One segment of the watch market that seems to be indifferent to the ups and downs of the global economy is the rarefied niche of high jewellery watches. Thankfully, with their creative flights of fancy, sumptuous gemstones and exorbitant price tags, these particular high jewellery watches prosper in all climates, bringing joy to their owners and sparking desire among window shoppers.
With enough colour to brighten up the darkest day, this stunning Imperiale Joaillerie watch from Chopard is affectionately known as the “rainbow watch”. Decked with 581 multicoloured sapphires for a total of 47.98cts, the artistry required to set the stones in subtle graded shades covering the entire colour spectrum is remarkable. Just about every surface of this 40mm rose gold watch has been set with baguette-cut sapphires, ranging in colour from majestic purple to anise green. The crown and the sides of the lugs are set with amethysts - a colour closely associated with the Imperiale collection’s regal nature. These Chopard watches have been fitted with an in-house automatic calibre, with a solid 60-hour power reserve and an exhibition back on the case for a view on the movement.
On the subject of royalty, Breguet unveiled its tribute to Empress Joséphine in the form of a high jewellery watch shaped like a crown and punctuated with a plump white pearl. The Perles Impériales timepiece was Breguet’s pearl in the crown at Baselworld 2016 and reminds us of the founder’s longstanding credentials as purveyor of women’s watches to the likes of Marie-Antoinette, Caroline Murat - Queen of Naples - and Empress Joséphine. The latter admired Breguet’s work immensely, and the Perles Impériales watch matches her love of watches and precious stones. When viewed in profile, the 23 brilliant-cut diamonds set around the oval-shaped bezel look like a regal crown or tiara, set off with a magnificent natural Akoya pearl at 6 o’clock. In keeping with a strong tradition for guilloché decoration, the mother-of-pearl dial on these Breguet watches has been engine turned to create a delicate embroidery pattern offset with four diamond hour markers. Glowing with the light of almost 6.0cts of diamonds, the dainty 34.4mm white gold case houses a mechanical in-house movement.
Cartier watches have always conjured up the allure of distant civilisations and exotic cultures. The Dragon Mystérieux watch, with its rich Oriental heritage, is an invitation to travel back in time to China’s Imperial Court. Sinuous and seductive, the body of the dragon coils and writhes in diamonds, coral and onyx around a transparent dial, with the hour and minute hands suspended in thin air. Crowning the mighty head of the dragon is a sensational 23.77ct cushion-shaped fire opal evoking the fiery temperament of the mythological beast, with the bewitching gaze of the dragon achieved with emeralds. However, the Dragon Mystérieux is more than just a high jewellery watch as it incorporates Cartier’s signature mystery movement. Invented in 1912, this magical movement creates the illusion that the hour and minute hands are floating freely in space with no visible connection to the manual-winding movement.