Baselworld was on fire this year – even the bright lights of the massive halls and the flashy opulence of the cases and displays were no match for the copious abundance of gem-set wristwatches. Everywhere you looked diamond-adorned timepieces reclined on their display stands at the perfect angle to catch the light, and the wistful glances of passers-by.
Baselworld 2014 Report – Serious Panache
A feature which is just for the ladies then? Actually, no. This year there is as much, if not more on offer to the guys proving that the genres of men’s jewellery and that of men’s wristwatches have become less defined giving rise to a wealth of very manly dazzle for the wrist. It’s not confined to a diamond hour marker here and there either – we are talking about serious panache. In times gone by, a sprinkling of sparkle was enough to upscale an ordinary wristwatch, a ritzy ruse to disguise its inner plainness – not so now, this year’s jewel-clad men’s watches have mechanical hearts, technical construction and complex functions. Those with deep-pockets, or a penchant for glitz read on, we have cherry-picked the recently unveiled high-jewellery watches for your perusal, not just dress watches – heck we’ve even thrown in a few shimmering chronographs, for those who dare to do diamonds by day – I for one firmly believe that nothing quite catches the sunlight like a bezel full of precious stones… and just in time for summer too.
Baselworld 2014 Report – A White Heart
First up, the Dubey & Schaldenbrand Coeur Blanc, with its lush coating of individually cut baguette diamonds. It features a 45mm gold case and an equally luxurious dial made from the same noble metal, but you’d never know it because it is almost entirely covered with diamonds – 400 on the case, and 255 on its dial, all of which have been invisible set, presenting a meritorious challenge in terms of the craftsmanship involved. The stones on the dial form an alliance with the tourbillon opening, providing it with a very extravagant frame. The blued hands are skeletonised so as not to spoil the panorama, and even the prestigious Dubey & Schaldenbrand name is forced to a less significant location on the top left where it is etched directly onto the sapphire.
Baselworld 2014 Report – A New Technique From Diamond-Masters Graff
Next, something superbly complex from Haute Joallerie experts, Graff – the GyroGraff Double-Axis Tourbillon Diamonds Limited Edition. With this piece, naturally the eye is drawn to the splendid dial arrangement of a double-axis tourbillon at 5 o’clock and a gyroscopic moon phase indicator at 8 o’clock, but there are other pleasurable features – the razor-sharp diminutive hands, the 12 o’clock emerald marker, the dainty retrograde power reserve at 11 o’clock – all resting on a luxurious velvety black dial. It may surprise then that the real triumph of this watch is its diamond-set bezel, which uses a technique which took Graff’s master gem-setters one year to perfect. Comprising of 72 diamonds, its composition is formed by three rows of diamonds with two triangular diamonds surrounding a hexagonal stone. Not surprisingly Graff have patented this elaborate invisible setting and just 10 pieces each of pink gold and white gold case editions of the Diamond GyroGraff piece will be made.
Baselworld 2014 Report – Deluxe But Wearable
Functional day-wear diamonds anyone? For this year, Corum have produced three gem-set editions of its chunky Admiral’s Cup Seafender 47 Tourbillon Chronograph. Each will feature 60-minute counters and small seconds which have been paved with diamonds and there are more precious stones on the bezels and cases, rising to three levels of luxury depending on which model you choose. One could argue that such a generous case size needs no further embellishments in order to make a strong statement and there will be many watch fans out here who will recall a time when every Admiral’s Cup model was, if not always sensible at least wearable – better then to delve into the portfolio of the experts of refinement….
… Rolex, if you require a deluxe but wearable chronograph. The Daytona Platinum Diamond edition features blue counters which are in keeping with the iciness of the 437 diamonds used to decorate this model.
Such a sprinkling of sparkle could hardly be described as understated but, surprisingly because the gem-setting is limited to face-on glamour, and Rolex have wisely kept the superb profile of the caseside and bracelet intact, this piece retains its character. With a very wearable casesize of 40mm and the subtle manner in which the Daytona Platinum Diamond edition offers up just a glimpse of baguette-set bezel from beneath a tailored cuff, I shall stick my neck out and declare that if you only ever buy one diamond-set wristwatch (and, really who needs more than one?) then this one should be it.
