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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Luxury Ladies’ Watches with Beauty, Brains and Brawn

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Florilège

The masculine world of watchmaking is showing a newfound respect for women by producing luxury timepieces that are beautiful and built with quality in-house movements and, in some cases, multiple complications. This was evident at the recent Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the exclusive annual tradeshow for luxury watches held in Geneva.

The majority of the 16 brands exhibiting were proudly displaying their feminine side and it’s about time. In my own humble way, I lobbied a few watchmakers to build lady timepieces that are comparable to men’s, though my reasons were selfish. I wanted my wife to stop wearing my watches and damaging the leather straps by tightening them around her much smaller wrist.

Some of the watches below certainly depict feminine themes but there are a few that have a masculine edge to their design. All are powered with mechanical or automated movements. In most cases these movements are superb; comparable to haute horlogerie produced for men. These are not jewelry watches with quartz movements. This group of new timepieces shows that the brands are on the right track when it comes to developing product for modern, active women. At least now, women have more choices.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Florilège
The venerable Swiss luxury watch brand has gone all out to attract women this year. It created three new collections of haute horlogerie for women culminating with the elaborately decorated timepieces that make up the Métiers d’Art Florilège (top picture). This three-watch collection pays tribute to the delicacy of 19th Century English botanical illustrations, in particular, Robert John Thornton’s landmark illustrated guide, The Temple of Flora, published in 1799. The botanical renderings on the watch dials combine the artistic crafts of enameling, guillochage and gem-setting (the video above depicts the process). The timepieces are powered by a Vacheron Constantin manual-winding caliber 4400 movement. The three watches in the collection are the Queen, White Lily and China Limodoron. The Métiers d’Art Florilège is available in a limited series of 20 collector’s watches with the bezel set with round-cut diamonds and 5 more with the bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds for the Vacheron Constantin Boutiques.

Montblanc Collection Princesse Grace de Monaco Pétales de Roses
The Hamburg-based luxury brand introduced a number of new models of the Montblanc Princess Grace of Monaco Collection—ranging from one that can transcend from casual to formal to two haute joaillerie pieces. They compliment the jewelry line under the same name by designer Susie Otero. All of the watches are 34mm and all contain the self-winding movement MB 4810/409. One of the high jewelry pieces is the “Pétales de Roses” (rose petals). Invisible joints connect individual petal contours to create floral loops that form a linked bracelet. The entire ensemble is made from 18k white gold set with 533 brilliant-cut diamonds. The white mother-of-pearl dial is adorned with rose petals made of 79 brilliant-cut diamonds. The face is surrounded by 130 brilliant-cut diamonds while the bezel that bears 44 baguette diamonds.

Second Authentic Jewelry Watches from Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858
Montblanc’s haute horlogerie manufacturing brand, Villeret 1858, also produced a line of high-performance ladies’ watches using the same hand-crafted Swiss techniques that it employs for its men’s counterparts. The company has long been known for its hand-crafted movements and it didn’t spare any of the skill and technique to produce it mechanical hand-winding calibre MB2.00 for this ladies timepiece. The 36mm watch has a mother-of-pearl dial with black Roman numerals. The seconds are shown on a subdial at 6 o’clock. The concave polished bezel is adorned with 144 brilliant-cut diamonds with a total weight of 0.93 carats. Production will be limited to 58 pieces.

Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerine Enchantée
The famed Parisian jewelry brand also went after women’s market in a big way with three collections of watches combining artistic techniques with in-house movements. The Ballerine Enchantée added a nothing “poetic” step by adding a double retrograde movement with time on demand. The dial depicts a golden ballerina, sculpted in relief and set with diamonds, emphasizing her waist and face. At the push of a button on the bezel, the outer veils of her tutu come to life, taking the appearance of butterfly wings. The first veil that rises indicates the hours and second veil the minutes. They remain in place allowing enough time to read the time and then return simultaneously to their initial positions (the video below demonstrates how it works). Several shades of blue on the dial in the background are created with layers of enamel in guilloche patterns. The bezel of the 40.5 mm white gold case is set with diamonds.

Audemars Piguet Ladycat Royal Oak Offshore chronograph
It’s the 20th anniversary for the Royal Oak Offshore and with it the Swiss luxury watch brand introduced new ladies’ pieces including this 37mm chronograph. The stainless steel case of this limited-edition timepiece reveals the Royal Oak Offshore logo on the back. The bezel is set with diamonds. The black dial with its “Mega Tapestry” pattern includes pink gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating. The self-winding caliber 2385 movement is an integrated chronograph movement that provides separate hour, minute and second functions, displayed on the dial at 9 o’clock, 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock, respectively. The date display appears at 5 o’clock.

Baume & Mercier Linea
The 27 mm case of the new Linea automatic is engraved in steel or in steel trimmed with gold. Its mother-of-pearl dial has a date window at the six o’clock position and can be set with 11 diamond hour markers. The Linea’s automatic movement displays hours, minutes and seconds. One of the signature details of this iconic collection is interchangeable bracelets that include leather and satin in several colors. 

Cartier Crash
Housed in its iconic asymmetrical case and dial, Crash appears in a limited edition of four new models adorned for the first time with a bracelet composed of drops in white or pink gold, or gem-set. In reference to the year of its creation (1967), this year’s pieces are produced in 267 numbered pieces for the models with gold bracelets and 67 numbered pieces for the models with gem-set bracelets.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur 36 Jewelry
This is another high jewelry piece with a superb movement, in this case the mechanical calibre RD821. This piece from has a bracelet adorned with 708 brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling 4.25 carats, which form two symmetrical rows on either side of the polished center. The bezel is set with 48 diamonds totaling 0.99 carats. The pink gold extends onto the Roman numerals of the dial and on the circle around the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock.

Parmigiani Pershing Chronograph 002 CBF
This 42mm chronograph contains the PF334automatic winding movement. The tinted mother-of-pearl dial contains a small seconds subdial at 3 o’clock a 12-hour subdial with date window at 6 o’clock and a 30-minute subdial at 9 o’clock. The polished rose-gold bezel is set with set with 56 brilliant cut diamonds.

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