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The watchmakers who are reinvigorating the painstaking art of stone watch dials

Only a handful of watchmakers still undertake the time-consuming task of creating stone dials, with incredibly beautiful and unique results.

25 July 2013

An original choice since they were first introduced in the 1960s, today a number of houses are reinvigorating the intricate art of stone watch dials and making them stylish once more.

For decades, dial-makers have been experimenting with a variety of stones to add different colours and textures to a watch face, but while popular with customers, stone dials remain relatively rare because of the skill, work and cost involved in crafting them. The process of finding and creating a stone dial is time-consuming and tricky. First, the right part of the stone must be chosen to ensure the most attractive colour and graining, which takes a well-trained eye. The piece of stone must be absolutely perfect, with no inclusions. Then it must be cut, ground and polished to the exact thickness - usually only a few millimetres. At any point during the process, a single mistake is irreversible, which leads to a high percentage of waste. It's for this reason that only a few watchmakers dabble in the technique.

The results are, however, always stunning. Piaget was one of the first houses to incorporate stone dials into its watches, and decades later, it continues to do so. Made possible by the house's super-slim movements, which left room for a thicker dial, Piaget's stone dial watches became - and remain - extremely popular. By 1964, Piaget was offering around 30 hard stone dials, and celebrities including Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor embraced them. Today, Piaget is continuing the trend with its Altiplano watches with turquoise, opal, fire stone and malachite dials.

Dior recently launched several models of its incredibly feminine La De Dior and Mini La D watches with stone dials at their heart. Jade, Australian opal and turquoise provide a pop of bright green, pink and blue on the dial - perfect for this fun, playful watch.

Louis Vuitton, which only branched out into watchmaking just over 10 years ago, has also been playing with stone faces, blurring the line between watchmaking and high fashion. Each colourful Tambour Bijou Secret, a watch-come-bracelet with a swivelling monogrammed dial, has a face crafted from gemstone - lapis lazuli, malachite, aventurine, pink mother-of-pearl or turquoise - which is revealed when you twist open the diamond-set cover.

DeLaneau's Rondo Dandelion is a work of art, its lavender jade dial hand-painted with flowers so delicate it looks like a single breath might send them floating off into the summer sky. Despite the difficulties involved in creating a timepiece such as this, the results are truly spectacular. No two are alike, which is why watchmakers continue to make them and watch lovers continue to covet them.

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