By Rebecca Doulton
Secret watches have a unique element of magic and mystery. Hidden under a bouquet of gemstone flowers or even under the quills of a hedgehog, the creativity and imagination that go into hiding the watch almost always elicits a gasp of surprise.
Cartier has a long tradition of high jewellery secret watches and unveiled the opal and diamond Aten watch at the SIHH this year. A true showstopper and unique piece, this unique diamond watch features a mesmerising 51.13 carat opal.
Styled as a cuff bracelet made of invisibly jointed links, the shape imitates that of a crescent kokoshnik, the traditional Russian headdress that Cartier interpreted in gemstone tiaras in the 1900s. The Aten cuff is set with 470 brilliant-cut diamonds and 50 baguette-cut diamonds. If you want to check the time, an ingenious sliding door reveals the dial placed in the centre of the cuff.
Cartier's Purple high jewellery secret watch marries a marvellous, cushion-shaped amethyst of 62.84 carats with a geometric, Art Deco frame punctuated with diamonds. On either end of the stone, curved scrolls set with onyx and diamonds sustain the two diamond and onyx beaded bracelets that circle the wrist. Before sinking your gaze into the endless depths of the violet-hued amethyst, the position of the secret watch is tucked under one of the lateral scrolls.
This year, Breguet watches draws on the extravagant world of Marie-Antoinette for its Rose de la Reine collection. A 1783 painting of the Queen depicts her with a rose, which has been recreated in a shell cameo as the secret cover of the watch. The cameo has been exquisitely carved from a shell by hand, a traditional craft from the south of Italy.
By pressing on the dainty cameo rose, the cover pivots, revealing the scintillating dial of the watch, along with the spectacular diamond-set floral case and the ribbon that characterises the Rose de la Reine collection. The bracelet, crafted in white gold, features strands that imitate the texture of cloth. Available in rose or white gold, Breguet knows that many women appreciate the beauty of a mechanical movement and has equipped the watch with an automatic calibre 586, which can be viewed through the sapphire crystal caseback.
If you were thinking about flowers for this Valentine's Day, why not invest in some perennial high jewellery blooms? Chaumet's heady Hortensia collection celebrates the hydrangea flower and includes this blooming beauty of a secret watch, a candidate in this year's GPHG jewellery watch category. A bouquet of flowers made from sculpted opals, powder pink sapphires, tourmalines and diamonds hides the miniature mother-of-pearl dial, complemented with four diamond indices.
Read about the best high jewellery watches here