A recent exhibition in London by Omega on vintage watches, called Her Time, was like opening the door onto a long-lost world of old-fashioned romance and glamour with dainty, bejewelled watches begging to be set free and invited to party again. The most enchanting items were the little diamond-set platinum and engraved gold cocktail watches of such delicacy and beauty, yet you can imagine they must have led a wild lifestyle with their past owners.
The 25mm quartz La D de Dior re-introduced us in 2003 to these petite timepieces that were all the rage during the Roaring Twenties and Thirties, and last year Omega launched their 26mm De Ville Mini Trésor timepieces with 18k gold bracelet and slim 30mm calibre movement.
Watches & Wonders in March shows the taste for small and beautiful is not waning. Cartier has a new incarnation of its 1912 classic Baignoire model with its small oval shape and signature Roman numerals which is daintier in its dimensions and sits closer to the wrist. It’s available in a gold bangle version as well as diamond pavé-set.
Most ladies’ watches are 29-36mm in diameter, with many of the cocktail sizes ranging from 23-25mm, even smaller is the 15mm Hermes Médor mini joaillerie, which is a secret watch with a plain gold or diamond set pyramid concealing the square dial. The pyramid stud has been a signature of Hermes belts since the 1930s before being used on the first Médor watches in 1993. The new jewellery versions, all quartz movements, are fashioned in rose or white gold with textured bracelets combining a stud and herringbone pattern, and diamonds.
Chanel’s neat, elegant Premiere also fits into the cocktail watch profile with its 19.7x15.2mm case inspired by the No5 bottle. New this year is the Lucky Star (black with a diamond star pendant), a playful little robot (framing the bezel) and the X-Ray on a diamond and gold link bracelet that are part of the new Interstellar collection in which all of Chanel’s watch models riff on the space-age theme.
Van Cleef & Arpels has expanded on its dainty 23mm Perlée jewellery watch model with guilloché rose gold or mother of pearls dials and alligator straps. There are also gem-set secret watch versions suspended on sautoirs – another trend this year. Piaget, for example, showed two exceptional high jewellery sautoirs with tiny timepieces their dials inverted, naturally, to make it easier for the wearer to read.
Hamilton has also debuted a sautoir, the Hamilton Lady Necklace, which harks back to the Gatsby era with an antique watch aesthetic that can be worn on a steel or gold PVD coated bracelet or on a neck chain with tassel detail. However, one of the most graceful ladies’ timepieces at Watches & Wonders was the timeless Jaeger-LeCoultre swivel-case Reverso re-imagined as an Art Deco jewel in diamonds and onyx on a sautoir that beautifully evoked Roaring Twenties fashion. It is the perfect accessory for cocktail hour.