America's King of Diamonds, Harry Winston opened his first jewellery boutique in New York in 1932, quickly establishing himself as a purveyor of gemstones for royalty and Hollywood's élite. Some of the world's most precious stones passed through Harry Winston's hands, including the Hope diamond, which he donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 as a gift to the world.
Although Harry Winston died in 1978, his name remains a driving force on the American jewellery scene. A notorious recluse, Mr Winston's creations acquired stellar status following his maverick marketing idea to lend diamonds to the Academy Award winner for best actress Jennifer Jones in 1944 as she sashayed down the red carpet.
First launched in 2011, two new models join the Midnight Collection this year, both of which feature striking slate-effect dials framed by opulent round gold cases. Decorating the dial of a dress watch with imitation slate and making a feature of the stone's natural imperfections is an audacious move and adds a touch of mystery.
The fascinating interplay of rough textures and smooth, rounded edges gives the watch a distinctly tactile appeal. The three symbolic stones that crown the entrance archway to Harry Winston's flagship boutique have been recreated on the bezel at 3 o'clock - a subtle reference to the brand's New York roots and another sensuous surface for the fingers to explore.
The men's Monochrome model, a handsome two-handed dress watch, has a wonderful gunmetal dial that simulates the rough texture of natural slate. The 42mm white gold case, with its slim profile of just 9mm, has been beautifully polished to contrast with the gritty texture of the dial.
Inside, an ultra-thin GP3300 movement of barely 3.20mm in height has been equipped with twin barrels to ensure a power reserve of 45 hours for the hours, minutes and date functions. The indices, thin slivers of embossed white gold, seem to fuse into the charcoal-coloured dial like filaments of naturally occurring metal in the rock. Presented on a black alligator strap with a white gold buckle, the back of the watch features a sapphire glass to view the finishes on the movement.
The women's watch, with its alluring silvery dial, has been dressed up with Harry Winston's hallmark stones. The bezel, lugs and 'archway stones' by the crown feature 91 brilliant-cut diamonds of approximately 0.92ct, set into the warm, polished rose gold case. Simulating the uneven, scaly texture of slate, the dial has also been enhanced with diamonds at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. With hour and minute functions powered by a thin Swiss quartz movement, the 39mm watch measures a lean 6.8 mm in height, is waterproof to 30m and is presented on a brown satin strap with a rose gold buckle.