Chaumet, the Parisian jewellery house founded in 1780, brings a sense of fun to the 'Montres Précieuses' collection of new high jewellery watches unveiled in January 2013. The name of the collection, 'Attrape-moi... si tu m'aimes', plays with the idea of a spider weaving a web in which to catch a little bee, which translates as 'Catch me…if you love me'.
This delightful, if slightly quirky, theme of seduction has been present in Chaumet's jewellery collections for the past few years. With the arrival of these colourful watches, the bee and spider, as well as other insects, are the stars of the dial. Decorated with fluttering butterfly wings, delicate dragonflies, ladybirds and even snails and caterpillars, these watches are unexpected, whimsical and very, very beautiful.
Each design combines fine mechanics with an impressive range of craftsmanship, from enamelling to miniature painting, as well as engraving and engine-turned patterns known as 'guillochage'. Each dial is a miniature masterpiece that successfully combines elegant designs with impeccable craftsmanship.
The centrepiece of the collection is the bee and spider watch, which tells a tale as well as the time. The rippling mother-of-pearl dial is draped with a web of diamonds, around which the sparkling bee dodges to indicate the minutes. At the centre of the watch is a golden spider, whose progress indicates the hours. In a perpetual game of tag, the bee skims the spider's leg as their paths nearly cross, but the bee teases by never getting quite close enough to fall into the spider's precious trap. This clever timekeeper, which allows the bee to appear to zigzag around the dial, is powered by a brand-new movement, the CP12V-XII automatic winding calibre, which was developed in Switzerland and designed and built exclusively for Chaumet.
Six other watches with insect themes make up the new collection. My two favourites are the wispy blue and coral-coloured dragonflies, which flutter across a white dial surrounded by a ring of diamonds, and the mayfly watch, with its shower of diamonds above tender, pink mother-of-pearl cherry blossoms. Then again, the night-time scene, illuminated by a mother-of-pearl moon shrouded in midnight-blue lapis lazuli, is an intriguing combination of miniature sculpture and painting. A little ladybird, minding her own business, is tucked into the corner of the dial, as snails, a caterpillar and a dragonfly explore the flowers silhouetted across the moon. And then there are the three butterfly dials, decorated with wings for a more graphic or abstract effect, depending on your style.
But why the interest in these little critters chez Chaumet, the venerable house of the Place Vendôme? The reason the bee has long been associated with Chaumet is because this industrious insect was one of Napoleon's favourite symbols. Marie-Etienne Nitot, the founder of Chaumet, created many jewels for the wedding of Napoleon and Joséphine de Beauharnais, which made Nitot the most famous jeweller in Europe. Since those heady days, Chaumet has often woven these little creatures into jewellery creations, from tiaras to engagement rings, and today, the bee and his friends have been chosen to grace the dials of these exquisite watches, which set a new standard of aesthetics in women's jewellery watches, with a touch of fun.