By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
Piaget captured the zeitgeist in the swinging 1960s and early 1970s when it launched a series of watches with groovy rock dials made from the finest slivers of jade, lapis lazuli and malachite. Thanks to Piaget's expertise in ultra-thin movements - some measuring a mere 2.3mm - designers were given a more generous canvas on which to let their imaginations take flight. The result was Piaget's wildly imaginative jewellery watches, featuring over 30 different stone dials.
Once again, rocky dials are in the limelight as Piaget revisits this golden era with the new Extremely Piaget collection, unveiled recently to give us a taster of what to expect at the Paris Biennale this September. Standout pieces include a cuff watch featuring an off-centred natural jade dial caught up in a cobweb of hammered yellow gold and a vibrant oval turquoise dial punctuated with diamonds alongside a textured gold bracelet, both of which give off a groovy 70s vibe and are heavily influenced by archival designs.
Jaquet Droz, renowned for its exquisite enamel dials, has also dug deep into the depths of the planet to adorn its Minerals collection. The classic Grande Seconde model, with its two overlapping subdials arranged in the form of a number eight, is offered with slim wafers of meteorite, spectrolite, bronzite, onyx and imperial jasper.
The Petite Heure Minute model, which displays the hours and minutes in a small subdial, offers up almost the entirety of its dial to a slice of ruby known as a ruby heart, a mineral tinted by chrome that ranges from pale pink to hot red with lacey edges.
The D de Dior collection, unveiled in 2003, is also inspired by creations from the 1970s. Particularly striking is a new model set with an Australian white opal in a pink gold case. Like an abstract pointillism painting by Seurat, there is no way anybody could tire of looking at the mesmerising colours in that opal.
And ever inventive, Dior has given the stone dial a fashionable update by embellishing it with hand-painted leopard spots. The yellow gold model features a slice of tiger's eye for the dial that glows golden on the wrist.
Let's not forget, also, two watches from earlier this year that deserve revisiting. For the past 60 years DeLaneau has been making women's watches that take the idea of gem-set timepieces into a new realm, and its one-of-a-kind DeLaneau's one-of-a-kind Grace Stars jewellery watch is a masterpiece. The six-sided patterns seen in the 118 cabochon-cut star sapphires and rubies that make up the bracelet are the result of needle-like inclusions in the gemstones. For the dial, DeLaneau has, like Jaquet Droz, used ruby heart.
Finally, another striking stone face watch, debuted at the SIHH in Geneva, is the result of the recent Pomellato-Parmigiani collaboration. A successful marriage of Italian high jewellery and fine Swiss watchmaking, my favourite watch in the new Tonda Pomellato collection, launched earlier this year, features an azure blue turquoise stone dial that evokes the changing hues of the Mediterranean Sea.