Cult aesthetic: Pasha de Cartier
The return of the Pasha de Cartier sees a close resemblance to the iconic 1985 original with a few significant updates. There are two sizes – 35mm for ladies and 41mm for men – and a myriad variations spanning a core collection of three-hand watches (above) to high jewellery and skeletonised models (opposite page). Designed by Gerald Genta, the cult classic was created from a 1930s water- resistant watch created by Louis Cartier to accompany the Pasha of Marrakesh on his daily swims. The model featured what would be its famous hallmarks: a non-conformist round case with a square rail track in the dial’s centre, Arabic numerals, Vendome-style bars with Clous de Paris at the ends (patented by Louis Cartier in 1934), and screw-down cover over a crown fitted with a blue spinel or sapphire. The dial flaunts a stamped guilloche motif that glimmers subtly in the light and an ever-so-slight dégradé effect on its edges. Visible via a transparent caseback is the automatic calibre 1847 MC designed in the Cartier manufacture in La Chaux-de- Fonds. Extras include a space under the crown cover that can be engraved with initials, the Cartier-developed QuickSwitch system that allows the wearer to swop straps with a single push-button, and the SmartLink system for bracelet length adjustment.
Deep sea exploration: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms is based on a rich heritage dating back to 1953, when the manufacture unveiled the first modern diver’s watch. Thanks to avant-garde technical and aesthetic features such as large luminescent black-grounded hour markers, then-unprecendented water resistance, and a unidirectional rotating bezel, it quickly became a benchmark for the watchmaking industry. Blancpain also made early use of innovative materials in its timepieces. Back in the 1960s, it was one of the first manufactures to use titanium – mainly employed by the aerospace industry at the time – when it produced a special series of watches for the US Navy. Now, the maison has unveiled three variants of the iconic line with a new light titanium bracelet: the must-have 45mm Fifty Fathoms Automatique and Grande Date models. The satin-brushed links are joined together by transverse pins to allow for flexibility and a perfect fit on the wrist. Based on a patented system, the screws are placed on the back of the links to preserve the smooth look and feel of the bracelet edges. The Fifty Fathoms Automatique and Grande Date models are respectively equipped with the manufacture 1315 movement – a mainstay of the Fifty Fathoms collection since its 2007 launch – or the 6918B. Resistant to magnetic fields thanks to a silicon balance spring, the calibres deliver a comfortable five-day power reserve. All featuring a rotating bezel with a scratch-resistant sapphire insert, the Fifty Fathoms Automatique is available with a black or blue sunburst dial, while the Fifty Fathoms Grande Date offers a black dial.
Dance of diamonds: The Happy Sport by Chopard
The Happy Sport by Chopard changed the face of ladies’ casual or sports timepieces when it was launched in 1993. The novel concept saw the first women’s watch that combined steel with loose diamonds that were sandwiched between two sapphire crystals, and slid freely across the dial as the wearer moved. Almost 30 years and over 1,000 iterations later, the collection welcomes two new Happy Sport Joaillerie pieces that showcase the legendary dancing diamonds with a prong setting. Instead of the traditional gold capsule with a spinning top-like base that holds the moving diamonds and enables them to turn without tipping over, Chopard artisans employed a five-prong setting to hold each of the seven diamonds in place. This allows more light to hit the stones and amplify their brilliance. The same gem-setting technique is also used for the diamonds on the bezel and the hour markers. In addition to the textured mother-of-pearl dial engraved with a guilloche motif, the 36mm case of these new bejewelled beauties boasts a pavé setting of brilliant-cut diamonds. Available in ethical 18k white or rose gold, the models feature a movement with automatic winding made entirely in-house, the ultra-thin 96.17-C calibre.
