It’s not only the cases, dials and calibre that make the perfect watch, but also the bracelets.
Developed in the late 1930s, the Oyster is one of the world’s most recognisable watch bracelets. Patented by Rolex in 1947 and composed of broad, flat three-piece links, it’s gone through minor updates over the years, the most recent being for the 2020 Oyster Perpetual Submariner and Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date. Now with a broader centre link to accommodate a 41mm watch case, it’s equipped with a patented Oysterlock folding safety clasp to prevent accidental opening.
It also features the Rolex Glidelock extension system, which allows the bracelet length to be adjusted up to 20mm without tools, as well as a concealed attachment system to ensure seamless visual continuity between the bracelet and case. It’s shown here on the Oyster Perpetual Submariner in Oystersteel, which is powered by the new calibre 3230 with a 70-hour reserve.
Straddling both jewellery and horology, the Serpenti bracelet watch is synonymous with Bulgari. Aside from the Tubogas design from the ’70s, which was inspired by the protective flexible coil around gas pipes, the 2014 Serpenti Spiga (Italian for wheat) featured a wraparound bracelet with a wave-like motif representing a wheat stalk. Enriching the collection this year is the diamond-set Serpenti Spiga in gold, which draws from a 1957 heritage timepiece with a square face and a modular construction for its bracelet. To form the intricate mesh-like matelassé pattern without soldering, each module of the Serpenti Spiga bracelet is inserted around an internal flexible spring that’s shaped into a coiling bracelet. The single-row watch with a white mother-of-pearl dial comprises 40 links cast from 40 different moulds, while the bracelet on the two-row variant with a black lacquered dial comprises 70 links. For red-carpet events, there’s also a white-gold version that’s fully embellished with more than 800 diamonds. Here the quartz 35mm Serpenti Spiga in rose gold with a diamond-set bezel features a two- row bracelet with 461 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 2.83 carats.
In 1971, Audemars Piguet asked a watch designer to sketch a steel watch, as requested by a distributor. The result, which arrived the next morning, was the Royal Oak — and the designer was the soon- to-be-legendary Gérald Genta. Featuring an extremely slim case, a revolutionary octagonal bezel with exposed retaining screws and an integrated bracelet, the watch — which would become the brand’s most famous model and regarded as Genta’s masterpiece — was inspired by a vintage diver’s helmet that was attached to the rest of the suit with screws. The bracelet comprises parts arranged in descending order with alternating links and connecting studs that fit seamlessly without any gaps. Here it’s shown on the 41mm Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon, in pink gold with a grey sunburst Tapisserie dial, which is powered by the Calibre 2950 with a 65-hour reserve.
Since the ’60s, Piaget has been breathing life into its high-jewellery and watch creations with Palace Décor, a hand-engraving technique unique to the house. Over the decades, more than 100 textured, shimmery motifs have been created on its bracelets. Mostly nature- inspired, the designs have included fur, foliage, wood and leather grain. Adorned with a hypnotic arrangement of marquise-cut gems echoing a macaw’s feathers, the Radiant Plumage watch from Piaget’s Wings of Light collection is accompanied by a Palace Décor bracelet resembling a ribbon of iridescent raw silk. However, it’s the reverse side that reveals the technical virtuosity. Here, a multitude of miniature gold links have been tightly assembled before they’re painstakingly soldered one by one to create a remarkably supple bracelet.
The master engraver then works on the bracelet front, laboriously hand- carving the motifs on the surface until the joins between each link disappear. The quartz Piaget Radiant Plumage watch pictured here comes in a 27.9mm x 22.9mm white-gold case with nine yellow sapphires, five blue sapphires, three red spinels and seven Paraíba tourmalines weighing a total of 6.07 carats.
Watch enthusiasts consider Breitling’s Chronomat watches to be ’80s icons. Beyond the eye-catching case and rotating bezel with rider tabs, there was the unmistakeable bracelets with a rouleaux (roller) profile. Comprising a series of steel cylindrical links resembling slim bullets with rounded ends, the bracelet boasted extraordinary flexibility, and was sturdy and comfortable on the wrist. Following last year’s relaunch of the Chronomat, Breitling launched its first-ever Chronomat for Women collection this
year. Available in 32mm quartz and 36mm automatic variants, the watches feature a modernised rouleaux bracelet with slight updates.
Along with flat ends topped with polished bevels, brushed cylindrical links are now punctuated by polished rings on alternate links for a sleeker look. Adding a sophisticated touch is the concealed butterfly clasp. Here it’s attached to the Chronomat Automatic 36, with bi-colour steel bracelet and diamond-set red gold bezel, diamond hour markers and red gold crown. The watch is equipped with the ETA-based Breitling Calibre 10 with a 42-hour power reserve.
Van Cleef & Arples
In 1969, Zenith sought the expertise of watch-bracelet specialist Gay Frères to create an original and exclusive bracelet for its El Primero, the world’s first automatic high-frequency chronograph. The result was the Ladder bracelet, which showcased an unusual open design that boasted superior comfort and a dressier look compared with other sporty steel bracelets
of the time. The coveted bracelet made a grand return with the 2020 El Primero A384 Revival — and this year it completes the retro look and feel of
the Chronomaster Revival A385, which features the hallmark smoked-brown gradient dial with vignette effect. An almost identical reproduction of the original 1969 model, its only differences are the domed sapphire crystal and a display caseback that offers a full view of the El Primero 400 chronograph movement. The new variant is also offered in a light brown calf leather strap. This Chronomaster Revival A385 in a 37mm steel case is driven by the El Primero 400 Automatic movement with a 50-hour power reserve.
The deconstructed chain-link bracelet on the Maillon de Cartier gold watch is an architectural play on classic codes with a literal twist. Approaching the design as a jewel with a timepiece residing in it, Cartier’s artisans perfected the watch’s geometric aesthetic only after 35 prototypes were made. Flexible rectangular links are offset and aligned on the bias at a 32-degree angle to create a stunning visual impact, while the watch blends in seamlessly with a hexagonal case and dial. With a silvered sunray dial, black Roman numerals and blue sword hands, the watch is offered in five references, ranging from a yellow-gold model to a white-gold version bedecked with 486 diamonds. Shown here is the 16mm x 17mm Maillon de Cartier quartz watch in pink gold, with 400 brilliant-cut diamonds set in the case and bracelet.
This article first appeared on Prestige Online Hong Kong.