A diamond-set bezel? Pfft. Baguette-cut diamonds? Don’t think so. Brilliant-cut diamond indices on the dial? You must be joking. Where high jewellery watches are concerned, the more basic and classic variations must now compete with what are essentially baroque sculptures in miniature. In order to justify their existence and stand out from the crowd, brands are using precious stones as others would use clay or marble. To hold your place (or secure it) in the rarefied world of high-jewellery watchmaking, you have to aim extremely high. Better take your oxygen tank. Better still – learn to breathe pure ether. These days, you need to do a lot more than merely be generous with the gems – however superior the quality – if you want to be noticed. The stones must be artfully and imaginatively staged in a 3D theatre, sometimes pushing the boundaries of good taste.
As far as price is concerned, once your watch is entirely set with diamonds, there’s really nowhere else you can go. With case, bracelet and dial entirely paved, it’s all about abundance, but it’s also about the technical skill required to make the base material (gold or platinum) disappear entirely beneath its cloak of light. But the race is no longer about value – price tag alone is largely irrelevant at this point. While Graff looked to settle the argument once and for all with several models decorated with coloured diamonds (a house speciality) worth over 40 million dollars each, the competition has moved elsewhere. It’s all about creativity.
Audemars Piguet latched on pretty quickly. For the third year running, this rather conservative watchmaker has launched a high-jewellery piece that’s certainly not afraid of the spotlight. The Diamond Outrage unveiled at SIHH 2017 is a spiky bundle of diamond and/or sapphire-set points. The conical protrusions may look punk, but they are inspired by the fir trees of the Vallée de Joux.
Diamond remains the queen of stones, partly because it is so easy to wear. Breguet has chosen diamonds to clothe the generous petals that emerge from the case of its aptly-named Be Crazy. These articulated jewels are designed to catch the light – a diamond’s best friend – and have fun with it.
Graphical harmony is essential if a piece is to stand out, and light a spark that will fire the imagination. Chopard has placed its bets on the spiral, with one piece in its Green Carpet collection. The pear-cut stones are arranged like the grains in an ear of wheat furled around the dial, growing gradually bigger towards the tip. Its asymmetry and general shape also bring to mind the leaves of the Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival, which Chopard designed.
The figurative register is another strong theme; an everyday object can become an expression of artistry in the hands of a gem-setter. Van Cleef & Arpels has gone for a ribbon, tied in a simple bow. The Ruban Secret watch is entirely paved with closely-packed brilliant-cut diamonds, the watch face hidden behind a movable knot.
Colour lies at the heart of the language of gemstones and high jewellery. But the staging of a central stone, regardless of whether it is framed by a backdrop of smaller gems, is no longer enough to capture the attention. It has to be baroque, theatrical, whacky!
De Grisogono clusters several rows of sapphire teardrops around the case of the Grappoli, whose case and dial are both densely set with gems. A hint of movement is another essential ingredient. In the heart of the diamond-set case of the RM 026, Richard Mille has inserted two snakes clothed in coloured gemstones, bringing the watch to life.
Snakes are a favourite source of inspiration for Bulgari, which has just unveiled the Serpenti Seduttori. The snake’s head, topped with a cabochon, opens to reveal the time.
In its Panthère Joueuse, Cartier Watches Leather Strap Replica has succeeded in capturing the dialogue between the real and the precious. The big cat (hours) plays with a little ball (minutes). It might not be the most spectacular, or the most bejewelled, but it says something quite important about jewellery watches. And that is, that it’s not the number of carats that counts, but the strength of the idea and its ability to fire the imagination.
It’d be fairly hard to discuss Cartier Watches Au750 Replica with no phrase “tasteful,” as cliched as it might seem. The notion of “elegance” that the Cartier Tank so nicely reflects was a theory that was a great deal more relevant through a lot of the 20th century than it’s among the increasingly casual culture where those values might be viewed as stuffy and anachronistic – at least, in many parts of the planet. Watch enthusiasts exclusively interested in sport and instrument watches might not find much attention from Cartier at all, as even sportier-leaning watches such as the Calibre still retain that debonaire Cartier poise. I, for one, love relish dressing down a “dressy” (I like the term simple) watch occasionally, and feel no need to save something similar to the Cartier Tank Solo XL for a black-tie occasion (whatever that is). Little birds tell me that there’s even a quick change strap method on the way with this model.You very much know what you are having with a Cartier Tank, and the major question is really how well the Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic signifies the Tank and its lineage, and also how it fares among its competition.The competition is necessary to consider when evaluating an item’s value proposition, however it is also fun to consider watches which may offer similar allure at other price points. When considering options to the Cartier Tank Solo XL, first are people from Cartier itself. There’s a good possibility that if you prefer the Tank, you will appreciate more of what the brand provides – be it a Tank or other collection family.