Top Makers of Jewelry Watches and their Signature Motifs

By Carol Besler

At Cartier, it’s the panther, at Bulgari, the serpent, and for Van Cleef & Arpels it’s all about fairies. Every great jewelry maker has a signature motif, a clearly recognizable visual symbol that is instantly and uniquely recognizable as their own. In these examples, the symbolism extends to their high jewelry watches.

Graff: Butterflies

Graff is known for colored diamonds, large diamonds, high jewelry, high watchmaking, floral motifs and bow motifs, but it’s the butterflies that really make it unique. On this Disco Butterfly jewelry watch, they are outlined with rubies set into a disk that rotates back and forth with the wearer’s movement. It is framed by a ring of rubies around the bezel – there are also emerald and sapphire versions. Butterflies represent transformation, spiritual rebirth and hope.

Bulgari: Serpents

Bulgari has been using the serpent motif on its jewelry since the 1930s, embellishing it in its inimitable way, with big, bold, colorful gems.

The wrist is a natural medium for the serpent, since the bracelet can be constructed in a way that makes it flexible, thus coiling around the wrist like a live snake. The serpent represents wisdom and eternity, and symbolizes a commitment to long-lasting friendship and love.

Cartier: Panthers

The panther is to Cartier what the serpent is to Bulgari. It has been associated with the brand for more than a century, in interpretations from representative to conceptual.

The Maison’s panther-themed jewelry and jewelry watch creations represent the most elaborate expressions of the motif, and have been worn by some of the world’s most famous women, including the Duchess of Windsor. The panther symbolizes courage, valour and power.

Van Cleef: Fairies

The ethereal fairy is a symbol of hope and joy, and it has been used by Van Cleef & Arpels since the early 1940s. On this Lady Féerie jewelry watch, the sprightly nymph marks the minutes by using her magic wand as an hand that sweeps across a retrograde index. Her dress, head and crown are deftly represented by sapphires and diamonds. Fairies are associated with magic spells, love potions and dreams, and are prominent in the folklore of most European cultures.

Piaget: Roses

Piaget’s connection to roses began when company scion Yves Piaget became a member of the Geneva international new rose competition jury in 1976. His dedication was recognized in 1982 when the winning flower in the competition was christened the Yves Piaget Rose.

It is a recurring motif in the brand’s jewelry and watch collections. Did you know that each color of rose has a different meaning: red (ruby) for love; yellow (fancy sapphire) for friendship; pink (tourmaline) for gratitude; orange (padparadscha) for passion.

Chopard: Hearts

Chopard has used the heart motif for decades, including in conjunction with is iconic Happy Diamonds concept – bezel-set “Happy Hearts” moving freely between two synthetic sapphire crystals – to depict the joy of love. The heart is a cheery motif that, in the hands of Chopard, is transformed into Red-Carpet-worthy creations. The heart is all about love, compassion, courage and life-giving forces.

Chanel: Camellia

The camellia was the favorite flower of Coco Chanel, and it has long been an inspiration for products across the brand’s fashion, jewelry and watch collections. Most interpretations are rendered in diamonds and gold and ceramic, as the brand favors the black and white color scheme, but some pieces use carved mother-of-pearl for a nice take on the minimalist aesthetic. The camellia flower signifies love, affection and admiration. Especially if it occurs in a piece of Chanel jewelry.

Roberto Coin: Quatrefoils

Roberto Coin is often inspired by the architecture in the Veneto region of Italy, where Roberto grew up. He is particularly fond of the four-petal quatrefoil as seen in the rose windows at the Palazzo Ducale in St. Mark’s Square.

A variation on the four-petal motif is inspired by the flowers in the designer’s garden at his home near Vicenza. The floral quatrefoil is a symbol of good luck, and represents harmony and symmetry.

Harry Winston: Emeralds

Harry Winston founded his jewelry empire in 1932, when Art Deco was in full swing. The style forever instilled in him his love of the emerald and the emerald cut in all gems. The company has honored his passion ever since.

The emerald shape appears in the company logo, in the shape of many of the brand’s watches and in the cut of many gems in the company’s jewelry collections. The open style of the emerald cut symbolizes an open heart and personal clarity.