By Rebecca Doulton
For the last 15 years, Dior watches have far surpassed the category of fashion accessory. Christian Dior, the legendary French designer whose New Look revolutionised the feminine silhouette, was a master of creating shapes and volume from fabric. To translate the textures, the fall and the architecture of his haute couture designs into the language of watches is no easy feat. Dior can claim a legitimate presence in the realm of high watchmaking thanks to its Swiss movements and a unique market for its beautiful haute couture appeal.
The high jewellery Dior watches - or rather haute couture watches - we saw at Baselworld this year flaunted some of the loveliest dials at the salon. The Dior VIII Grand Bal family, created to emulate the swirl of a gown lightly sweeping over the dance floor, evokes fantasies of that flowing dress many of us have secretly nurtured since we were little. "A ball gown must be the one of your dreams, and must also make you a dream-like creature," suggested Christian Dior, back when balls were still prevalent affairs.
The Dior VIII Grand Bal Pièce Unique Envol watches not only swirled, but mesmerised us with their stunning iridescent dials and vivid geometry. The phosphorescent green on the dials was obtained from the wings of scarab beetles and set using the delicate technique of marquetry decoration.
These unique, one-off Dior Grand Bal Envol watches also pay tribute to Monsieur Dior's 1948 couture collection when his geometrical, highly sculptural Envol line of clothes was introduced. "I wanted to be an architect; as a couturier I have to follow the laws and principles of architecture," confided Christian Dior, and it is patently clear that he would have been able to pursue both passions given his gift for creating volume, movement and striking silhouettes.
The spiralling gold staircase - or fan - decorating the rotor of the Envol watch is set with mother-of-pearl inserts and ribbons of diamonds to accentuate the movement, as the rotor transits to and fro over the brilliant green scarab beetle wing background. Framing this captivating piece of art is a luscious green tsavorite garnet bezel on timepiece No.5 and a cool diamond bezel on Envol No.1.
The two Dior VIII Grand Bal Cancan ladies' watches are irresistibly coquettish, with dreamy feather skirts fanning over the dials of these rose gold and ceramic beauties. Using the delicate technique of feather marquetry, artisans at Dior have decorated the swinging rotor of the watch - and the dial underneath the rotor - with different layers of coloured feathers. Made to look like a vaporous haute couture ball gown, the detail of the diamonds adorning the hem of the feathers is exquisite.
For a more formal ball gown, the Dior VIII Grand Bal Fil d'Or watch in black ceramic and rose gold features a filigree gold thread and diamond rotor set against a black lacquered dial twinkling with diamonds. The Grand Bal Résille is also dressed to the nines in a black or white ceramic and steel case with a diamond studded rotor gleaming like a delicate fishnet swinging above the inky black or snowy white mother-of-pearl dial.
All the Dior VIII Grand Bal family of Dior watches swing in time to the music thanks to an ingenious automatic movement known as the Dior Inversé developed with Soprod in Switzerland. Instead of placing the rotor - which responds to the movements of the wearer and transmits energy to the barrels - underneath the dial, it is placed directly on the dial and decorated with exotic materials and precious stones. Très Dior indeed.
Read about the Dior VIII Grand Bal on our list of top 10 women's watches
Dior VIII Grand Bal Résille watch comes in a 33 or 38mm diameter black ceramic and steel case. The black Vietnamese mother-of-pearl dial features an openwork white gold oscillating weight set with a pattern of diamond netting. Both sizes of the watch are presented on a contemporary black lizard or black high-tech ceramic bracelet.
Dior VIII Grand Bal Résille watch in a white ceramic and steel case flaunts a milky white mother-of-pearl dial and ring. In the centre, a diamond netting motif acts as the rotor of the automatic movement, which powers all the Grand Bal watches.
Dior VIII Grand Bal Cancan watch in a 38mm pink gold and black ceramic case with a peacock blue lacquered dial decorated with two rows of black and yellow feather marquetry. The oscillating weight on the dial swirls with peacock blue and black feathers and is hemmed with diamonds. Limited edition of 88 pieces.
Dior VIII Grand Bal Cancan watch in a 38mm pink gold and ceramic case has a dial decorated with two rows of white and blue feather marquetry. The pink oscillating weight on the dial swings back and forwards and is set with diamonds and white feathers. Limited edition of 88 pieces.
Dior VIII Grand Bal Fil d'Or watch in a 38mm pink gold and black ceramic case features a gold thread rotor hemmed with diamonds set against a black lacquered dial studded with diamonds. Limited edition of 88 pieces.
Dior VIII Grand Bal Pièce Unique Envol in a 36mm white gold case decorated with diamonds, scarab beetle wing marquetry and yellow gold.
Dior VIII Grand Bal Pièce Unique Envol no. 5 watch glows with a natural green iridescence thanks to the use of scarab beetle wings set into the dial using marquetry. All the Dior VIII Grand Bal family have the oscillating weight - or rotor - of the movement on the dial, allowing it to swing to and fro like a ball gown.