Complexity at its finest: Vacheron Constantin La Musique du Temps Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Split-Seconds Chronograph – Tempo
With a total of 24 perfectly legible complications orchestrated by the new in- house 1,163-part calibre 2756, Vacheron Constantin’s one-of-a-kind double-sided La Musique du Temps Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Split-Seconds Chronograph – Tempo is the maison’s most complicated wristwatch yet. It is part of the manufacture’s ultra-exclusive Les Cabinotiers 2019 theme of La Musique du Temps, which presented a number of complex mechanical chiming watches accompanied by a sound print certified by the renowned Abbey Road Studios. Representing both a phenomenal technical and aesthetic horological triumph, its front displays a perpetual calendar along with the chronograph hours and measurements, while the back is dedicated to astronomical functions, including indications of solar time, equation of time, sunrise and sunset, day and night duration, and age and phase of the moon. In addition to a tourbillon regulator, the gorgeous mechanical marvel is also equipped with a minute repeater. It was the aesthetic options linked to the display that dictated the construction of the calibre. The result is an exceptional timepiece, whose generous 50mm diameter and 21mm thickness are softened by the curves of its pink gold case. Thanks to the ingenious removable strap attachment system, the watch is easily reversible and can be worn on either side according to the mood of the moment.
Romance encased in time: Van Cleef & Arpels Pont des Amoureux
First introduced in 2010, pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels’ whimsical Pont des Amoureux (“lovers’ bridge” in French) collection are the world’s only watches with kissing automatons. Each season, the maison never ceases to surprise by creating artful timepieces depicting an enchanting story of a couple’s kiss that comes to life on a beautifully hand-painted dial. The perfect complement to the ladies’ diamond-set variant launched in late 2019, the Midnight Pont des Amoureux model offers a masculine vision of the moonlit encounter. The lovers now meet inside a larger 42mm white gold case against a grisaille enamel night scenery. Taking 60 hours to create, it has been reworked to feature silhouettes of roofs, chimneys and paving stones for an urban feel. The loving pair – slightly larger than on the feminine version – wait on a bridge of white gold before uniting for a kiss at midnight and noon. The smooch lasts three minutes, after which she returns to the start of a jumping retrograde hour scale on one side of the dial, while he heads back to his retrograde minutes on the other. The watch is also fitted with a button that allows the wearer to relive the kiss on demand. Available only on a made-to-order basis, the collector’s item is equipped with the self-winding mechanical movement, Valfleurier Q020, developed exclusively for the maison.
Musical maestro: Patek Philippe Ref. 5303R-001
Patek Philippe has established itself as a gifted interpreter of the music of time since creating its first pocket watch with a minute repeater in 1845. While the manufacture offers the widest selection of regularly produced minute repeaters, it never produced one with a visible striking mechanism on the dial until the Ref. 5303R-010 that was unveiled at the Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019. The latest to join the maison’s family is the Ref. 5303R-001, a slightly modified version of its predecessor. The dramatic timepiece stands out with its open architecture without a conventional dial. For the first time, its repeater mechanism of hammers and gongs can be seen in action without removing the watch from the wrist. The aesthetic of the manually wound Calibre R TO 27 PS was subtly reworked to emphasise its appeal as well. The house showcases its heritage in the manual finissage of movement parts with a plate adorned with Genevan circular graining, delicate perlage on the recesses, as well as decorated hammers with a circular satin finish. The 42mm rose gold case sports a wide, cambered and polished bezel as well as white gold inlays with foliage engravings embellishing the caseband and strap lugs.
Terrific tourbillon: Omega De Ville Tourbillon Numbered Edition
Omega has earned a special reputation for its advancements in tourbillon craftsmanship. Major accomplishments include the first-ever wristwatch tourbillon calibre created in 1947, the first self-winding central tourbillon model with the tourbillon carriage positioned in the middle of the watch in 1994, and the first chronometer-certified tourbillon wristwatch in 2004. Now, the latest De Ville Tourbillon Numbered Edition is the manufacture’s first Master Chronometer-certified manual- winding central tourbillon. Not only does the certification assure the Swiss industry’s highest standards of precision and performance, it is also a testament to the expert watchmakers who crafted a tourbillon cage that is able to keep rotating even under a magnetic field of 15,000 gauss. Available only on special request, the timepiece incorporates two proprietary alloys. Rendered in 18k Sedna gold are the lugs, bezel, caseback, bridges, mainplate as well as the sun-brushed dial that has been given a dark shade, thanks to black PVD treatment. The 43mm central casebody, buckle logo and crown logo are made from 18k Canopus gold, an exclusive white gold alloy. At the centre of the dial is the tourbillon cage with hand-polished bevels in black ceramised titanium. A sapphire crystal caseback allows the beholder to admire the Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 2640 and its three-day power reserve indicator.
