Masterpieces of Time: Extraordinary High Jewellery Timepieces for 2021

This time of year heralds a new cohort of remarkable jewelled watches from some of the world’s most iconic maisons. 2021 is certainly no exception and, so far, there has been an explosion of colour and craftsmanship cleverly confined to dials or more liberally reinvented as jewellery-timekeeping hybrids. Having scoured the launches, some of them at the long-anticipated Watches and Wonders exhibition, here are over a dozen of new creations that capture the magic, variety and limitless potential of high jewellery timepieces – a field of artistry where rules of subtlety and frugality don’t apply.


As one of Bulgari’s most famous clients, Elizabeth Taylor, was globally-recognised for playing the ‘Queen of the Nile,’ it is perhaps not surprising that the Italian high jeweller has chosen Cleopatra as the historic reference for its new Serpenti Misteriosi Cleopatra jewellery watch. What is surprising, however, is the finished creation. Unlike other Serpenti watches that snake around the wrist, this is a true cuff bracelet with just a small hint of a diamond-set watch dial beneath a reptilian scale-shaped rubellite tourmaline of 5 carats. There’s an irreverence to this piece that Ms. Taylor herself would have no-doubt loved; it’s ostentatiously colourful, three-dimensional and set with 4,000 diamonds on almost every square millimetre. The conical-shaped cuff has nine different gems: a pair of hexagonal amethysts and citrines, one aquamarine, a rubellite tourmaline, tanzanite, peridot, and a chrome tourmaline, with a combined weight of more than 50 carats. Setting the gemstones alone took more than 470 hours of meticulous work, with each of the six-sided gems custom-cut to fit the design, sacrificing up to two-thirds of their volume to achieve the perfect clarity and saturation of colour. Four other Bvlgari jewellery watches worth the mention are inspired by the spirit of ‘La Dolce Vita’ – two Divissima style and another pair in the Astrale line. Described as a new chapter in the “Colour Treasures journey,” these watches use coloured gemstones and diamonds liberally with the same enthusiasm as if they were candied treats or jellybeans.


There are so many delights to talk about from Cartier it’s hard to know where to start! At this year’s Watches and Wonders, Cartier introduced a flurry of new watches, including a selection of high jewellery timepieces we’d love to explore here. Two in particular represent the third phase of the Cartier Libre collection - the Cartier Libre Baignoire Tortue and the Cartier Libre Tortue Serpent – which draw from iconic animals in the repertoire of the house. The former recreates the shell of a tortoise with anthracite and black geometric lines, filled with 171 brilliant-cut diamonds, 24 tsavorites and 18 sapphires, affixed to a navy-blue alligator leather strap. The latter draws on the signature case shape of the Tortue, which dates back to 1912, but adds a twist of artistry with serpent scales of black and coral-coloured enamel, mother-of-pearl, drops of polished gold and 130 brilliant-cut diamonds. Of course, one can’t discuss iconic creatures in the Cartier menagerie without mentioning the panther. Three new Cartier Panthère references have been introduced this season, described as “Songeuse” to reflect the panther’s pensive, relaxed demeanor as it stretches out around the curve of each dial. Two are fully-set with diamonds and a third is particularly striking with ribbons of champlevé enamel, alternated with rows of diamonds. This particular piece has 743 diamonds, totalling 2.95 carats, and just 30 are available to purchase.


Of the new creations unveiled by Dior in April 2021, it’s the duo entitled Dior Grand Soir ‘Aquarelle’ that are particularly noteworthy (although the Dior Grand Bal ‘Parure Tropicale’ and Grand Soir ‘Jardins de Nuit’ are no doubt impressive). Both ‘Aquarelle’ timepieces sit within the Grand Soir Botanic collection and are inspired by a fairytale garden and, in a more ethereal way, the way watercolour paints can slowly disperse into fabric canvases. This is a nod to Monsieur Dior and the inks he used to design his iconic fashion collections, as well as his love for art in all its forms. Both timepieces give the illusion of a living flower blooming beneath the dial with meticulously detailed stamens and petals of pink and white gold, blue sapphires, pink sapphire cabochons, asymmetric clusters of diamonds and fabric dials with the most whimsical washes of colour. Each piece has a snow-set diamond bezel, which gives the impression of a gilded frame surrounding an impressionistic painting by the likes of Monet. The calfskin leather straps and polished gold case backs of each piece – engraved with a flower - ensure the storytelling continues from every angle.

Jaeger LeCoultre

Four new Reverso One timepieces are taking centre stage for Jaeger LeCoultre, which is able to use the double-sided case as a canvas for its ‘Métiers Rares’, otherwise known as its ‘Art of Decoration’. There’s enameling, engraving and gem-setting on offer here in the four Reverso One Precious Flowers creations, with two models in white gold and two in pink gold. The front-facing view of the dial is deceptively simple, with refined Art Deco-inspired numerals and white mother-of-pearl. The party really stars on the case-back that can, thanks to the nature of the Reverso, be flipped and worn front-facing. The Reverso One Precious Flowers White Lilies features engraved flowers, blue enameled petals, slivers of mother-of-pearl and 335 grain-set diamonds of 2.44 carats. Next, the Reverso One Precious Flowers Pink Arum pairs pink gold with a black lacquered case back, ombre enamelled pink blooms and 409 diamonds of 2.59 carats. The final two watches are similarly inspired by the arum in shades of purple and blue. These pieces have an extra layer of refinement thanks to backgrounds of snow-set diamonds, which required 95 hours of craftsmanship for Jaeger LeCoultre’s craftsmen. Just 10 of each model will be available, with each one powered by the in-house manually wound Calibre 846 with a 38-hour power reserve.


Since its debut in the 1970s, the shape of the Piaget Limelight has become immediately recognizable, no matter how sleekly or extravagantly it is reinvented. Its sweeping, asymmetric lines have been given a jolt of colour in the six new Piaget Limelight Gala iterations for 2021, which are said to be designed in celebration of “extraordinary women”. Firstly, there are three versions in shades of blue, yellow and pink, named Sunrise, Zenith and Sunset, respectively, to chart the course of the sun throughout the day. One can only dream of owning all three and wearing each one at its appropriate hour! The Limelight Gala Precious Sunrise, for example, is crafted in 18k white gold with 32 brilliant-cut blue sapphires of 4.70 carats, brilliant-cut diamonds and a dial snow-set with 289 diamonds. Two further timepieces are of special note: The Limelight Gala High Jewellery Black Opal and the Limelight Gala Precious Rainbow. As you may have guessed, the former features an Australian black opal dial, accentuated by a row of 91 brilliant-cut diamonds of 5.28 carats and 83 marquise-cut emeralds. The Precious Rainbow is notable for its variation of colour and the perfect graduation of its gems, which include tsavorite garnets and fancy-colour sapphires in red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet, set in 18k rose gold. The dial and bracelet strap are decorated in the maison’s signature ‘Palace’ style, which is a traditional finishing touch.

What do all these timekeeping masterpieces have in common? Each maison has blended its iconic design style and signature case shaped with various forms of métiers d'art to elevate dials, cases and bracelets and create works of art that can be worn on one’s wrist. Never has the phrase ‘Watches and Wonder’ been so apt!

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