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Natural stones in watches - Heart of stone

Natural stones in watches Heart of stone

Dials made of natural stone remain a discreet but constant presence on the watch scene, refusing to bow to the dictates of fashion. 2018 has already produced some incredible interpretations, which nevertheless bear witness to a range of different manufacturing challenges.

Mineral dials are one of the stylistic hallmarks of modern watchmaking. They became popular in the second half of the 20th century, with two distinct currents: on the one hand, natural minerals, and on the other, extra-terrestrial rocks, mainly meteorites, which made their debut on watch dials a little later.

Piaget, a pioneer

The former category was for a long time a signature of Piaget, which since 1963 has offered a variety of mineral dials featuring more than thirty different stones. The Andy Warhol model is particularly well known. Not only did he bring the mineral dial to the attention of the wider world, he also proved that they were equally suited to men and women.
In 2018, Piaget has unveiled two new interpretations, this time on its flagship model, the Altiplano. The manufacture has gone further than simply cutting a single slice of stone; this model features stone marquetry by Master of Art (that’s an official title) Hervé Obligi.  The first model is in malachite, with the second in lapis lazuli.

Complètement stone !

Altiplano High Jewellery lapis lazuli marquetry tourbillon © Piaget

Montblanc’s exception

Montblanc very rarely uses stone, which made it particularly surprising at the SIHH 2018, to discover an exceptional piece, a limited-edition pocket watch to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Minerva, with a mineral dial. The Montblanc 1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition, with a blue dumortierite dial, can be worn in the waistcoat, on the wrist (although at 60 mm, it’s a stretch) or placed on a table to facilitate the use of its integrated compass.

Complètement stone !

Montblanc 1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition © Montblanc

One of the advantages of mineral dials is that they can be adapted to suit any watch or any style. The shape and the colour will suggest the direction. Paler, more pastel-hued stones are often preferred for women’s collections, although Van Cleef & Arpels bucked this trend in its latest Sweet Alhambra watches, which marry yellow gold with malachite, lapis lazuli and turquoise.

Complètement stone !

Sweet Alhambra, turquoise © Van Cleef & Arpels

A meteorite on the wrist

Mineral dials have long been something of a specialty of both Bulgari and Jaquet Droz. For the latter, the Petite Heure Minute is a favourite setting because of its very modestly sized counter, located at 12 o’clock, which leaves plenty of room to give the dial material full expression. We have already seen two examples in 2018, with dials made of cuprite and astorite, two highly unusual minerals.

Complètement stone !

Petite Heure - Minute Astorite © Jaquet Droz

Like Jaquet Droz, Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the rare maisons that chooses to carve watch dials out of meteorite. Because of their silvery grey inclusions and architectural geometry, meteorites are becoming increasingly attractive to watchmakers. However, in addition to their aesthetic differences, meteorites have different compositions (metal or chondrite) that offer specific challenges to the dial maker. The same applies to “terrestrial” minerals such as malachite. It is extremely fragile, and around 80 dials are produced for every 50 that find their way into a watch! In the end, the value of a mineral dial lies not in its beauty alone, but also in how difficult it is to work. And that’s what makes it an exercise in superlative skill and craftsmanship.

Complètement stone !

Master Calendar, stainless steel © Jaeger LeCoultre

Lecture 1 Comment(s)

13 March 2018
insya Tayabdjee
La d de Dior opale imaginee par victoire de castellane est aussi une tres belle illustration des cadrans pierres dures.

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