By Rebecca Doulton
Like Chanel and the camellia and Piaget and the rose, Chaumet watches has the Hortensia or hydrangea flower as its floral muse. The flower, which pays homage to Hortense Bonaparte, daughter of Napoléon and Joséphine, has featured in Chaumet's high jewellery Hortensia collection, which includes the secret watch we reviewed a couple of weeks ago.
The hydrangea flower is also the star of Chaumet's high-end watchmaking category. By replacing the hands of the ladies' watch with two hydrangeas circling the dial, thanks to a special complication, Chaumet's Hortensia Creative Complication watch tells the time with mobile flowers.
Not only has Chaumet been busy developing the exclusive automatic complication to move the flowers, but a host of craftsmen - engravers, stone-setters, stone sculptors and enamellers - have been enlisted to decorate the dial of the watch. In the centre of the watch is a snow-set diamond hydrangea bloom sitting on a bed of sculpted mother-of-pearl flowers.
The central diamond bloom has a fourth petal set with pink sapphires, which moves around the dial to indicate the hours. A second blossom sculpted in pink mother-of-pearl sits on the periphery of the floral bed and circles around an inner track to read off the minutes. The 41mm white gold case is decorated with diamonds and mother-of-pearl cabochon indices, and if you tilt the watch to the side you will see the lovely hand-sculpted hydrangea engravings on the case.
In addition to the Hortensia Creative Complication, Chaumet watches is also presenting slightly smaller models - in 31mm white or yellow gold cases - with quartz movements. The geometric model takes a more abstract approach to the flower, which has been delicately engraved in gold mother-of-pearl and set into the white mother-of-pearl hexagonal shapes in the centre.
Using engraved lavender-blue mother-of-pearl for the background of the dial, the white gold version from Chaumet's Precious Watch collection features an engraved hydrangea, picked out with a delicate lace outline cut from white mother-of-pearl. Decorated with a mother-of-pearl marquetry dial, it transmits a wonderful sense of volume, making the hydrangea bloom come alive. The three ladies' watches in this family, in white and yellow gold, glow with 195 brilliant-cut diamonds set on the dial, the bezel and the buckle, and are presented on matching satin straps.