Extraordinary Diamond Watches
by roberta naas
Perhaps no other timepiece stands out as brilliantly as a diamond watch. The first timepieces dressed in diamonds appeared in the 16th century as a reaction to John Calvin banning people in Geneva from wearing jewelry. To save their trade, many gem setters and goldsmiths combined their craft with that of clockmakers and began adorning these instruments with elaborate diamond and gemstone detailing, transforming timepieces into fine jewelry. As the clock evolved into the pocket watch and eventually into the wristwatch, designs became more extravagant.
As the decades passed and watchmakers experimented with their own styles, some brands created setting techniques that have become legendary in the watch world. Top among them is the invisible setting, wherein the gemstones are cut so that when they are set together they interlock, essentially forcing the stones together. No metal is visible to the eye, creating a trompe l’oeil of seamless diamonds. Other important diamond watch settings are pavé (a continuous surface of stones held in place with beads of metal) and channel setting (neat rows of diamonds between two tracks of metal). Setting of the stones is a meticulous and time-consuming job, and some of the world’s greatest masterpieces take thousands of hours to create. Recent techniques in setting stones include alternative metals such as steel and cutting stones using innovative new facet arrangements.
From Ralph Lauren, the brilliant Diamond Link Stirrup watch (price upon request) is meticulously crafted in 18k white gold and set with 1,553 diamonds weighing 24.7 carats. It houses a mechanical RL-430 caliber made by Piaget for Ralph Lauren. 888 Madison Ave., 212-434-8000
The elegant Tiffany & Co. Tonneau cocktail watch ($70,000) is crafted in 18k white gold and set with 430 round and baguette-cut diamonds, totaling just over 8.20 carats, on a pavé dial, case, and bracelet. It houses a Swiss-made quartz movement. 727 Fifth Ave., 212-755-8000
This Van Cleef & Arpels Snowflake high jewelry timepiece (price on request) is set with 209 diamonds weighing 22.9 carats and features a mother-of-pearl dial. It is set in platinum and houses a Swiss quartz movement. 744 Fifth Ave., 877-826-2533
This heritage and craftsmanship may not be front of mind as she fastens the clasp around her wrist, but the beauty of her diamond treasure will make every New York woman shine more brightly this season.
Photograph by Tamara Staples; Styling by Paula Kowalcyzk