By Maria Doulton in London
The ever-so-British jeweller Boodles is poised to unveil its very first wristwatch. Aside from early incursions into watchmaking some 150 years ago by the Wainwright family - who still own and run the firm - this is the first range of Boodles watches to appear in many generations. And it makes perfect sense for Boodles to chose a design from one of its most popular jewellery collections: Blossom.
"The range is inspired by our Blossom jewels, whose design offers a wide scope of options that we can interpret in watches," explains Head of Design Rebecca Hawkins. "We wanted to stay true to what Boodles is known for and this is, of course, jewellery. The new watch is delicate and feminine, and combines diamonds, mother of pearl, white and rose gold in what we believe to be truly special, as well as functional, pieces of high jewellery."
Available in 15 different variations in rose or white gold, with a choice of 28mm or 37mm cases, with our without diamonds, and different coloured straps, all feature intricately decorated dials with mother of pearl and diamonds. The watches will be launched exclusively in Boodles' Harrods boutique in October and then in other showrooms from 1 November, just in time for Christmas.
The five-sided petal motif is, of course, the same cherry blossom that is found on Boodles' Blossom collection of jewels, which was launched six years ago and has become something of an icon for the house. "The five-sided stylised oriental floral motif is found on Japanese woodcuts or embroidered into kimonos," explains Hawkins of the inspiration for the original Blossom jewels. "We started with long necklaces with flower motifs, but the range proved so popular that it has grown and developed into a larger and more valuable collection."
The feminine, scalloped shape of the blossom decorates the watch in many different ways. The motif dominates the asymmetric pattern on the dial, made up of a jigsaw puzzle of carefully inlaid mother-of-pearl sections. On top of this, outlines of the blossom shape are picked out in diamonds and gold, and to add even more sparkle, an entirely diamond-set blossom shimmers at 3 o'clock. The lugs that connect the watch to the strap are also in the shape of a half blossom, neatly fastened to the bezel with a bejewelled flower. Even the crown is sculpted into the shape of a blossom and set with a diamond.
More subtle blossom shapes are etched into the mother of pearl on the dial. Turn the watch over and engraved into the back of the watch is another blossom, and the gold clasp, set with diamonds, is also in the shape of a blossom. "The strong design features, the layering and the asymmetrical style is very typical of our jewels," adds Hawkins. She imagines the watch worn with a fine gold Blossom charm bracelet sitting lower down the wrist.
The white mother of pearl was chosen to imitate the delicate pink colour of cherry blossom petals and the iridescence of silk kimono threads, which inspired the very first Blossom designs. With its strong contrasts, the black mother-of-pearl version is more dramatic and a good example of how this design concept can evolve.
The watch was designed in the UK by Hawkins and her team but made in conjunction with skilled and highly experienced watchmakers and craftsmen in Bienne, Switzerland. The most difficult challenge, according to Hawkins, was the marquetry on the dial as the brittle mother of pearl needs to be cut to precise dimensions and fine tolerances, requiring great patience and resulting in many wasted rejects. Furthermore, the diamond-set details have to be set neatly between the wafer-thin disc of the dial and the glass, allowing room for the skeleton hands to sweep over the hour markers.
With this dazzling trio of watches to choose from, which is my favourite? I do like the smaller rose gold version with its warm hues, but I think that the larger white gold model would add a large dose of glamour to even the most simple outfit. What I do know for sure is that diamonds and mother of pearl, in their many different guises, make fine dial companions.