For five days, the world’s most prestigious watch and jewelry brands came together in Basel, Switzerland, to unveil their most dazzling creations, showcasing their mastery of high jewelry-making and an unrivaled technical prowess in the art of haute horology.
Jewelry watches were some of the most riveting pieces at Baselworld 2018, combining contemporary interpretations of the art of watchmaking with superlative jewelry designs, in creations where history, know-how, and emotion are intertwined and sustainability is increasingly a part of the conversation.
Chopard’s Stellar Red Carpet Collection
Chopard has produced the prestigious Palme d’Or prize as part of a 20-year collaboration with the Cannes International Film Festival, and since 2014, the luxury brand has used fairmined gold, in the hopes that other luxury brands take on the same ethical responsibilities and follow suit.
As an avant-première to Cannes, Chopard presented a stellar piece from its upcoming Red Carpet collection, a suite of 71 creations designed to be rolled out in May, just in time for the debut of the Film Festival, when all eyes will be on the baubles adorning celebrities’ wrists as they walk the red carpet.
The piece was a precious high jewelry secret watch: a piece that is spectacularly and intricately designed, and boasts a fresh, unique spirit inspired by the company’s artistic director’s travels throughout Asia.
Produced in Chopard’s Geneva workshops where 35 of the best craftsmen in Switzerland work with “passion and patience,” the Red Carpet secret watch deployed the charms of an imposing bracelet made of multiple strands of faceted tanzanite beads (weighing a total of 235 carats). The strands came together into a central oval motif set with a majestic, iridescent black opal (weighing 72 carats), which slides laterally to reveal a dial in white gold and titanium.
“A finely wrought watch dial opens a window onto an oriental sky worthy of the finest Chinese lacquers, crafted from pink mother-of-pearl and chalcedony,” the Maison Chopard said. Around the dial, a décor of carved jadeite, turquoise, onyx, pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds, brilliant-cut emeralds, and brilliant-cut tanzanite, made the high jewelry watch a truly outstanding creation.
Bulgari Marks a Century of Supreme Craftsmanship
At Bulgari, this year marks 100 years of jewelry watchmaking. Jean-Christophe Babin, chief executive of the Italian brand owned today by the luxury group LVMH, announced that milestone at the fair’s opening day press conference, explaining that the anniversary would be celebrated with the launch of Bulgari’s new Lvcea Tubogas timepiece, a marriage of two signature icons of the house.
“This year, it is all about the Lvcea Tubogas, the ultimate expression of Bulgari’s feminine watches,” Babin said. He also took the time, in a private interview, to demonstrate Bulgari’s heritage in jewelry watchmaking with a 1918 platinum and diamond timepiece from the maison’s archives, and a pair of vintage Bulgari Tubogas gold watches produced in the 1970s. The archive pieces were exhibited on Bulgari’s stand to demonstrate the central importance of the “Tubogas” bracelet design as an icon of the house.
Embodying the essence of industrial design, the Tubogas bracelet references the elemental shape of Roman gas pipes, which Bulgari has incorporated in its jewelry and watches since the 1940s. The technique, first developed in the 19th century, features interlocking bands wrapped around a steel coil, evoking a serpentine shape, and referencing the house’s signature symbol.
The Lvcea watch, in turn, was first introduced by Bulgari in 2014 and has since become one of its best selling lines. Its name comes from the Latin “lux” for “light” and its versatile design, inspired by the beauty of Ancient Rome, appeals to both classic and contemporary tastes. By delving into its past and staying abreast of contemporary styles, the anniversary watch epitomizes the tenets of Bulgari’s design sensibilities, according to Babin: “both the evolution of the Lvcea and the saga of the Tubogas.”
Jaquet Droz’s Bejeweled Butterfly
Since 1738, Jaquet Droz has specialized in timepieces that combine unexpected mechanical refinement with aesthetic intrigue. This year, Jaquet Droz introduced a new addition to its Loving Butterfly watch series, a one-of-a-kind timepiece called the Loving Butterfly Automaton. The spectacularly poetic piece combines the engineering of the automaton with Jaquet’s Droz’s jewelry-setting expertise.
“On the dial, we have laid an opal, a very fragile stone, and one that is very complicated to work,” a spokesperson for Jaquet Droz said. A dazzling diamond-set subdial, like a giant sun, towers over the gold butterfly automaton whose wings as it pulls a chariot; its hand-winding mechanical movement triggered with a push-button mechanism, that moves both the butterfly’s wings and the wheel of the chariot.
Harry Winston’s Signature Stars
At Harry Winston, two vintage-inspired platinum cocktail watches were presented as the highlights of the brand’s jeweled watch collections. The Ultimate Marble Marquetry and the Marble Marquetry watches were both inspired by the star-shaped pattern that decorates the marble floors leading to Harry Winston’s Fifth Avenue salons in New York. A wreath of blue sapphires and diamonds was set around the case, and the emerald-cut and invisible-setting techniques paid homage to Harry Winston’s legacy as the “King of Diamonds.”
Equally fascinating was the Precious Signature desk clock, adorned with opals and diamonds and fitted with a sophisticated automaton movement designed by Jaquet Droz (a sister Swatch Group company) that provided a spellbinding mechanical spectacle as the magical pen traced Winston’s signature on command.
High-Wattage Minimalism at Graff Diamonds
The London-based jeweler Graff Diamonds outdid itself with a diamond-set secret watch, created in close collaboration between Graff’s in-house London designers and the company’s Geneva craftsmen.
“Our jewelry timepieces are a pure distillation of our brand and epitomize horological ingenuity, impeccable diamond setting, and our creative flair,” said François Graff, chief executive of Graff Diamonds.
The high-wattage secret watch features a front closure that slides gracefully over a pavé miniature watch case to reveal a pavé diamond-set dial. Closed, the piece is an exquisite diamond bracelet, its craftsmen having succeeded in preserving the delicate fineness of its profile despite the width of the watch case. The piece, while stunningly precious, remains minimalistic thanks to its monochromatic white diamonds.
The dial is pavé-set with custom-cut diamonds around the edges that trace the shape of the case, on a fully articulated, flexible bracelet that showcases multi-shaped white diamonds, moving fluidly on the wearer’s wrist.
“We remain a family business, and each member of the Graff team applies their knowledge, skill, and passion to ensure that we present the world’s most fabulous jewels and watches,” Graff said.
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