dress watch. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to see vintage Cauny watches re-emerge. From tri-register complexities to mini-grails co-branded with Cuervo y Sobrinos, the archive has plenty to offer. The one that stayed on my wrist the longest was this bonkers gold-tone jump-hour watch from the ’70s.

Is it marketable as a reissue? Let’s say it’s for a small niche, but that didn’t stop me from searching eBay back at the hotel with no luck. I have high hopes for Cauny’s 100th anniversary in 2027. Perhaps we’ll see a small chronograph? Meanwhile, some of the best watches are designed by non-watchmakers, and Cauny has more architects on the list. There are some big names booked, so stay tuned. For a closer look at Cauny’s Souto Moura collection, visit the brand’s official website.

What about you, my dear Fratelli? Are watches designed by architects, car designers, and other non-watchmakers needed to freshen things up? Let me know in the comments.

Watch specifications

Souto Moura Grey 38mm
Matte gray with minimal applied indices and Roman numerals
Case Material
Stainless steel with brushed and polished finishes
Case Dimensions
38mm (diameter) × 5mm (thickness)
Case Back
Stainless steel with engraving, snap-on
Miyota 9T22: slim quartz caliber, three-year battery life, accurate to ±20 seconds per month
Water Resistance
Black German leather (19mm width) with curved ends and beige lining,
Time only (hours and minutes)