I have always been a sucker for colour. I’m not talking about the shocking pinks, reds and mauves that the trendy young females of the species use to dye their hair or paint their toenails, no, I’m talking about the delicate and subtle colours found in nature, painting, mosaics and enamelling along with those vibrant colours that emanate from rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds, the natural lustrous colours of the precious stones that we inevitably associate with the finest jewellery, but are now seeing more and more of in the watch industry.
I was looking forward to feasting my eyes on the Graff watch that seemed to be on everybody’s lips during Baselworld. I had already heard rumblings and rumours concerning their Hallucination timepiece, imagining that it would somehow resemble Cartier’s 1929 Art Deco tutti frutti platinum bracelet watch that was set with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies.
But nothing could have been further from the truth.
When I actually set eyes on the kaleidoscope of rare coloured diamonds that make up this unique piece, I realized that it came from a different world, a place of dreams, of fantasies, perhaps even an hallucination.
- Hallucination by Graff
“The Graff Hallucination is a sculptural masterpiece;” Laurence Graff, the Chairman and founder of Graff Diamonds said of the timepiece, “a celebration of the miracle of coloured diamonds. For many years I have thought about creating a truly remarkable watch that illustrates our all-consuming passion for diamonds. The Hallucination has made my diamond dream a reality.”
But this dream, this quite exquisite combination of 110 carats of multi-coloured diamonds that somehow blend together, that shimmer and shine from every angle, that took thousands of hours to create, is like nothing you have ever seen in a watch before – or, probably, will never see again. The delicate colouring of these rare diamonds bears no relation to the obscene ‘in-your-face’ multi-carat single gemstones that Sotheby’s and Christies are more than happy to auction, these gemstones subtly fuse into a white gold bracelet with, at its centre, a miniature Swiss watch with a quartz movement showing, rather discreetly, hours and minutes.
As a piece of art it is exquisite. As a personal adornment it works. As a watch, let’s be honest, it leaves something to be desired - the movement is quartz and reading the time on a miniature dial in a maze of colour is a little bit of a challenge unless you’ve been at the kryptonite – but if you have that price tag of 55 million dollars won’t be a deterrent!
Graff’s participation at Baselworld wasn’t only about the Hallucination though. In addition to the complicated timepieces mentioned elsewhere in the magazine, there were other quite remarkable jewellery watches.
The Floralgraff, the brand’s latest floral evolution, is a stunning watch with a mosaic inspired pattern with pavé set diamonds and eight cabochon rubies that is not only a striking representation of a flower in bloom, but also a nod, albeit distant, to the Art Deco period.
Deliciously feminine, this quartz watch has 120 diamonds (2.34 carats), a mother-of-pearl dial with a radial motif inlaid with a further eight rubies and is completed by a black or blue satin strap with a diamond-set buckle. The Floralgraff also comes with either emeralds or blue sapphires and the possibility of a fully set diamond and gemstone bracelet.
Another brilliantly conceived jewellery timepiece is the Secret Carved Emerald Watch. This chef-d’oeuvres is a more obvious ‘up and at them’ piece beautifully constructed around a trapezoidal carved emerald enhanced by scrolls of round and pear-shaped diamonds, which conceals a mother-of-pearl dial with a charming and intricate floral motif design. The bracelet comprises five rows of matching emerald beads connected by a diamond-set clasp. In total, there are 400 diamonds weighing 26.71 carats and 134 emeralds totalling 134.00 carats.
The watch is equipped with a quartz movement, but time is hardly the raison d’être for the Secret Carved Emerald Watch’s existence.
Although Jacob Arabo started his own company in New York when he was twenty-one years old, the brand really only took off in the 1990s when his striking jewellery and watch creations caught the attention of actors, actresses, singers and rap artists. It was at this point in time that ‘Jacob the Jeweller’ became the talk of the town.
Since then the brand has not been out of the news, but as for what concerns the watch industry, it was the launch of the multi-faced, multi-coloured five time zone watches that caught people’s attention and got Jacob the sobriquet of the ‘Master of World Time’.
