In what could be the most interesting conspiracy theory of the morning, the folks at ABlogToWatch have found a watch that could have been the inspiration for Apple Watch. It's a Patek Philippe Ellipse Ref. 3582 (3582G) made in the 1970s and usually sold through high end watch stores. The piece, which is amazingly rare in white gold, almost perfectly matches the case shape of the Apple Watch and the thoughtfully attached grains-of-rice band (the real name for the "Milano" strap) makes this square watch a dead ringer for a AW Steel.
Jony Ive has said that he has a predilection towards fancy watches and Patek makes the fanciest. This watch in particular is pretty hard to find and I've never seen it mentioned in the literature I've read. While it's not unique - there are plenty like it out there these days - the detail, case shape, and even the crystal definitely exhibit a family resemblance.
Square watches are nothing new. The so-called barrel or Tonneau case is a fairly popular style but it has bulging sides. The "tank" style watch, made famous by Cartier, is squared off but is a but more rectangular and thinner. A watch like this one is a strange hybrid of the two and would have looked quite fetching on the wrist of a Madison Avenue executive circa 1972 - or on the wrist of an early adopter circa 2015.
Was Ive secretly inspired by this watch? Did he see it briefly in a watch shop and bring up the design in some fugue state? Perhaps the world will never know. The resemblance, however, is uncanny.