High-end Watchmakers Home In On Women With Complex Pieces
Like countless large-scale events, this year’s Watches & Wonders fair fell prey to the novel coronavirus. Its cancellation necessitated the virtual unveiling of novelties that would’ve otherwise been revealed IRL in April at Geneva’s cavernous Palexpo centre. But the news this year is still a big deal, even when delivered online: horology historically has been viewed as quite a male-focused affair, but many of the most attractive new releases were in the realm of women’s watchmaking.
The invitation-only Watches & Wonders, which was formerly called Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH, showcases designs from a handful of leading independent brands in addition to the big watchmakers from the Richemont stable: A Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Among the Richemont brands, Cartier always puts on one of the most impressive showings at the fair, and this year continued to do so in its temporary digital incarnation when it debuted a new women’s collection under the moniker Maillon de Cartier. ‘Maillon’ is French for link, a reference to the twisted chain links that are the signature of this range, which blur the line between dainty watch and chunky bracelet.
Other outstanding feminine releases from Cartier included a 35mm-cased iteration of the classic Pasha, harking back to the original incarnation of this model, developed in 1985 by watch design legend Gérald Genta (the man responsible for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus); and an array of new perspectives on the iconic off-kilter Tank Asymétrique. These include limited editions in platinum, pink and yellow gold, with skeletonised variants where the watch’s movement is laid bare. Traditionally a men’s watch (I’d love one myself), the elegant Tank Asymétrique will look equally stunning on a woman’s wrist.
Another timepiece with a unique angle, the Piaget Limelight Gala, was first launched at last year’s fair. For 2020, Piaget—synonymous with svelte, jet-set glamour—presents a new bejewelled beauty, the Limelight Gala Precious Sapphire Gradient. Encased in white gold with a blue grand-feu enamel and white-gold dial, borne on a hand-engraved white-gold bracelet with a sixties-style ‘Décor Palace’ finish (as is the dial), the piece is embellished with a spiral of exquisitely colour-graded, brilliant-cut diamonds and sapphires.
Those with a thing for bling will be similarly entranced by Vacheron Constantin’s Égérie Moon Phase Jewellery. The 37mm white-gold creation is so icy, at first glance, that familiar Queen vs Bowie bass riff and the lyrics “Alright stop, collaborate and listen” will inevitably spring to mind. The case, bezel, dial and bracelet are peppered with more than 1,300 diamonds, totalling just shy of 12 carats.
Looking for something a little more restrained (not to mention affordable), but with a fair share of shimmer? Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new vino-red lacquered, sunray guilloché dial Reverso One, its seminal art deco case embellished with 21 diamonds.
Among the independent Watches & Wonders exhibitors, Hermès has very literally hammered out a new guise for its ever-popular nautical-inspired Cape Cod model, the Martelée. A French word meaning ‘struck, shaped or forged with a hammer’, Martelée refers to the age-old jeweller’s technique used to give the watch’s steel case and lacquered dial their unique, artfully battered pewter-like texture.
Many of Parmigiani’s standard-bearers also feature distinctive dials, several of which—the haute horlogerie Tonda 1950 Tourbillon Double Rainbow, pictured, among them—include gorgeous midnight-blue aventurine glass. Created on the Venetian isle of Murano in the 18th century, aventurine glass is speckled with copper particles, giving it the effect of a sparkling night sky. One silver lining of the current shutdown is that the heavens have become that much brighter above bustling cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.
Such a stellar timepiece might serve as a poignant reminder of this period in history (dark, but not without its points of light) during better years to come.
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