Baselworld 2014 Report – The Rebels
Hublot describe their new Classic Fusion Skull Pavé as “a watch for the most stylish of rebels” – and they’re not wrong. Just like their Hublot Skull Bang, which was developed for Laurent Picciotto, this one is marginally outrageous, totally rebellious, and with just the right touch of Damien Hirst captures the spirit of Hublots’ tongue-in-cheek attitude to Horology and Art. The normally tame Classic Fusion absorbs its gem-set cosmetics with aplomb with 1168 diamonds, totalling over 5 carats used to create the skull motif and its surrounding frame. Two models – a titanium case with white diamonds and a black PVD-treated titanium case edition set with black diamonds, will each be limited to 50 pieces.
Elsewhere Romain Gauthier chose invisible-set diamonds for the cover of his Logical One Secret which provides a luxurious hide-away for his acclaimed multi-patented Constant Force movement…
… and Jacob & Co, rather than go all-out with a carpeting of stones instead evoke the same wow-factor with one huge 56-faceted round briolette-cut diamond with which to represent the moon on their Astronomia Tourbillon model.
Baselworld 2014 Report – A Lavish Ladies Selection
So what about the ladies collections? Corum, always a brand to display a deference to their female customers produced a new edition Admiral’s Cup adorned with diamonds and purple and pink sapphires and a new Golden Bridge model embellished with a covering of cross-patterned sapphires.
Also notable are the sumptuous new pieces from DeLaneau and the fashion houses of Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton who proved that their design prowess is not simply limited to ladies apparel with some fabulous new timepieces with equally fancy names – Mademoiselle Prive, Dior VIII Grand Bal File de Soie. and Damier Absolu Rivière.
Harry Winston produced a new Premier Chronograph model featuring a smoky brown Tahitian mother-of-pearl dial. At 39mm across, this piece is big enough to make itself known but with a slimmer than ever 18k rose gold case promises to be comfortable too. The piece has an ample array of diamonds, 57 on the case and 126 on the dial, and an exquisite little pert crown which echoes the elegant form of the lug-tips, but no winding – this one is powered by quartz.
Baselworld 2014 Report – A Jewelled Cat’s Eye
As part of the Cat’s Eye Collection’s 10th anniversary celebrations, Girard-Perregaux unveiled a stunning new edition with an off-centred jewel-set dial, styled to heighten the pleasurable shape of its oval case. From the 9 o’clock position shimmering, metallic rays fan outward, ending with hand-set teardrop-shaped precious stones. Two dial options are offered, onyx adorned with diamonds, and mother-of-pearl, set with sapphires in shades which range from bright to pastel pink. Inside each of these beauties, a GP03300 mechanical Manufacture movement keeps time, viewable through caseback sapphire.
Baselworld 2014 Report – A Trio of Accomplishments by Chopard
Chopard’s portfolio is renowned for its array of precious stones thanks to the Scheufele family who have the knack for producing classy Haute Joaillerie watches. This year the Chopard Happy Sport Tourbillon Joaillerie celebrates a trio of the Maison’s accomplishments – the free-flowing “Happy Diamonds”, the successful Happy Sport aesthetics and the prestigious L.U.C. mechanical movements. This is not just a fancy make-over, it’s dial has a covering of diamonds fixed using the extremely tricky snow-setting technique, the bezel has been adorned with trapeze-cut stones, the case also has its fair share of brilliance and the crown has a briolette-cut diamond at its tip. All work by Chopard’ s gem-setters, but despite the on-dial distraction of the signature floating diamonds – seven in all, the real focus is the tourbillon complete with diamond-set bridge, powered by the L.U.C. 02.16 – L movement which Chopard had made especially for this piece.
With BaselWorld behind us the watchmaking year can now begin in earnest, and for those who are feeling a bit flush this is just a taster of what is out there if you want to upscale your watch collection with some nicely polished and cut rocks. But, if adding some show-stopping diamonds rates high on your bucket list then bring deep-pockets with you to Graff, who set a new standard in extravagance with their $55 million dollar aptly titled “Hallucination” watch which is encrusted with 110 carats of rare coloured stones.