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SIHH 2019 - Splinters of light

SIHH 2019 Splinters of light

More is sometimes… more. Jewellery watches were everywhere at the SIHH. It was a festival of different shapes, gemstones and creative ideas.

They are not always easy to find. Often hidden away in special display cases, emerging only rarely for private viewings, high jewellery watches were nevertheless a major feature of the SIHH. They are rare, often unique, and always exceptional, and unfailingly breathtaking. 

Within this small community peopled by a handful of dedicated practitioners, precious stones are a tool of the imagination. Their weight and size counts for far less than the way they interact with light. The most brilliant examples owe as much to their power of evocation as to their refractive index. 

Parmigiani created the Boa entirely out of baguette-cut diamonds. The natural limitations of this cut led to the creation of a narrow timepiece made up of multiple sloping facets, each at a different angle. Light bounces off it in a deliciously random way.

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Parmigiani Boa © David Chokron/WorldTempus

Some are extrapolations of current models, with the gem-setting taken up a notch or two. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Night & Day Jewellery comes with bigger diamonds, but the key point is that they are attached with a prong setting rather than a bar setting. This makes the stones more visible, lighter and more impressive.

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Rendez-Vous Night & Day Jewellery © Jaeger-Lecoultre

The latest generation Limelight Gala also features some technical alterations. Piaget has transformed this classic of asymmetrical design by making the lugs, set with a cascade of diamonds, more elongated and more dramatic. The new, looser setting style opens up a new dimension.

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Piaget Limelight Gala © David Chokron/WorldTempus

Sheer volume obviously has its own effect. Totally paving a surface with precious stones, transforming it into an infinitely faceted mirror, is a classic technique. But it looks far less classic in the hands of HYT, which used it for the H0 Time is Precious. 1206 diamonds on the dial and steep sides of such a mammoth case is quite an uncommon sight.

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H0 Time is Precious © HYT

Perhaps even more uncommon is the botanical and mineral vision presented by the Archipel, a high jewellery watch in the shape of an orchid, by Cartier. The Lady’s Slipper is paved with diamonds, with garnet accents and an immense opal centrepiece. The focus stone glows with its characteristic iridescence, its curving multi-coloured microscopic inclusions adding to the naturalistic impression.

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Cartier Archipel © David Chokron/WorldTempus

When this logic is pushed beyond the limits, the object in question defies all categorisation. The Sapphire Orb by Audemars Piguet is a horological UFO. Six concave ovoid shells made of gold are nestled together. They are paved completely in sapphires, a different colour for each shell. This object of pure jewellery folly made up of 12,103 precious stones took over one thousand hours – or almost seven months – for the gem-setting alone. But that figure doesn’t do justice to the jaw-dropping reality, when seen in the flesh.

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Sapphire Orbe © Audemars Piguet


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