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Baselworld 2015 My “best-of” selection of ladies’ models

Poetry, ornamentation, gracefulness and an androgynous touch: a number of ladies’ pieces caught my eye during this Baselworld.

Looking at ladies’ wrists and at brands’ display windows specifically aimed at them, one sometimes cannot help wondering whether there is still a truly feminine style. A large proportion of the contemporary watchmaking offer is in fact androgynous, mixed and indeterminate. While boundaries are completely blurred, femininity itself is a timeless concept that never goes out of fashion and repeatedly enters the style debate. The watch industry’s strength lies in daring to explore all kinds of shapes, symbols and colours.

Mr Shinde was one of the best-known designers at Harry Winston, creating a number of the jewellery sets that made the company famous in the 1940s. The brand pays tribute to him and his creations with its Premier Shinde Automatic 36 mm. An engraved gold sculpture picks up the design of legendary Harry Winston necklaces, laid on a bed of black enamel sprinkled with gold. The result is so delicate that it can only be truly appreciated close up.

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At the opposite end of the price scale, Longines once again demonstrates that elegance need not spell financial ruin. Despite lacking a nice name, the Symphonette has a great design. Its curved bathtub shape gives this piece a slightly retro air, although not necessarily so. One variation with a gem-set white mother-of-pearl dial plays the art deco card, while another, graced with a lacquered black dial, exudes a perfectly contemporary allure. A design can be deemed successful when one cannot tell its age.

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Speaking of which, Bulgari’s Serpenti continues to slither and coil its way through the ages. Mutadis mutandis, the snake moults and sheds its scales. In this instance, they come in red lacquer, as does its head that serves as a dial. The pink gold rings are engraved and covered with a translucent scarlet coating. The colour is perfectly suited to the Serpenti and conveys a sense of danger, seduction and power.

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It is this power hinted at by certain watches that attracts certain ladies to masculine designs. Bell & Ross have added a bit of lipstick and eyeshadow to one of their models. The BRS Grey Camouflage has the BR01 design adapted to a feminine wrist and above all features a mother-of-pearl dial bearing a camouflage motif in a wonderfully effective range of greys. One might well wonder why nobody had ever thought of this before.

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In their quest for unique materials, watchmakers sometimes explore the most amazing aspects of nature. Dior is thus proposing a series of unique “Envol” (Flight) pieces as part of its Grand Bal series. Flight because their dial is made of marquetry… with scarab beetle elytra. The shell that protects the forewings of these insects presents a wealth of colours, textures, glossy finishes and extraordinary iridescent effects. The slightest play of light transforms them. To accompany these ever-changing flickers, the bezel is set with a double spiral of baguette-cut diamonds, a motif emulated by the oscillating weight visible on the dial side.  A creation literally brimming with movement and graceful charm.

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These two characteristics are shared by the Lady 8 Flower from Jaquet Droz. The case of the Lady 8 models consists of one functional half with another on top of it that is generally enriched with a jewellery touch. The large dial is adorned with a butterfly set with precious stones and the top of the piece is a precious automaton. A press on the pushpiece makes an engraved gold lotus flower start to turn, opening its petals and revealing its briolette-cut diamond heart. Flowing movement, visual drama and exquisite grace: an apt definition of femininity.

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