The Talesh Mountains (NW Iran) witnessed a long deformation history from the Triassic Cimmerian orogeny to the ongoing Arabia-Eurasia collision. This protracted multi-stage deformation has generated a remarkably curved orogen with a puzzling kinematic and deformational history. In this study, we investigate the origin of the Talesh curvature through paleomagnetic analyses on rocks of Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic age. Our results indicate that at least two major, large-scale, vertical-axis-rotations took place since the Late Cretaceous: 1) a pre-Eocene 73° ± 17° clockwise rotation and 2) post-Eocene differential rotations that formed the Z-shaped mountain belt within a crustal-scale shear zone. The latter involved an increasing amount of clockwise (CW) rotation from south (16°) to north (48°). The orocline formation likely started during the Oligocene where an approximately east-west oriented mountain belt was buckled by the Arabia-Eurasia collision, with Arabia acting as a rigid indenter and the South Caspian basin as a rigid backstop. We hypothesise that the NE-SW oriented Aras and Lahijan fault zones, inherited from transform faults related to the Mesozoic opening of the Caspian-Black Sea back-arc, accommodated the coupled orocline formation.