Jewellery, watch or work of art?
From ancient and intricate techniques to rare stones and breathtaking designs, jewellery watches are at an all-time high.
By Karishma Tulsidas
Photography by Kevin Khng
Shot on location at Roche Bobois
Hublot Big Bang Unico Rainbow
We can thank Rolex for introducing rainbow watches to our modern watchmaking lexicon, but it has become so mainstream that brands including Ulysse Nardin, Audemars Piguet and even Patek Philippe now have one.
That’s not to say that its (relative) ubiquity diminishes its value in any way. A rainbow watch is undeniably the Marmite of the watch industry. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying several facts: For one, it takes a high level of gem-setting skills to source for stones of similar hues and gradients, and to set them together in a pattern that’s not overtly obnoxious. Then, there’s also the matter that there’s a waiting list spanning a few months – if not years – for some of these rainbow watches.
The ones by Hublot are no exception. Not limited edition, but limited in production, the 45mm Big Bang Unico Rainbow features 390 brilliant-cut gemstones on the dial and case and 48 baguette-cut stones on the bezel. There are eight distinct stones including red rubies, pink sapphires, purple amethysts, blue sapphires, blue topazes, green tsavorites, and yellow and orange sapphires. Further amplifying the bombastic effect is the multicoloured strap that epitomises Hublot’s motto: Go big or go home.
Bovet Miss Audrey
This award-winning timepiece bagged the top prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2020 in the ladies’ watches category for its guilloché green version. But the Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey in midnight blue is no less mesmerising. The beauty of the timepiece lies in the fact that it is housed in a convertible Amadéo case, meaning that you can wear the watch as it is with the strap, or as a necklace.
As if the diamonds on the bezel and case weren’t dazzling enough, the dial is also made of aventurine, a hard stone with speckles that shine like a starry sky. The watch case can be removed and paired with a string of aventurine beads, further amplifying the dazzle of the case. The 36mm timepiece is crafted in steel, and can also be converted into a table clock.
Jaeger – LeCoultre Reverso One Blue Aurum
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso collection needs no introduction. The swivelling timepiece was built in 1931 to protect the watch dial from hard knocks during polo matches. Since then, it has been reiterated in countless avatars, its versatile double-face proving to be an excellent canvas for all manner of horological and artistic crafts, including ultra-high complications and bejewelled wonders.
The Reverso One Precious Flowers set of four watches was inspired by the decorative, bejewelled timepieces of the 1920s, the era between WW1 and the Great Depression that was rife with hope, creativity and abundance. The Reverso Blue Aurum, featured here, is emblematic of the creativity of that period while reflecting the sophisticated tastes of today’s collectors. The timepiece features a number of artistic crafts including enamelling and gem-setting.
Enamelling, in particular, is an exacting skill that requires the craftsman to fire the colour in a heated oven over and over again for a period of a few days, until the colour is set. One mistake, and the process needs to be started all over again. Now imagine doing that for each tiny element of the flower, including the pistil and the gradient blue of the petal. Once the flowers have been enamelled, the jeweller then uses a snow setting technique to fill every empty space with diamonds. The flowers and diamonds cascade to the other side of the watch as well, framing a mother-of-pearl dial.
Given the sheer complexity of crafting this timepiece, it’s no wonder that it comes in a limited edition of 10 pieces. It’s packed with technical virtue as well, as it features the diminutive hand-wound Jaeger LeCoultre Calibre 846.
Graff Tilda’s Bow Watch
Graff is the only jeweller in the world that controls the entire supply chain of its products: the Graff family owns diamonds mines; cuts its own stones; and designs and hand-crafts its own jewellery in a secret atelier in London, where the skills are passed from father to son. This is why, when it comes to the brilliance and quality of its stones, Graff is rarely surpassed. The maison outdoes itself in using only the finest quality stones and, oddly enough, by understanding the unspoken demands of the stone: A vivid pink diamond might need nothing more than a halo setting, while another might need the bells and whistles of a statement design.