The watches not only challenged the traditional and conservative approach to watchmaking, but also pushed the boundaries of design and aestheticism because the opulent gem-set five time zone timepieces that measured 47 mm appeared to be twice that size due of their colourful dials and lavish use of diamonds. Today, with its watchmaking operation based in Geneva, Jacob & Co. has developed into a bona fide watch company producing both technically exciting pieces and luxurious jewellery watches.
- Astronomia Tourbillon by Jacob & Co.
An example of its dedication to the art of horology, one needs look no further than the Astronomia Tourbillon. This celestial-inspired four-armed rose gold watch has on one arm the tourbillon, which in addition to rotating once around the dial every twenty minutes, also rotates around the axis of the arm once every five minutes, and around its own axis once every 60 seconds.
The skeleton dial with its Roman numerals is aesthetically balanced opposite the revolving tourbillon carriage and rotates as the central carrier turns. The Moon is on a third arm and is represented by a spherical, briolette-cut diamond which, in addition to rotating around the dial once every 20 minutes on the carrier, also rotates on its own axis once every sixty seconds, with the 56 facets sparkling in the refractive light. The Earth arm, which rotates once every sixty seconds on its own axis, is represented by a globe made of white gold, with the oceans represented by a deep blue, translucent grand feu enamel. This absorbing display ‘floats’ above a dial of deep blue aventurine.
The Astronomia Tourbillon is a technical tour de force that suggests Jacob & Co is a genuine player in the competitive universe of horological complications.
- Arlequino Flying Tourbillon by Jacob & Co.
As eye-catching as the Astronomia but for more brazen reasons, the Arlequino Flying Tourbillon is a sumptuous combination of diamonds and sapphires set around the tourbillon. The dial comprises 160 invisibly set white baguette diamonds and pink, blue, green and orange sapphires. The crown, in rose gold, is set with a rose cut yellow sapphire.
The functions are hours, minutes and a 100-hour power reserve indicator supplied by a manually wound Jacob & Co. Caliber JCBM01 movement with a titanium balance with a gold timing screw and a one-minute flying tourbillon. The 47 mm case is in 18 carat white gold with a white alligator strap and either a white, rose or yellow gold buckle set with 24 baguette white diamonds and multi-coloured sapphires.
With these important timepieces, Jacob & Co. is, in naval terms, showing its colours, and whilst clearly embarking on establishing itself as a player in haute horlogerie with its innovative use of tourbillons, the brand maintains its fundamental desire to surprise the hierarchy of the jewellery watch sector with its masterful use of coloured gemstones.
No need for an introduction to this brand, except to say that since its launch of the first Oyster wristwatch in 1926, it has remained at the forefront of Swiss watchmaking.
In keeping with their image of sophisticated elegance, this year Rolex introduced two versions of the Oyster: the Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona and the Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 34. With its classical case and 100 metres water-resistance, these timepieces combine precision with an understated use of gemstones.
- Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona by Rolex
The 40 mm Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona is in 950 platinum and is equipped with the Rolex 4130 mechanical chronograph self-winding movement with a power reserve of 72 hours. There are the usual central hour and minutes hands, small seconds at 6 o’clock, a central chronograph centre hand accurate to 1/8th of a second, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, both in ice blue with a white gold border. There is a stop-seconds feature for precise time setting.
What makes this watch different is that the dial is set with 437 diamonds and the bezel is set with 36 baguette diamonds and completing the contrast, the hands are in blued white gold.
The Oyster three-piece solid link bracelet is also in 950 platinum with polished centre links and satin-finished outer links with polished edges.
- Oyster Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 34 by Rolex
In contrast to the larger sized Daytona the Oyster Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 34 is in 18 carat yellow gold and has a bezel set with 12 pink baguette-cut sapphires and 24 light pink sapphires. The dial is in 18 carat gold paved with 455 diamonds and has appliqué gold Roman numerals and gold hands.
The 34 mm watch is equipped with a 2236 Rolex movement featuring central hour, minute and second hands with an instantaneous date at 3 o’clock with rapid setting and a stop-seconds feature for precise time setting. To complete the jewellery ‘look’, the 18 carat yellow gold five-piece solid link bracelet is set with 186 brilliant-cut diamonds.
And so, the Rolex crown remains in place.
