Chaumet A first floral collection
A new chapter blooms in Chaumet’s history with its first floral collection of haute joaillerie and watches.
Founded in 1780, the Maison Chaumet has had a long, celebrated history having navigated the years of the French Revolution to become jeweler to the emperor Napoleon before entering in 1999 the stables of the luxury group LVMH. Given that heritage, it is surprising that the brand managed to traverse the centuries that saw the apogee of flowers in jewelry design without ever producing a floral collection.
“There were flowers in Chaumet’s past collections but never a complete floral collection,” said Thierry Fritsch, the brand’s chief executive in an interview in Chaumet’s salons overlooking the Place Vendôme. “This is a turning point for us and a magical moment as we establish our new floral codes.
Last fall, Chaumet plucked the hydrangea, known as the “Hortensia” in French, as the new muse to which it dedicated its latest collection of haute joaillerie and watches inspired by the delicately luscious flower.
“The flower is an integral part of the imagination of the jeweler,” Mr. Fritsch said. “We chose the hortensia for its subtle complexity.”
Flowers have been an essential element of brand-building for number of jewelry and watchmaking brands. Chanel has it camellia, Dior its rose, and Cartier its orchid.
Chaumet’s challenge was to handpick a flower that was not identifiable with another brand yet afforded sufficient aesthetic texture to inspire an entire collection.
“It was the hortensia’s versatility that won us over in the end,” Mr. Fritsch said. Growing in billowy blossoms, the hydrangea comes in different shapes known as mop head, lace cap or conical, blooming mostly in white but also in shades of blue, red, pink or purple depending on the pH of its soil.
Its natural variety makes the hydrangea both a malleable and a challenging choice for Chaumet as a recognizable symbol. While it is too soon to tell if the “hortensia” will attain an iconic status at Chaumet, the seeds of its organic growth have been sown.
“Haute joaillerie, like haute couture, is a laboratory of style,” Mr. Fritsch said. “We have already created 24 pieces in the Hortensia Haute Joaillerie collection and will continue to explore this flower’s possibilities.”
Chaumet’s Hortensia watch collection includes seven timepieces with motifs that explore the diversity of the flower in stylized, open-worked and sculpted variations.
In the haute joaillerie watch collection, two limited edition automatic tourbillon watches celebrate the blue and white hydrangeas with a floral décor executed in sculpted and hand-engraved “grand feu” enamel.
The Hortensia Rivière watch, a one-of-a-kind piece, is set with a ruby bracelet while its 18 carat pink gold dial boasts sapphires, diamonds, rubies and rubellites.
The Secret watch, also a one-of-a-kind model, features a bouquet of pink hydrangeas to conceal a white mother-of-pearl dial, revealed only as the flowers, paved with brilliant-cut diamonds and set with pink sapphires, sculpted cabochon-cut opals and tourmalines are moved aside.
The force behind the Hortensia collection is Chaumet’s creative director, Claire Dévé-Rakoff, a long-time independent designer of costume jewelry whose pedigree includes top brands like Chanel, Harry Winston and Swarovski.
When Ms. Dévé-Rakoff joined Chaumet in 2012, she was new to designing watches.
“I was not told that I would be designing watches, so for research and inspiration, I searched the house archives and roamed through the Musée des Arts Décoratifs,” Ms. Dévé-Rakoff said.
“For me, the main challenge was to bring modernity to the traditional theme of the flower,” she said.
Feminine and delicate, the pieces in the watch collection derive their modernity from their architectural asymmetry, the overlay of stones and colors and the geometric rhythm of the pieces that flows from their subtle gradation of color.
Whether the “Hortensia” will become an iconic symbol of the Maison Chaumet, only time will tell.
“We were not looking for a new symbol for Chaumet,” Mr. Fritsch said. “Still, we wish our Hortensia line a long life.”