Diamond-set watches Gentlemen: it’s your time to shine!
When we talk about “brilliant” men, we don’t always think to look at their wrists. And yet, that’s often where the most brilliance is to be found!
In the early 2000s, except for in a few isolated markets, diamond-set watches for men were neither fashionable nor generally available. Twenty years on, watchmakers have (finally) come around to the idea that a diamond, well considered, well cut and well positioned, can be a welcome addition to a masculine timepiece. There’s a fine line between discreet and ostentatious, elegant and flashy, brilliant and blinding... and watchmakers have finally found it.
Who dares wins
As in many domains, two kinds of watch brands can dictate the direction of a trend: the venerable establishment figures that set the tone, and the high-volume brands whose marketing clout can shape the behaviour of entire continents.
In the first category we have Patek Philippe, Omega, Audemars Piguet and Rolex, among others. The few maisons that have dared to venture into diamonds for men are now more numerous. In fact, today it’s rare to find watchmakers that don’t offer some variation on the theme. The location of the diamonds is often the same: the bezel or the crown. This is in line with historical precedent, and it’s what we find on the Patek Philippe 5271P or the white gold Cellini Time by Rolex.
Ref. 5271P © Patek Philippe
Free the diamond!
In parallel with these historic manufactures, high-volume actors have also entered the fray. Whether in high-end collections or more affordable ranges, diamonds for men are no longer taboo. In the first category, Hublot paved the way with a model worn by footballer Kylian Mbappé. That was 15 years ago. Richard Mille used them ten years later, in 2015, with the audacious Diamond Twister, whose tourbillon appears to shoot diamond rays across the openworked dial. Finally, still in the premium range, there’s the stunning Excalibur Ultimate Carbon by Roger Dubuis. The watch is completely made of carbon, including the bracelet, and set all over – including on the movement – with baguette-cut diamonds. It’s ultra-technical, creative and definitely out-of-the-ordinary.
Excalibur Ultimate Carbon © Roger Dubuis
Among the brands that are better known to the general public, Longines has one of the richest ranges, with a Record model, an Elegant and a third from the Master Collection. They all share the same principle, using diamonds placed discreetly around the dial as hour markers. We should also mention the 41 mm Link by TAG Heuer – a rare example of a diamond-set sports watch, and a smart choice for the turquoise waters of the Caribbean!
Pavé for men – a riskier proposition
As far as diamond setting goes, very few watchmakers will push their luck with fully paved options. Yes, there is the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5719, which is literally smothered in diamonds, but it remains the exception. As far as independents are concerned, HYT dipped its toe in the water with the H0 “Black Fluid”, which sets the brilliance of diamonds against the black fluid that indicates the time. It’s an unusual approach that has the merit of providing perfect legibility. H. Moser & Cie presents several pieces that rise to the challenge of full gem-setting: the Venturer Tourbillon, Venturer Smoky Sapphire and the “On the rocks” Swiss Alp Watch, among others.
Swiss Alp Watch © H. Moser & Cie
The more disruptive Bell & Ross recently unveiled a gem-set version of its famous Skull in a square case, the Laughing Skull, which features either a diamond-set bezel or a “full pavée” case. While the former is (relatively) discreet, the latter goes all in, with a jawbone that rises and falls depending on the power left in the barrel.
The independents have no need to pander to the desires of the masses. They enjoy greater creative freedom, but that doesn’t mean that anything goes. Ferdinand Berthoud, with its focus on moderation in all things, chooses to set half the caseband with baguette-cut diamonds in the Œuvre d’Or, a five-piece limited series with a subtle, discreet charm.
© Ferdinand Berthoud
Geneva watchmaker Czapek also has a bejewelled version of the Place Vendôme, named “Etincelles”. Here, baguette-cut diamonds are inserted into the bezel and lugs. For its part, De Bethune preferred the round size for a piece that has just been unveiled, the DB25 StarryVarius, a beautiful lunar poetry for men (and women) in 42 mm.
DB25 StarryVarius © de Bethune
Finally, the Logical One by Romain Gauthier “Unique Piece” which, as its name suggests, is a one-off, is set with baguette diamonds. Unusually, the diamonds are set into the top of the lugs, which beautifully enhances the sensual curves of the case.
Is there an alternative to diamonds?
The answer is yes! Sapphire is the most popular alternative. Sapphires can be found, for example, on the bezel of the Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra Thin by Audemars Piguet. Kerbedanz, which specialises in bespoke offerings, has an interesting alternative in the shape of the Maximus Royal, whose case is fully paved with black diamonds. Grand Seiko has chosen not to choose. The SBGD205, an exceptional 10-piece limited series produced for the manufacture’s 60th anniversary, combines diamonds and sapphires in a platinum case, with an 8-day manufacture movement. And to end on a greener note, the Endeavour by H. Moser & Cie is one of the very rare men’s watches set with tanzanite.
Maximus Royal © Kerbedanz
Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent family-owned watch businesses and has been based in Le Brassus, in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux region, at the heart of the fine watchmaking industry,...Find out more >
For Bell & Ross, each detail has a specific meaning and function: functionality is key, and minimalism – dispensing with superfluous ornamental details in favour of essential aspects – is vital.Find out more >
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De Bethune embraces the wealth of the watchmaking knowhow of the past in order to design the watches of the future. This combination results in timepieces with all the attributes and technical...Find out more >
Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud offers a contemporary take on the work of a master watchmaker. Its exclusive timepieces, developed by today’s master watchmakers, are a tribute to the excellence...Find out more >
From the very beginning, Grand Seiko has been pursuing the essential characteristics of a watch: precision, beauty, legibility. Its design reflects the unique Japanese sense of beauty. The brand...Find out more >
H. Moser & Cie. was created by Heinrich Moser in 1828. Based in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, it currently employs around 60 people, has developed 14 in-house calibres to date, and produces more than...Find out more >
From the outset, Hublot has embodied design and innovation that differ markedly from the established watchmaking order. With the impetus provided by Jean-Claude Biver, by 2004 these values had...Find out more >
The pioneers of “fluidic time” have become specialists in something that had long been thought impossible: combining mechanics and fluids in a wristwatch.Find out more >
Kerbedanz offers the discerning customer highly exclusive timepieces as unique pieces or strictly limited editions packed with symbolism.Find out more >
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Patek Philippe enjoys outstanding renown and rare prestige, due to the constancy with which the Manufacture has applied its philosophy of excellence ever since it was founded.Find out more >
Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme...Find out more >
The Roger Dubuis Manufacture was founded on the desire for independence and watchmaking excellence. With remarkable dynamism, Roger Dubuis quickly ignited the world of Haute Horlogerie and has...Find out more >
Over 150 years of watchmaking savoir-faire and technical innovation have made TAG Heuer a global reference in avant-garde sports watches. As it tracked the rise of sports demanding increasingly...Find out more >