Colored gemstones find their way into luxury watches

Posted By: Carol Besler News,

Watch collectors are warming up to the fact that colored gemstones are one of the best ways to add both value and beauty to luxury timepieces. Not only does incorporating gemstones into a watch add value, it adds a design dimension that goes above and beyond the beauty of other metiers d’art like engraving, enameling and marquetry are nice. Nothing creates a pop like colored gemstones.

Color was out in full force at Watches & Wonders, the luxury watch fair held in Geneva every spring (formerly the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie). Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel, Piaget and others have mastered the art of creating timepieces that combine state-of-the-art complicated movements and noble metals with the beauty of colored gemstones. This year, the industry is rediscovering exotic gems like Paraiba tourmaline and purple sapphires, along with hardstones like malachite and onyx. Here is a sample of this year’s kodachrome collectors’ pieces.

Coussin de Cartier

Chanel Boy-Friend Skeleton Red Edition

Piaget Limelight Gala Precious

The Coussin (cushion) is a brand new collection with a cushion-shaped case, hemmed with gemstones set in a spiral. The diamond-on-yellow gold dial is bordered on the large bezel/case side by swirls of green tsavorites and Paraiba tourmalines, held in place by low-profile metal triangles rather than prongs, so more of the gem shows above the surface. Just for fun, the tsavorites are set upside down, with pavilions pointing upwards.

Coco Chanel loved red. She once said: “If you’re sad or heartbroken, make yourself up, dress up, add more red lipstick and attack.” This version of the angular, openworked Boy-Friend gets its color from a row of 38 ruby baguettes, matched by a special finish applied to the bridges of the movement. It seems ready to attack on cue.

Contrary to all the hype, there is more to Rolex than steel sports watches. This sequel to the cultish rainbow Yachtmaster (set with multi-colored sapphires) is set with trapeze-cut pink, blue and purple sapphires, inspired by the aurora borealis. This, and the 46 diamonds in the case and lugs, make it more of a ladies’ watch, but men also like color, and gemstones are becoming more acceptable, especially in timepieces.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Duo de Lions

Rolex Yachtmaster 40

The Limelight Gala design, with its asymmetrical lugs and ringed dial configuration, is open to multiple interpretations, including the concept of lining up gemstones in graduated colors and sizes. Here, a malachite outer dial and a pavé diamond inner dial are framed by lugs set with a gradient of tsavorites, along with diamonds.

Chopard always has some special gemstone-laden treasure up its sleeve for the Red Carpet Collection, which premieres annually at Cannes, the film festival sponsored by the brand. This high jewelry watch (one of 75 pieces in the watch and jewelry collection) is set with rosettes of pink, yellow and orange sapphires, surrounded by diamonds. It wins the award for outstanding drama.

Chopard Red Carpet Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels is hands down the most romantic watchmaker, dedicated to depicting beautiful scenes of flora and fauna on its dials. This lion couple are lounging in a savannah scene, executed with the help of engravers, stone setters, enamelists and lapidaries. It is set with pink sapphires, diamonds, in white and yellow gold. It also contains turquoise and onyx marquetry. The clouds are depicted by mother-of-pearl.