Romancing the stones

Stone dials are a rock-solid trend in watchmaking revealing the natural splendour of Mother Nature

Chanel Mademoiselle Prive Coromandel Glyptic watch

From fragments of meteorites to shimmering blue slivers of African Shattuckite, the use of rocks, minerals and stones in watchmaking has paved the way for some of the most fascinating dial decorations in women’s watches. Devilishly difficult to work, stone dials require the skills of master craftsmen who will select the most attractive graining and colour of stones with no inclusions and then whittle them  down to a thinness of just a few millimetres - with the inherent risk of breaking the stone.

Piaget Sunny Side of Life white gold watch with an oval lapis lazuli dial and a marquise-cut diamond bracelet (£158,000).

Piaget’s famous eye-catching rock dials of the swinging 1960s and groovy 1970s caught the mood of an era that is back in full force today. Piaget’s 2016 Sunny Side of Life high jewellery and watch collection captures the colours and vibe of a Palm Springs pool party as the sun goes down in the desert. Echoing the bright blue speckled waters of a swimming pool, this wonderful white gold watch features an oval-shaped lapis lazuli dial surrounded by gleaming brilliant-cut diamonds and a delicate bracelet set with 52 marquise-cut diamonds, a scintillating companion for a sundowner.

The kingfisher on the dial is made from semi-precious gemstones and mother-of-pearl using the ancient glyptic technique (£184,000).

For a totally different approach to using stones on a watch dial we have Chanel’s spectacular 2016 collection Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel watches, five unique works of art that quite literally paint the dial with semi-precious stones. The term ‘Coromandel’ refers to the wooden Chinese folding screens coated in black lacquer and inlaid with different materials that decorated Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment in Paris that have inspired these watches. Reviving an ancient technique known as glyptic (from the Greek glyptos ‘engraved’),  Chanel’s artisans cut, engrave and carve stones to create animated, lifelike scenes. All five gold pieces are unique and the delicate scenes of birds and flora required the use of micro-tools and over 100 hours of manual labour. 

 

Nestled in the wide brown alligator cuff -manchette - is a tiger's eye stone dial with a halo of brown sapphires (£14,500).

Hermès, the venerable French Maison that started life as a harness and saddle-maker introduced the Faubourg Manchette Joaillerie watch earlier this year, a stone and jewellery version of the already wildly successful Faubourg Manchette watches. In keeping with the brand’s acclaimed leather-making credentials, the wide alligator cuff straps that characterise this collection are assembled by craftsmen using the famous saddle-stitching technique. The diminutive watch cases, in white or rose gold, feature vivid stone dials in malachite, lapis lazuli, tiger’s eye and onyx and are decorated with 36 matching baguette-cut gemstones on the bezel.  Be warned though, once you feel the leather cuff wrap around your wrist like a second skin and admire the cool stone dial you will have a hard time taking it off. 

Jaquet Droz enhances the refined geometry of its Grande Seconde model with an entrancing palette of five different minerals used on the dial.  The new Mineral Elegance Collection uses natural stones –jasper, dendritic agate, stromatolite, chrysoprase and shattuckite- to highlight the iconic figure-eight configuration of the Grande Seconde family. The model crafted with exotic African Shattuckite mesmerises with its swirling constellation of blues, greens, reds and black while the unique combination of mottled Lemon Chrysoprase with a diamond-set bezel and mother-of-pearl hour and minute counters is sublime.

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