Hidden time

For decades, secret watches have puzzled some, surprised many more and continuously teased the most curious minds. After all, what is more pleasurable for a woman than to keep a secret that no one else has access to?

A concept born in the 19th century and only explored occasionally since then, the ‘secret watch’ of the past stayed true to its name and completely disguised its horological intent. However, modern watch houses have taken a few liberties with the genre and adapted it to serve as a subset of high jewellery timepieces. After all, the original secret watches were able to use the larger ‘real estate’ of pocket watches or even small clocks and thus benefitted from a much broader palette. Today, instead of a watch masquerading as a walking stick handle, a crucifix, a small pistol or a miniature skull, the very nature of a wristwatch as something to wear has confined the designer to a smaller canvas.

Here, we share in the magic of rare and precious secret watches from some of the finest French watch and jewellery houses.

Boucheron Laïka the Husky Watch

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‘Breathtaking’ truly is the word that best describes the secret watch made as a cuff, where the Siberian husky is carved out of white gold studded with diamonds, sapphires and spinels and shown cuddling a piece of jade as if resting on a chunk of ice in the middle of Siberia. His blue eyes stare at the imaginary ice lake on which the time is reflected through rock crystal, carved out of a one solid block.

Creation featuring a husky in white gold paved with diamonds, sapphires and spinels resting on its jade pack ice. He maliciously watches the time fly through a rock crystal lake carved out of a block.

Creative Director Claire Choisne has proven once again the audacity of the brand in working with unusual materials, always using the most complicated techniques to create the finest aesthetics.

Cartier Résonance Necklace

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Thé Master in creating mystery clocks – and watches – Cartier knows how to suprise. Magic, secret, and mysterious, the Cartier Résonance is all that, comprising a white-gold pendant set with five lines of emerald beads mixed with diamonds. A mechanicalwatch is hidden in the V-shape of the necklace atop the carved crystal-clear emerald: if admirers can’t see it, it doesn’t matter – only its wearer can, and that’s the beauty of it.

Chaumet Hortensia Aube Rosée Brooch Watch

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In line with its flower blossom-inspired Hortensia collection, when it came to a secret watch, Chaumet was determined to go that extra mile: a paved brooch with 345 diamonds totalling 3.7cts set in rose gold, clips onto a classic Hortensia watch-case to subtly display the time behind a delicate floral composition. Four marquise-cut pink tourmalines form the petals of the top flower, contrasting with the lower diamond-paved flower, whose pistil is made of a pink sapphire surrounded by five carved pink opals.

A detachable dangling 5ct pink tourmaline, cut in a faceted pear-shape, matches the fuchsia pink satin strap of the watch. Once assembled, the mother-of-pearl dial with double bezel, combining 42 diamonds and a perlée line of gold with sparkling beads of the precious metal, completely disappears to display a statement piece albeit not everyone can pull off. But we say don’t be too proper, it’s boring – dare to wear what others won’t.

Christian Dior Versailles Côté Jardin Emerald South Parterre Watch

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Christian Dior’s private garden at his Granville home is where he spent most of his free time creating, thinking and drawing, surrounded by a multitude of flowers, plants and nature. Flowers were his thing and Victoire De Castellane has managed, over the past decade as Director of the Creative Studio, to make sure that most of the Dior Jewellery designs are faithful to the core values.

Last year, she introduced the Versailles High Jewellery collection, the very symbol of French art de vivre. This year, Versailles Côté Jardin marks Act II of her dazzling play. Focusing on the outside gardens, she cut stones in a way that reminds one of box trees, the serenity of lakes and the movement of the deep water. Studying the Parterre du Midi secret watch, you will notice a variety of flowers that even your florist would have a hard time naming and you’ll also note that each of them is set with a specific stone – 13 to be precise. All have been carefully set on three colours of gold.

Van Cleef & Arpels Secret Butterfly Watch

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Playful and poetic, the eye instinctively drawn to the 14.57-carat Colombian emerald set in the centre of the Secret Butterfly, as if the gem were the beating heart of the bejewelled insect. If pushed towards the top, the lower wing enables a subtle mother-of-pearl dial to divulge the time, powered by a mechanical movement with manual winding. It’s like penetrating the back doors of a secret garden where suddenly the dark hues of black spinels and deep green emeralds take life in a whirlwind of diamonds, enhanced by a discreet dial partially hidden by the insect’s lower wings. The piece is a standalone, bejewelled fairytale.

 

 

 

 

Drape perfectly: Boucheron Cape de Lumière

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With parents who were both drapers, Frédéric Boucheron spent his childhood with all kinds of fabric and materials around him. Thus, here in this chapter Haute Couture and High jewellery come together and fuse into one. Have a look at extraordinary Cape de Lumière, which looks like both a mantle and a jewellery piece.

When a cape is priced at HK$5.53 million, it’s worth a second (and maybe third or fourth) look. Boucheron’s Cape de Lumière – Cape of Light – from the new Boucheron Haute Joaillerie 26 Vendôme collection is a work of art, and worth its hefty price tag due to the fact that the piece is not stitched from fabric, but rather, is made of gold and diamonds.

The cape was one of the most challenging developments of the 26 Vendôme collection, likening the production process to haute couture fashion. The idea was to create a piece that would be a jewel and a garment. It’s a whole new challenge, a way of reinventing the work of the jeweller by creating the jewellery of tomorrow.

Claire Choisne, Boucheron Creative Director

The claim is hardly an exaggeration. The template for the cape involves 70 hours of work, while the time for crafting the many exquisite details ultimately totals 925 hours. The piece is so named for its shimmering effect when worn, produced by the peacock feather motif, which radiates across the design, and by the many different textures of gold used throughout – matte surfaces paired with twisted chains resembling the ribbed Gros Grain pattern – not to mention all the inset diamonds.

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The cape, that took more than 925 hours to create, consists of 850 round diamonds totalling 5.26cts, with an 81.62ct citrine stone holding the cape together at the centre. Now that would be the kind of weight we would like to have on our shoulders.

The idea behind this piece was to create something that would function as both a jewel and a garment. The maison’s artisan-jewellers work from the initial sketch, drawn based on the idea that the cape should mimic the soft train of a peacock, enveloping the shoulders of the wearer.

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The whole production process is carried out on a Stockman dummy, ensuring that the metal work will be supple enough to fit and drape perfectly on human shoulders. The craftsmen give the same attention to detail with this piece as they do with an haute couture clothing piece. The template alone requires 70 hours of work.

The elements of the cape are interconnected by a mesh woven of golden thread, in a modern interpretation of the classic peacock feather motif. The pattern is meticulously hand-threaded by the maison’s artisan-jewellers.

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The precise chiselling of the cape gives it a remarkable suppleness and fluidity, so that it moves and sits on the wearer’s skin like fabric. Upon closer inspection, the delicately twisted chains are inset with diamonds, for a subtle but luxurious shimmer as the cape moves in the light.

Boucheron’s Claire Choisne draws a comparison between the creation of this cape and haute couture clothing, and it’s easy to see why with the production process. Each peacock feather feature has to be adjusted according to the curve and shape of the wearer’s body. The interconnectedness of the features means that if one element is adjusted, the elements to its left and right have to be tweaked accordingly.

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Frédéric Boucheron’s favourite inspiration the peacock feather., the largest ‘feathers’ go in the front of the cape, and the artisans set diamonds on the two shapes in a pattern that mimics the effect of light reflection, emphasised by the lines engraved under the central citrine stone. This final touch is what gives the jewellery piece its name – the Cape of Light.

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