Charles Blanc, the renowned 19th century French art critic, once said: “The diamond and other precious stones are focuses of light, and essences of colour which seem expressly created to ornament on a small scale the human body with all the splendours which adorn the universe on a large scale.” This, it would seem, is a sentiment shared by Haute Horologists the world over, at least if the vast array of fine watches adorned with jewels and precious stones are anything to go by.
Literally translated from the French, Haute Horlogerie means “the high art of watchmaking.” Since 2005, however, when the “Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie” was founded, the term has solely referred to the 28 members of that particular horological foundation, with them collectively representing the world’s most prestigious luxury watchmakers.
Indeed in today’s modern age of virtual merchandise and 3D-printables, it is comforting to see that Haute Horlogerie remains a true art form. With no shortcuts, neither time nor expense is spared when crafting the finest possible timepieces, in both aesthetic and functional terms. Here the use of magnificent jewels to adorn a timepiece is seen as the truest expression of a watchmaker’s passion – the exquisite beauty that is the perfect fusion of Haute Horlogerie and Haute Joaillerie – “the art of fine jewellery.”
One such watchmaker is Rolex, a marque long synonymous with luxury timepieces fit for the world’s most stylish individuals. Making its debut at this year’s Baselworld, the “Pearlmaster 39” is a perfect example of the glorious synergy between Haute Horlogerie and Joaillerie. A new version of the Oyster Perpetual Pearlmaster, the Pearlmaster 39, is a lady’s watch and one for those that are certain that diamonds are, indeed, a girl’s best friend. Crafted in 18 carat everose gold, this 39 mm watch comes adorned with no less than 36 rare brilliant-cut diamonds, making it truly a dazzling piece to behold. While the exterior of the watch is steeped in splendour, the functionality of the piece itself remains a reflection of Rolex’s dedication to innovation and technology.
In total, some 14 new patents were required to make this watch possible.
The adoption of such cutting-edge technology has resulted in increased precision, a greater power reserve, enhanced shock and magnetic resistance, and improved reliability. The Pearlmaster is in fact manufactured in an exclusive paramagnetic alloy, one that houses the self-winding calibre 3235 with its impressive 70 hours of power reserve. It is also 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring watch. The outside of the case is decorated with 31 rubies, adding a further touch of flair to an already spectacular timepiece. With Christmas just around the corner, if a certain lady has a fondness for jewels, this is the perfect gift.
Another watch that happily pays homage to pressurised carbon in its most iconic form is the Chopard Happy Diamonds watch. A preeminent part of the Chopard collection, the idea for Happy Diamonds came when Ronald Kurowski, Chopard’s lead designer, took a walk in the Black Forest. There he espied a stunning sunlight-bathed waterfall, a vision he sought to recreate through his chosen profession. This ladies’ watch is available in a round or cushion-shaped dial with its 18-carat gold case perfectly framed in black.
The time display, meanwhile, is fetchingly set in an inner dial, while the prong-set diamonds playfully dance around the outer dial, all set against a white mother-of-pearl background. With more jewels than any previous incarnation – 15 in total, in a variety of sizes – this particular timepiece is never less than magnificently dazzling. A limited edition of just 150, the watch comes with an elegant black brushed canvas strap as standard.
Another member of the exclusive foundation is, of course, the ever-eminent Piaget. Three years in the making, the company’s Altiplano 900D bears the distinction of being the thinnest luxury watch on the market, coming in at a mere 3.65 mm. Along with this ultra-thin build comes a host of other design firsts, making the watch as unique as it is prestigious. In order to achieve its trademark slender look, the case and movement of this watch are functionally one. The result is a triumph of both Haute Horlogerie and Joaillerie, with the watch finely decorated with brilliant-cut and baguette-cut diamonds. In the case of the 1200D model in white gold, there are 259 brilliant-cut diamonds while the 1270D is decorated with 71 baguette-cut and 561 brilliant-cut diamonds. If diamonds really are forever, this timepiece is set for a very long and sparkling lifespan.
Yet another famous Swiss maison and purveyor of true horological beauty is Jaquet Droz. As a celebration of nearly three centuries of historic expertise, the marque’s Petite Heure Minute Thousand Year Lights is nigh on perfect. As its name suggests, this timepiece is all about radiance, something it delivers in a truly spectacular fashion thanks to the hand-painted, lacquered, mother-of-pearl floral decoration that lavishly adorns its dial. A perfect complement to this comes with the option of featuring a further ring of diamonds bordering the dial and case. Unmistakably feminine and exquisitely refined, the floral tableaux is applied using a little-practiced traditional technique. Available in five variations, all encased in red or white gold cases, each version is limited to just 28 pieces. The watch also features a 68-hour power reserve and comes with the option of a black or deep blue alligator leather strap.
One name that certainly needs no introduction in the world of Haute Horlogerie is Blancpain. Steadfast pioneers of women’s horology, Blancpain made the very first self-winding wristwatch specifically for ladies back in 1930. Simply billed as the Women’s Collection, this watch is proof most positive that horological appreciation has always been far more than a male preserve. This watch, which debuted at Baselworld 2014, features 152 diamonds, 108 of which adorn its 36.8 mm red gold case.
Its white mother-of-pearl dial, sprinkled with faceted diamonds, features an off-centre sub-dial at 12 o’clock with the Blancpain signature perfectly balanced at 6 o’clock. Within the watch beats a new 226 part mechanical self-winding movement – the calibre 2663SR – which is visible through its sapphire crystal case back. The Women’s Collection is also available in white gold with a blue mother-of-pearl dial or a steel case with a white dial. Both gold versions are complemented by a white ostrich leather strap, while the steel incarnation comes with an alligator leather strap.