By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
When beautiful watches are endowed with beautifully elaborate mechanical movements, both the left and right parts of the brain light up with pleasure. The nominees in the category of ladies' high mechanical watches vying for the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) - the equivalent of the Oscars for watches - will be putting on their best faces for the 14th edition of this decisive horological competition coming up this autumn.
Last year's victor in this category was Van Cleef & Arpels' Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantée, a delightful automaton in the shape of a ballerina who displayed the retrograde hours and minutes by lifting the tips of her transparent butterfly-winged tutu. This year, two of the nine contestants, Christophe Claret and Frédéric Jouvenot, have created automatons featuring petals of a flower, while the other seven have chosen the tourbillon as their distinctive mechanical skill.
Breguet's ongoing romance with the Reine de Naples is still going strong. The Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit masterpiece, with its distinguished egg-shaped case, is lit up with countless diamonds and features two overlapping dials. The lower dial indicates the hours and minutes, while the upper dial enacts the daily transit of the Sun - represented by the golden tourbillion - as it rises and sets in a lapis lazuli sky with a titanium Moon and fluffy mother-of-pearl clouds.
Chaumet, which also has a contestant in the high jewellery category, the Hortensia Secret Watch, shows off its mechanical and artistic pedigree with the Chaumet Hortensia Tourbillon Watch. The round dial, with a grand feu enamel background and hand-sculpted and engraved flowers, is illuminated by diamonds on the bezel and lugs. At 6 o'clock, a tourbillion with a flower cage does a beautiful job to counterbalance the effects of gravity.
Chopard is also seduced by the kinetic motion of the tourbillion and has taken things one step further in the motion department by adding seven floating diamonds that slide around the dial. The Happy Sport Tourbillon Joaillerie, a very glamorous reinterpretation of the Happy Sport watch, is literally covered in diamonds, from snow-set to trapeze, baguette and briolette-cut sparklers. Housing an in-house L.U.C manual-winding movement with the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark, the tourbillion spins gracefully with its very own set of diamonds.
Tourbillons can be groovy, as de GRISOGONO's Tondo Tourbillon Gioiello attests. Featuring a skeleton dial, the tourbillon is on full view, enhanced by a swirly purple enamelled background. Large white diamonds decorate the oval-shaped case and lugs, which contrast with the hot purple galuchat strap.
The Angel watch is a miniature work of classical art from DeLaneau featuring a grand feu enamel dial framed by large baguette-cut diamonds. Inside its beautiful red gold case, a manual-winding movement animates the hours, minutes and elegant tourbillon at 6 o'clock.
Louis Vuitton dresses up its classic Tambour Monogram for the occasion in a beautifully pleated mother-of-pearl dial with diamonds, punctuated by an ethereal tourbillon that seems suspended in time, visible from both sides of the case.
Manufacture Royale goes for a sleeker look with its 1770 Rose Gold & Diamonds with an in-house flying tourbillon positioned asymmetrically at 7 o'clock. The smooth opaline silvered dial, bereft of ornamentation - save for a small triangular aperture for the power reserve - allows the magic of the tourbillon to shine.
And last but by no means least, the delightful Margot watch by watchmaker-magician Christophe Claret. Claret's mechanical marvel allows the wearer to gauge the feelings of her beau by playing a game of romantic roulette. By activating a pusher, a petal - sometimes two - disappears under the dial and the answer to your love query appears in a window at 4 o'clock. In addition to this whimsical and highly complicated mechanical pastime, the watch also features a chiming mechanism. With its delicate daisy and diamond dial, this watch gets my vote as the best high jewellery and haute horlogerie contender of the year.