The intermingling of high jewellery and watches is becoming increasingly prominent across the luxury scene. Brands such as Nour by Jahan and other high jewellery houses not traditionally seen as watch designers have included high jewellery timepieces as one-of-a-kind creations in their collections. This year at Watches and Wonders there was a larger selection of jewellery-centric watches than in previous years. Three major trends came across when looking through the jewelled timepieces on display: sautoir necklaces, pieces featuring impressive gemstones, and the famous secret wristwatch, but with a twist.
Sautoir Necklace Timepieces
The following selection of timepieces is the result of when high watchmaking and high jewellery design come together. The term 'sautoir' derives from the French verb, 'to jump', and was originally a piece of the harness attached to the saddle of a horse to help riders steady themselves when mounting. It quickly became a fashionable piece of jewellery amongst noblemen and women, often fashioned from strings of pearls. The brands below played with this historical shape to create timepieces that are also statement jewellery pieces.
The Reverso Secret Necklace by Jaeger-LeCoultre
This limited edition watch reinterprets the distinctive swivel case that the Reverso model made famous in 1931 through an Art Deco pattern of pink gold set with diamonds and onyx. Also, the cordonnet strap, which the Reverso is usually presented with, is replaced with a chain of diamond-set links and polished onyx beads, from which the Reverso timepiece is suspended. The dial faces away from the observer so the wearer can easily read the time. This incredible piece required over 300 hours of craftsmanship to bring to life.
The Piaget High Jewellery Sautoir Watch
This year Piaget's novelties paid tribute to the brand's history in fashion jewellery. In an ode to its most exuberant and evocative designs, the Piaget High Jewellery Sautoir watch takes inspiration from the 1969 21st Century Collection. Avant-garde for its time, the collection consisted of a series of distinctive and daring gold cuff watches and sautoirs that were inspired by woven and braided fabrics seen on the runway. Piaget has reinvented this collection using its famous goldsmithing expertise by creating a hand-crafted sautoir timepiece from textured gold links and diamonds.
Mademoiselle Privé Lion Necklace Watch by Chanel
Chanel's 2023 Métiers d'Art collection once again opened the doors into the private world of Gabrielle Chanel by designing timepieces featuring the symbols that the fashion icon cherished most. One such piece is a sautoir high jewellery watch. The Mademoiselle Privé Lion Necklace Watch, designed in black lacquer and yellow gold with around 300 brilliant-cut diamonds, honours Gabrielle's star sign, Leo, by featuring an impressive lion that, when pushed to the side, reveals a diamond-studded watch dial.
Precious Dance Timepieces by Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels launched jewellery watches inspired by 17th-century European gentleman's pocket watches at Watches and Wonders. Designed to be worn as large pendant necklaces, each watch is hidden under a bejewelled cap that reveals a watch dial when pushed aside. The three high jewellery models are made of rubies set in rose gold and sapphire and emeralds set in brilliant yellow gold.
Gemstone Focused Watches
Coloured gemstones were another important highlight amongst the high jewellery watches presented at Watches and Wonders 2023. These timepieces displayed the largest variety of gems in unexpected and intriguing ways.
The Baignoire High Jewellery watch by Cartier
The Baignoire dial is perhaps Cartier's most dramatic. It first appeared in 1912; however, it only gained its name, "Baignoire", in 1973, after the French word for "bathtub". The new Baignoire models displayed this year reimagined this famous dial shape through a double or triple-line gemstone bracelet that enhances the curves of the watch. In this model, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and tourmalines envelop a snow-set dial, rendering the metal completely invisible. The coloured stones vary in cuts and sizes to create volume and fluidity within the structure of the pieces.
High Jewellery Diamond and Emerald watch by Chopard
Chopard's expertise in gem-set timepieces is an art form that has been cultivated over several generations within the Maison. Almost a century ago, the grandfather of Chopard's current Co-President and Artistic Director, Caroline Scheufele, had cultivated a stellar reputation for his high jewellery watches that featured spectacularly coloured stones. The model below is made from Fairmined-Certified ethical 18k white gold set entirely with pear-shaped and round diamonds along with vivid green octagonal emeralds weighing 21.65 carats.
G-Timeless Planetarium by Gucci
The Gucci High Watchmaking department has taken its G-Timeless Planetarium timepieces to new heights with two new lunar-themed creations. One is set with 12 Ethiopian opals set against a translucent blue background and the other is a pastel melange of topaz, peridot, amethyst, and Ethiopian opals. The stand-out design, however, evokes an otherworldly sunset through rubies, fire opals, pink tourmaline and mandarin garnets. These gems aren't just decorative; they are key features in the mechanisms of the timepieces, with each one rotating in intervals of nine seconds whilst orbiting clockwise around the dial in 90 seconds.
The Aura Watch by Piaget
Piaget revisited one of its most iconic gem-set high jewellery watches this year. The Aura watch was first designed in 1989 and debuted the fully integrated case and bracelet that Piaget had been developing since the 1960s. The design marked a new milestone in gem-setting know-how for Piaget. The Maison has recreated this historic timepiece in diamonds and sapphires. As before, the baguette-cut stones are perfectly calibrated to fit the watch's form as well as the case and bracelet. The design process took over eight months and more than 260 hours of gem-setting work.
Secret Wrist Watches
Last but certainly not least, there was an impressive selection of secret wristwatches on display. Perhaps the most common form of high jewellery watch, these timepieces were first created for women out of necessity, as it used to be inappropriate to keep track of time when engaged in social situations. Thankfully this attitude has changed, and now secret wristwatches are worn simply for pleasure and style. This year, two, in particular, stood out.
Mademoiselle Privé Lion Cuff Watch by Chanel
The Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Lion Cuff watch was a definite must-see. The button dial cover, which was first introduced into the Chanel Metiers D'Art collection in 2022, is adorned with a sculpted lion set with 252 brilliant-cut diamonds. When pushed aside, it reveals a black lacquer dial set with 32 brilliant-cut diamonds.
The Ludo Secret Watch by Van Cleef & Arpels
This showstopper is named after Louis Arpels, one of the Maison's founding members. It celebrates a Van Cleef & Arpels signature piece - the Ludo bracelet. First created in 1934, this belt-like bracelet was THE accessory for any fashion-forward woman at that time. Today, Van Cleef & Arpels highlights this iconic piece with a new secret watch created in two combinations of materials. With a simple click, the rose gold and diamonds, or pink sapphire belt-buckle-like edges retract to reveal a delicate watch dial. The watch's bracelet recalls the original Ludo bracelet - a flexible brick-pattern meshwork of gold.
These three styles were the true stand-out high jewellery watch trends at this year's Watches and Wonders. Combining exquisite craftsmanship, incredible gems and history, this year's presentations were truly inspiring. So let's see what fabulous new styles watch brands will bring forward next year.