Photography: Andy Barter; Words: Simon de Burton
Blancpain Retrograde Calendar Lady
When marketing genius Jean-Claude Biver set about reviving the world’s oldest dial name back in 1982, he did so on the basis that Blancpain – founded in 1735 – had never made a watch with a quartz movement, and never would. That ongoing philosophy means Blancpain enjoys a 30-year lead over rivals who only recently acknowledged that watch-savvy females like to keep time with characterful clockwork. This exquisite calendar watch has a mother-of-pearl dial with retrograde date and moon phase indication and a 65-hour power reserve. The bezel is set with 40 diamonds.
Chopard Happy Sport
It was back in 1976 that Chopard, then better known for jewellery than watches, introduced a men’s dress watch called the Happy Diamonds, featuring gems that appeared to career around the dial without interfering with the movement of the hands. The illusion was created by sandwiching the stones between a pair of ‘floating’ crystal discs. In 1993, co-president Caroline Scheufele integrated this idea into a resilient casual watch for women, the Happy Sport, which has since been produced in dozens of variations, such as this one with a diamond-pavé case and a bezel set with coloured gems.
Breguet Reine de Naples Lady Automatic
Ever wondered who made the first wristwatch? It was probably the great Abraham-Louis Breguet, who, exactly 200 years ago, delivered a watch to Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Queen Caroline of Naples, with a strap made of gold thread that could be knotted around the regal wrist. The unusual, egg-shaped case was reprised by the modern-day Breguet company in 2002 in a model called the ‘Reine de Naples’. This rose-gold version substitutes the gold-thread strap of the original with a band of black satin. The hobnail decoration on the silver dial is a Breguet signature.
Chanel J12 ‘365’
The J12 was designed by Jacques Helleu, the late, long-standing artistic director of Chanel, whose love of sailing led him to name the watch after the famous J12-class racing yachts. It’s therefore no coincidence that he chose tough, scratchproof and non-corroding ceramic as the material from which to make its case and bracelet, which first appeared in 2000. The J12 has been made in numerous guises, the latest of which is the ‘365’. This 36.5mm, self-winding version features a diamond-set bezel and highlights in Chanel’s very own ‘beige gold’.
Cartier Ballon Blanc
A follow-on from the larger, pebble-smooth Ballon Bleu line of perfectly round watches with ‘captive’ crowns, Cartier’s Ballon Blanc brings the traditional delicate cocktail watch of old into the 21st century. Measuring a petite but practical 30mm in diameter, the bezel on this feminine quartz watch is pavéd with diamonds weighing 9.35cts and complemented by a very elegant diamond-set five-row bracelet that nicely offsets the mother-of-pearl dial and classic blued-steel hands. The highlight of the Ballon Blanc, however, is probably the single 0.20ct diamond that is embedded beside four o’clock.
There are plenty of good reasons for watches to be made big – they’re easier to read and somewhat easier to assemble too. But now that the tiny cocktail watches of the Twenties and Thirties seem to be enjoying a revival, watchmakers are gamely revisiting the art of extreme micro-engineering. Hermès’ miniscule Faubourg has a case diameter of just 15.5mm – it’s the smallest watch created by the house in a century of watchmaking. Featuring
a white lacquer dial with four diamond-dot hour markers, it is presented on a bracelet or a strap made of satin or classic Hermès leather.