James Bond can have his wristwatch rocket launchers and laser beams, but women know that the true purpose of a timepiece is to dazzle.

The wristwatch was invented for women, primarily as a means of adornment. The first examples on record were made for the Queen of Naples and the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, both of whom commissioned watches for the wrist from pocket-watch makers in the early 18th century. Today, the mechanics and gem-setting techniques for luxury watches have vastly improved, but the goal remains the same: to express the passage of time with beauty and creativity. The most exquisite examples of this art form are on display at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, an invitation-only show held every January in Geneva. Here are some of this year’s most dazzling introductions – fit for a queen. 

Cartier Baignoire Allongée 

Cartier introduced the Baignoire in 1912, naming it after the shape of a bathtub. Since then, the dimensions of the shape have varied from nearly egg-shaped oval to a stretched-out marquise shape. This year, the Baignoire Allongée is more daring than ever, with an 18K pink gold bezel sculpted into studs in an elegant, edgy clous-de-Paris pattern. The dial of the large model is paved with 1.5 carats of diamonds. It contains a manual-wound mechanical movement. This masterpiece is a 100-piece limited edition. ($72,000)

Hermès Arceau Oursin

The Hermès Arceau, designed in 1978 by the Maison’s artistic director Henri d’Origny, is true to the Hermès equestrian aesthetic, with its stirrup-shaped upper case attachment. This year’s gem-set Arceau, the Oursin, adds some glamour to the motif. The case, dial, bezel strap attachments, and crown are set with 518 diamonds, weighing a total of 1.48 carats. The strap is a polished sapphire blue alligator leather, complete with a quartz movement. (Price on request)

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Shooting Star

Roger Dubuis specializes in tourbillons that are skeletonized in angular shapes and large cases. This year, the signature masculine angles and proportions of the Excalibur model have been softened by adding diamonds and enamel to the bridges, some of which are star-shaped, and the base plate. The Excalibur Shooting Star is now a dazzling ladies’ watch that will be made in a 28-piece limited edition. ($221,000)

Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Jewellery

If the Rendez-Vous Jewellery watch seems to be a little more dazzling than other diamond watches, it is because Jaeger-LeCoultre has set the gems into prongs, jewellery style, rather than the traditional method of setting them into drilled holes in the metal. The result is more light entering the diamond through the side and shining out through the top, for an envy-inducing sparkle. It is set with two rows of diamonds in sizes large and larger and contains an ultra-thin automatic mechanical movement. ($59,000)

Audemars Piguet Sapphire Orbe

The Audemars Piguet Sapphire Orbe looks like a miniature Frank Gehry building topped with a disco ball. It is set with 12,000 gemstones, including a dial paved with orange sapphires and a cuff set with 27.93 carats of diamonds and 38.17 carats of sapphires in six shades of blue. The gems are cut in 20 different diameters from 0.5 to 1.5 mm. It took 1,050 hours to create this one-of-a-kind watch with a quartz movement. (€800,000)

Montblanc Bohème Manufacture Perpetual Calendar

Montblanc introduced a new perpetual calendar movement this year, one of watchmaking’s most prestigious complications. Usually reserved for men’s watches – because only men are assumed to be interested in technical performance – it is used here in a ladies’ watch, the Bohème Manufacture Perpetual Calendar. Functions include hours, minutes, day, date, month, moon phase, and leap year, along with a dual-time function and 24-hour indicator. ($23,160)

Richard Mille BonBon Collection – Marshmallow

Richard Mille’s 10-piece BonBon collection is pure wrist candy. It is based on candy, pastry, and fruit motifs in three distinct collections. The Sweets Collection includes the watches Cupcake, Marshmallow, Sucette (Lollipop), and Réglisse (Licorice). The piece shown here is the Marshmallow, with dial made of coloured acrylic. The watchmaker uses 60 different shades in this whimsical collection, which is not made for introverts. ($153,000 USD)

Comments