Graff is equally adept at working with gold – the metal yielding to the craftsman’s dexterous touch. Case in point: ‘Tilda’s Bow’. Featured in its fine to high jewellery creations, the motif has recently woven itself into Graff’s watchmaking collections.
The watch comes festooned with a bow that appears to be hand-tied. Set in yellow gold with yellow diamonds, the bow demonstrates the dexterity of Graff’s artisans, who have adeptly plied the gold to emulate the sinuous curves of a ribbon. Further elevating the sparkling effect, the dial, bezel and bracelet are fully set with white diamonds.
Chopard Precious Lace Watch
It’s easy to get lost in the sheer dazzle of the Chopard ‘Precious Lace’ collection, but astute collectors will also appreciate the sheer artistry that goes into designing a jewel that emulates the etherealness of lace.
‘Precious Lace’ has long been a cornerstone of Chopard’s creations, and this high jewellery watch is a spectacular exhibition of the Swiss jeweller’s multi-faceted skills. There are diamonds set on every surface to mimic the intricacy of lace fabric. The case features a cornucopia of petals with an array of fancy- and brilliant-cut diamonds. The dial is not simply pavé-set like regular bejewelled watches. Instead, baguette-cut diamonds frame an enchanting diamond-set ower that unfurls into the hour and minute hands. This one-of-a-kind creation features diamonds weighing more than 165 carats set in white gold.
Cartier Coussin de Cartier
Tank, Crash, Ballon, Baignoire… Cartier’s imaginatively named watches have long drawn their inspiration from real-life objects, bringing a witty air of grandeur to the seemingly mundane.
Its latest launch, the ‘Coussin de Cartier’, is no exception. The French word ‘coussin’ means ‘cushion’, and the watch’s shape is a dead ringer for one, with its pillowy square shape and rounded edges.
When it was launched earlier this year, the ‘Coussin de Cartier’ collection attracted plenty of attention. One of the highlights was undoubtedly the two limited-edition ‘squishy’ versions that featured a case that’s soft and malleable to the touch – exactly like a cushion. An ingenious construction by the French maison, the timepiece features a gold mesh structure that’s flexible and springs back to its original shape no matter how often you’re tempted to poke it.
In the rigid version featured in this photoshoot, a case with a dynamic spiral of cascading diamonds of varying shapes appears almost three-dimensional in its construction, giving the impression of a fattened, comfortable cushion.
The Coussin de Cartier timepiece is available in white gold with 177 brilliant-cut diamonds weighing 4.09 carats.
Bulgari Serpenti Spiga
An accolade to Bulgari’s engineering and design know-how, this Serpenti Spiga might look simple compared to the other high jewellery creations out there, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
I have been entrenched in the world of luxury for more than a decade, but I have to admit that I had never noticed that Bulgari’s Serpenti watches never featured diamonds on their Tubogas or Spiga bracelets. It was thus a surprise when Bulgari launched the Serpenti Spiga with a diamond-studded bracelet, emphasising that very glaring omission.
The reason was simple: The Serpenti bracelets – either in the Spiga or Tubogas form – have been designed to ergonomically coil around the wrist, no matter the size. The bracelet fits like a memory foam mattress, and there’s simply no margin for error. Or in this case, the margin for a single diamond.
Of course, this was simply not permissible for the Italian brand, whose calling card is dazzling opulence. It took the team two years to develop a solution and the result is the pictured Serpenti Spiga, released in 2021. (The Serpenti Tubogas with diamonds was launched earlier in 2023.)
Meaning wheat in English, the Spiga features a matellasé pattern on the bracelet, which comprises modular pieces that interlock seamlessly with no soldering needed. The single-coil Spiga comprises 40 individual pieces, which are moulded and assembled one by one, and finished and polished to the highest standards.
The Serpenti Spiga featured here is wrought in rose gold, with 281 brilliant-cut diamonds.