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Mother-of-pearl  - Mother-of-pearl for men

Mother-of-pearl Mother-of-pearl for men

Now that diamonds are no longer off limits for men (or at least not entirely taboo), can we look forward to seeing mother-of-pearl on masculine wrists? A number of men’s/unisex watches suggest we can. Gentlemen, are you ready?

Andy Warhol wasn’t the kind to allow convention to dictate his style. He wore a Piaget watch with a hardstone dial regardless of the implications society might attach to lapis lazuli or malachite. He wore it because he liked it.

Granted, not everyone has the artist’s razor-sharp aesthetic but even so: whereas the barriers between men’s and women’s watches are (finally!) coming down, the materials used to make them are still tinged with gender bias. While diamonds are just beginning to shake off old prejudices, mother-of-pearl still trails its reputation as being “for women”. There is certainly nothing in nature to suggest this so why, then, do we insist on stereotyping mother-of-pearl this way?

Recent beginnings

Thankfully some brands have made the leap beyond this narrow box. François-Paul Journe is one. In 2012 in Geneva, the watchmaker unveiled a Boutique collection featuring an hour chapter in mother-of-pearl with Arabic numerals around a Clous de Paris guilloché centre. These mother-of-pearl dials were offered on not one but three models — the Chronomètre Souverain, the Octa Automatique Lune and the Octa Automatique Réserve: proof that the brand was serious about its use of this material.

Mother-of-pearl for men

Edition Boutique Nacre © François-Paul Journe

Four years on, Vacheron Constantin revealed the surprising Métiers d’Art Elégance Sartoriale collection, designed with the well-dressed gentleman in mind. Guilloché dials reproduce the herringbones and checks of fine cloth while hours and minutes are shown on a subdial trimmed with white mother-of-pearl.

Mother-of-pearl for men

Métiers d’Art Elégance Sartoriale Collection © Vacheron Constantin

The following year, in 2017, Omega introduced grey mother-of-pearl to the dial of its De Ville.

Hommes, osez la nacre!

Omega De Ville © Olivier Müller/WorldTempus

 A 40mm diameter ensures a perfect fit for men as well as women. Special mention also goes to Parmigiani Fleurier whose Tonda 1950 is unusual for its rainbow gem-setting surrounding a grey mother-of-pearl dial.

Mother-of-pearl for men

Tonda 1950 © Parmigiani Fleurier

And among the very latest releases (presented earlier this month), Ulysse Nardin’s Skeleton X Sparkling distinguishes itself with a mother-of-pearl decoration on the barrel.

Mother-of-pearl for men

Skeleton X Sparkling © Ulysse Nardin

Getting complicated

Mineral dials are a speciality of Jaquet Droz, which has long worked with mother-of-pearl. This creativity is expressed in the Loving Butterfly Automaton. Set inside a 43mm case, the grey mother-of-pearl dial is the backdrop for an animated scene in which a cherub drives a chariot pulled by a butterfly.

Mother-of-pearl for men

Loving Butterfly Automaton © Jaquet Droz

Another brand, another complication, the Midnight Poetic Wish, brought to life by Van Cleef & Arpels as one of its Poetic Complications. Alongside the brand’s numerous renditions for women, this 43mm version in white gold is equally at home on a man’s wrist.

Mother-of-pearl for men

Midnight Poetic Wish © Van Cleef & Arpels

Among the independents, Greubel Forsey is perhaps not the first name that springs to mind for its use of mother-of-pearl. However, a rare version does exist of the Balancier Contemporain, shown here with the option of diamonds on the case. At 41.6mm in diameter, it sits comfortably on a masculine wrist. Not quite so “complicated” but always highly technical nonetheless, Richard Mille, having noted that its RM-037 enjoys a male and female following, obliged with a version that features a dial in mother-of-pearl.

Mother-of-pearl for men

RM-037 © Richard Mille

Entry-level

Mother-of-pearl watches for men are still a rare occurrence at brands whose collections are positioned at lower price points. Does this mean mother-of-pearl appeals first to a fringe of mature collectors before reaching a wider audience? Correlation and causality are different things but we have our suspicions…

Raymond Weil was one of the few to propose a men’s watch with a mother-of-pearl dial in the early 1990s, in its Parsifal collection.

Hommes, osez la nacre!

Collection Parsifal Raymond Weil © Olivier Müller/WorldTempus

A handful of brands continue along this road today. One of them is Tissot, whose Le Locle Powermatic 80 with black mother-of-pearl dial retails for under $600.

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