By Rebecca Doulton
Secret watches never cease to fascinate and when they are masqueraded as a piece of jewellery, a private and very surreptitious relationship with their owner is established. While only you know where the watch is hiding, the rest of the world can admire the art.
Cartier unveiled this spectacular cuff in January at the SIHH watch salon, emblazoned with its favourite feline. The Panthère Impériale high jewellery secret watch is pavéd with 907 brilliant-cut orange, light yellow and brown diamonds, plus fragments of onyx to recreate the spotted coat and magnetic features of the panther. The actual watch is diminutive - no larger than the panther's eye - and discreetly tucked away on the diamond-studded clip that closes the cuff.
It is most fitting that Gabrielle Chanel, the trailblazing French fashion designer who valued her freedom and released women from the constraints of corsets, should have been inspired by the symbolism inherent in the feather of a bird's wing. "I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird," she once said, and this spirit of independence and lightness is beautifully captured in Chanel's latest high jewellery collection.
The gorgeous Plume Secret watch is a cuff bracelet and watch in one, set with a diamond feather hovering lightly over a hidden pink sapphire dial. By pressing lightly, the feather moves to one side to reveal the 34 baguette-cut pink sapphires that form the dial of the watch. The white gold case is snow-set with 2,319 brilliant-cut diamonds and droplets of pink sapphires that squiggle organically across the snowy background.
Earlier this year we saw Graff's jaw-dropping transformable tassel necklace, dripping with more than 330 carats of blue sapphires and diamonds, with a secret watch dangling somewhere among the profusion of stones.
For something slightly more wearable to your next cocktail party, Graff proposes its collection of Halo Secret Ring watches. Instead of popping some poison in the cavity below the large dome-shaped, gem-studded cover, Graff has devised a system that allows the dome to swivel, revealing a miniature watch. Available with sapphire, emerald, ruby or diamond cluster domes, these unique secret watches will let you spy the time in impressive style.
Chaumet's Lumières d'Eau high jewellery extravaganza, presented at the Biennale in Paris, included this delicately feminine pendant watch in carved rock crystal, white gold and 613 brilliant and cushion-cut diamonds. Its ethereal, translucent nature is magical and, upon closer inspection, you will detect a tiny dial in its centre. The only thing that puzzles me is this: is the jewellery watch designed for people looking directly at your pendant or is it for the wearer? Because if it is for the lucky wearer, the numbers should be upside down so you can tilt it upwards and consult the time.