The name Bulgari conjures up all sorts of images of Italian culture, sophisticated design, exquisite jewellery and, not surprisingly, jewellery watches.
Amongst the many new timepieces that Guido Terreni, the Managing Director of the Watch Business Unit and Pascal Brandt, the Brand Ambassador, introduced me to, there are two very different jewellery watches that I personally liked: the Berries Tourbillon Retrograde Hours Emeralds and the Lucea.
- Berries Tourbillon Retrograde Hours Emeralds by Bulgari
The Berries Tourbillon Retrograde Hours Emeralds watch is an adventurous, yet elegant combination of 18 carat white gold set with 129 brilliant-cut diamonds and, as the name suggests, emeralds. Needless to say, the focal point of the timepiece is the tourbillon at six o’clock encircled by a fascinating swirl of diamonds and seven emeralds evocative in shape of an ammonite fossil and set into a white marquetry-styled mother-of-pearl dial with 7 brilliant-cut hour markers. The crown is also set with an emerald.
The watch is equipped with a mechanical self-winding hand-decorated Manufacture-made movement with jumping Retrograde Hours on a 240-degree segment and blued hands and features a 22 carat gold oscillating weight set with 13 brilliant-cut diamonds. The movement has a 64-hour power reserve and a transparent caseback. To complete the 40 mm watch there is an elegant black satin strap with a white gold folding clasp and the Berries Tourbillon Retrograde Hours Emeralds is water-resistant to 30 metres.
- Lucea by Bulgari
The understated and elegant Lucea is a complete contrast to the Berries watch. In 18 carat rose gold, the bezel is set with 43 brilliant-cut diamonds and the bracelet comes set with another 117 brilliant-cut diamonds. Brilliantly contrasting the rose gold case and bracelet is an opaline black dial with a sunburst guilloché pattern, 11 diamond indices with a date window at 3 o’clock and rose gold-plated hands and a pink gold crown with a cabochon-cut pink stone set with a diamond.
The watch is equipped with a Calibre B77 mechanical self-winding movement featuring hours, minutes and seconds and is water-resistant to 30 metres.
Two very different contrasting timepieces that underline the brand’s dedication to combining sophisticated styling with intricate watchmaking complications.
The Allegra Collection is named after Fawaz Gruosi’s daughter Allegra. He explains the raison d’être of the collection as a showpiece which emerges out of the complex relationships between father and daughter and ‘the boiling mass of ideas and feelings … my symbol of life and love, made of all sorts of ties, some more important than others, but all forever united and entwined.”
The multi-coloured square watches are jewels that tell the time, emanating ‘dazzling fire, light and the energy of precious stones’ and are completed by custom fitted straps of intertwined leather cords of various colours.
- Allegra Collection by De Grisogono
Available in PVD stainless steel, pink or white gold and a diamond-set white gold, the vibrant sparkle is brought to the watches by bezels set with white diamonds, emeralds, pink or red spinels, yellow sapphires and tsavorites, orange sapphires, pink sapphires and diamonds and amethysts, sapphires, spinels and diamonds.
The dials are lacquered black, white, or pink, orange, red or black mother-of-pearl and there are gold dauphine hands. The crown is set with a signature De Grisogono black diamond and the watch is equipped with a Swiss quartz movement.
Quintessentially feminine, these vivacious watches emanate a spirit full of joie de vivre.
Another very feminine watch is the floral-styled Grappoli. The 18 carat pink gold version is set with beautifully set orange sapphires with a matching galuchat strap with an 18 carat gold clasp also set with orange sapphires.
Finally, there is the Tondo Tourbillon Gioiello in white gold set with 529 white diamonds weighing 7.80 carats around the bezel and case.
The skeleton dial, revealing the manually wound tourbillon movement, is enhanced by purple enamelling and the watch is completed by a purple galuchat strap that augment the purity of the white diamonds.
A fascinating and colourful year for jewellery watches.
What is interesting to note is that not only are the leading watch brands no longer inhibited in their use of dazzling and highly decorative coloured gemstones, but also they dare to include complex complications in their timepieces for ladies that hitherto were previously confined to the realm of watches designed to keep the male of the species happy.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2014 Magazine Issue