A diamond watch is a beautiful thing, but an ultra-slim one is nothing short of a miniature miracle. And like many 'miracles', an ultra-slim diamond watch is in fact the result of many weeks of hard work and a good dose of design genius.
And the Renaissance watches by Backes & Strauss are just that. With less gold into which to set the diamonds and a reduced case thickness to house the movement, each Renaissance watch is a feat of both gem-setting and watchmaking. By offering these slimmer alternatives to the existing collection of Backes & Strauss watches, the British house that specialises in diamond watches is moving with the times and picking up on a trend for svelte watches that slip easily under the cuff and sit lightly on the wrist.
Ultra-slim movements are considered a 'complication' and so enter the realm of haute horlogerie, as the watchmaker is challenged to reduce, shave down, pare back and hone away each and every component to the absolute minimum. The manual winding mechanical movements are but 2.5mm high - quite literally wafer-thin. Sneeze and it would fly off the watchmakers bench. Well maybe not quite, but you get the idea.
These complex movements are elegant mechanical marvels, so it makes sense for the case to have a sapphire glass back through which you can see the slimline movement ticking away. Even the movement has been decorated, evidence of the care lavished on these little masterpieces.
The cases are only 6.1mm high, yet some of the Renaissance models in the Piccadilly and Regent families of watches are swathed in almost 300 diamonds. The work of the gem-setter is particularly challenging since he has to work with less gold than normal when setting diamonds into the watch case. What's more, the craftsmanship has to be many times more precise than when working with jewellery as the shape of the case and dial, both vital components of this precision product, cannot be altered, warped or changed in any way by the setting work. It sounds to me like a near-impossible task.
Backes & Strauss, which started life in London in 1789, is the oldest diamond dealer in the world, with access to some of the most perfect diamonds to set into its watches. Even models that are not fully decorated with diamonds feature one small diamond set into the crown, playfully known as 'the jewel in the crown'. All diamonds used are Ideal Round cuts, above 'F' in colour grading and of 'Flawless' clarity, which explains their superlative sparkle.
Available in white or rose gold with white, black, brown, blue or 'Royal' purple dials, with varying amounts of diamonds, the Renaissance heralds a bright future for this company, which has distinguished itself by focussing solely on diamond-set watches.
Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Renaissance 40mm watch with white gold case and an extra-thin mechanical movement with manual winding.
Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Renaissance 40mm watch with rose gold case and an extra-thin mechanical movement with manual winding, set with 137 ideal-cut diamonds in two rows.
Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Renaissance 33mm watch with white gold case set and an extra-thin mechanical movement with manual winding, with 137 ideal-cut diamonds in two rows surrounding a blue dial.