Concept bar none: Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Piaget stole the show at the 2018 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie when it unveiled a horological experiment of the world’s thinnest mechanical watch – the 2mm Altiplano Ultimate Concept (AUC). The timepiece presented numerous innovations by the maison at the unveiling – a case that formed part of the movement, a unique integrated winding crown, ultra-thin crystal, new barrel constructions and energy regulation. Now, the 41mm creation is available for purchase as a customisable piece that boasts 10,000 permutations. No less than five patents were filed as a result of realising the ultra-thin watch, which is powered by the manual calibre 900P-UC. The integrated movement plate and case are made with a high-tech cobalt- based alloy that is 2.3 times stronger than gold for rigidity when worn. Indicating the time had to be rethought too. Instead of a dial and hands atop a bridge, the AUC features a dial under it, which doubles as protection from contact with the wafer-thin crystal. The unprecedented miniaturisation did not deter Piaget’s artisans from hand- decorating the movements as well. Not only were they able to embellish it with sunburst and satin-brushed finishes, they enhanced the combined case and baseplate by treating it with black PVD. Even the crown is recessed into the caseband to conform to AUC’s thinness.
Jewellery meets horology: Bvlgari Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon
Adding to Bvlgari’s repertoire of record makers: the world’s thinnest ladies’ minute repeater, the thinnest men’s tourbillon and the thinnest automatic chronograph is the smallest women’s tourbillon in the market. A highlight of Bvlgari’s 2020 novelties, the Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon is a follow-up to last year’s quartz reference. Reviving the lost tradition of small mechanical movements that were replaced by the quartz revolution in the early ’70s, the manual-winding BVL150 calibre measures just 3.65mm thick and has a 40-hour power reserve. Specially designed to fit into the sleek 34mm serpent-head case that is 8.9mm thick, the shaped small rhodium-plated movement is hand- decorated with Côtes de Genève, perlage and bevelling, features one clear sapphire bridge, as well as a sapphire crystal on the caseback. There are two variants showcasing an 18k white or rose gold case, each with a special pavé setting to achieve its thin case, a dazzling full snow- set dial and an accompanying leather strap. For red carpet moments, there is an 18k white gold version with snow-set dial and bracelet fully bedecked by round brilliant-cut diamonds, as well as a white gold crown set with a cabochon-cut sapphire.
Small is sensational: Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101
Smaller than the tip of a pencil and weighing under 1g, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Calibre 101 remains the smallest mechanical movement in the world since 1929. Also one of the world’s oldest movements that is still in production, it was originally conceived and developed for jewellery watches. Instead of having components set on a single plate, Calibre 101 adopted the “stacked” dual-level architecture first developed by the manufacture for the Duoplan movement in 1925. The movement revolutionised feminine watchmaking as its miniscule size and baguette shape opened a new realm of aesthetic freedom to designers. For the latest pair of Calibre 101 jewellery timepieces, which house the fourth-generation movement Calibre 101/4, the maison’s artistic team took a jewellery-led approach by designing the bracelet forms and gem-setting style first before integrating the cases and movements. The first is the manchette-style Snowdrop, which is inspired by the white bell-shaped winter flowers in the Vallée de Joux. A circle of pear-shaped diamonds surrounds the dial to form a corolla, while waves of diamonds repeat the petal motif in perfect symmetry over the entire bracelet. A griffe setting was used for the diamonds to minimise the visibility of the pink gold and create the illusion of diamonds floating on the bracelet. Jewellery artisans spent 130 hours on the gem-setting work alone, encrusting it with 904 pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 20.9 carats,. Inspired by Art Deco geometry and the strong forms of 20th-century Modernism, the Bangle timepiece is a bolder expression of femininity. Embellished with 19.7 carats of 996 brilliant-cut diamonds graduated in size to emphasise the design’s sweeping curves, the griffe and grain setting techniques were combined to heighten the diamonds’ three-dimensional effect and brilliance.
This story first appeared in the August 2020 issue of Prestige Singapore.
(Main and featured image: Cartier)