Paris Haute Couture is a showcase of not only the most rarefied high jewellery pieces – resplendent necklaces, rings, earrings and headwear – but watches too. Such timepieces are where haute horlogerie and masterful gem setting meet to create one-off pieces infused with the same electric creativity and expert craftsmanship as their bejewelled sisters. And though haute couture week may not have been its usual buzzy self this year, with presentations moved online and international press and global elite forced to stay away due to the global pandemic, the high jewellery watch collections remained as imaginative as ever. Here are the stand-out timepieces from the new collections.
Eco-crusader and pioneer of sustainable luxury Chopard fittingly looked to nature and conservation for its latest Red Carpet collection, which features a delightfully whimsical dual-time owl watch at the heart of its 2020 pieces. The bird’s saucer-shaped eyes are surrounded by a rainbow of multi-coloured, trapeze-cut sapphires totalling more than four carats, with the twin dials designed to show two different time zones, while a frosty winter wonderland-feel is channelled through 9.1cts of brilliant white diamonds, a white strap and 18ct ethically-mined white gold.
Cartier’s [Sur]Naturel (or “supernatural”) high jewellery collection was one of the highlights of the week, offering a highly stylised, kaleidoscopic take on shapes, colours and patterns of nature, all showcased in this dazzling Panthère Tropicale watch. On one side of the cuff, onyx and diamonds are used to recreate the piebald pattern of the panther’s fur (a nod to the way Cartier first used the same gems for a panther watch in 1914), while on the other side vivid coral (a long-time favourite of the house’s legendary creative director, Jeanne Toussaint) have been mixed with aquamarine and tourmaline to electrifying effect.
Piaget offers us a heady dose of tropical escapism with its playful Wings of Light collection, with draws its inspiration from the colours of the rainforest – the bright plumage of a parrot, the lush green of the forest canopy. Their splendid Secret Cenote cuff watch is a deep dive into an impossibly blue sea. The central Australian black opal’s fiery blue and green hues are offset by 151 sapphires of nearly 26 carats, while an extra sprinkling of 100 brilliant-cut diamonds creates the illusion of the sun glittering on rippling waves.
The watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre doesn’t have a high jewellery collection, but this bold new 101 Bangle is worth a mention, as it blends gemsetting and watchmaking savoir-faire as masterfully as any gem made in the Place Vendôme. On one side sits the world’s smallest movement, the 101, on the other a dazzling bangle, and executed via a dynamic gradation of diamonds – 996 round brilliant-cut ones to be exact – mixing prong down to grain setting. The gemsetting alone took 180 hours, all which is done in-house in the heart of Switzerland’s watchmaking hub in the Vallée de Joux.
French maison Chaumet’s clever technical “creative complications” always add an exciting horological thread to their high jewellery story, which this year was themed around architecture. Light and colour were pivotal focuses for the collection, and both are perfectly captured in this eye-catching Jumping Hour watch, which features a two-part dial. A rock crystal and mother-of-pearl disc in green frames an inner dial of lapis lazuli marquetry, set with a cabochon-cut sapphire and a baguette-cut emerald, which rotates to indicate the minutes.