Diamonds At SIHH 2018: Less Now Seems To Be More
by Martin Green
Wandering the halls of the Palexpo, where the SIHH takes place, I noticed plenty of trends. And while many of them have already been shared here and there, I noticed one trend that I feel hasn’t been mentioned yet: how few diamond-set watches there were!
I saw noticeably fewer watches set with precious stones at the 2018 SIHH, and those that I did see never really got much of a spotlight. Even many of the ladies’ watches were unadorned, which is unusual today.
We can only speculate as to the truth behind this, but as many of the brands have reconnected with their own roots for 2018 it makes sense, as few brands have diamonds in their genes.
A. Lange & Söhne, for example, could have set the bezel of the new Saxonia Thin with stunning aventurine dial with diamonds, but fortunately decided that without them this watch might appeal to both men and women (and rightly so!).
But gemstones are part of some brands’ genetic makeups, and that goes doubly so for Cartier.
Lessons in setting: Cartier
“La Maison,” as Cartier is known, actually gave a master class at the SIHH for those who paid attention. While most talked about the new Santos, put the Tank Cintrée on the top of their wish lists, or looked in awe at the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon Skeleton, it probably escaped them that the diamond-set watches showed subtle refinement.
This starts quite basically with a new version of the Louis Cartier Tank, now on a beautiful gold bracelet and available with the brancards set with diamonds. This looks quite simple, yet by practicing restraint and only setting the vertical brancards with diamonds and not the horizontal parts of the case, the result is all the more powerful and classy.
Cartier proved that gemstones are sometimes at their best playing second fiddle with the awe-inspiring Révélation d’une Panthère, where tiny gold balls moving freely take center stage: 900 of them are suspended in a special liquid, and when the watch is held horizontally they form the head of Cartier’s pet panther.
Here diamonds on the bezel and in the crown simply set the stage for this spectacle, adding to the precious appearance and overall atmosphere much in the same way a thick, red curtain was used in old theaters.
The Panthère is also the theme of a more elaborate diamond-set watch, the Rencontre de Panthères. Here two of the majestic creatures fight for the same ring on the dial, in fact forming the automatic watch’s oscillating weight – which is what makes this design so brilliant.
The constant motion caused by moving the wrist provides changing angles with the light, allowing the diamonds with which they are set to showcase their brilliance to perfection.
Another brand that has diamonds in its “DNA” is Piaget. And the brand has actually taken them back to “entry level” with the introduction of a new generation of the Possession. This dynamically shaped watch is based on the same principle as the jewelry collection with which it shares a name: the bezel can freely turn around the dial, either as a playful element to pass the time, to mark a specific hour, or to indicate the passed minutes.
Various types of diamond settings, from extremely modest to very elaborate, give this collection a lot of depth. And it can serve as an entry point for women into the world of Piaget, while at the same time satisfying a more established clientele.
Elaborate is also the new Planétarium, which Van Cleef & Arpels developed together with Dutch watch brand Christiaan van der Klaauw, who is specialized in astronomical complications.
While the van der Klaauw complication on the aventurine dial highlights the solar system, the gem setting on the case (and optional bracelet) is quite elaborate: it follows the curves of the case in close detail, allowing the universe to play the starring role.
Carbon on carbon: Richard Mille does it again
Diamonds and Richard Mille always sound a bit like a contradiction, as his watches are known for their innovative materials and technical looks rather than their gemstones. Yet don’t forget that Mille was CEO of French jewelry house Mauboussin before starting his own company.
But he also takes a technical approach to diamond setting as evidenced by the two Richard Mille RM 07-01s that were introduced at SIHH, neither of which had a metal case. Instead, Mille opted to have the diamonds set into TZP ceramic or TPT carbon. For the setting in TZP ceramic, the technique is extremely complicated as the brilliant-cut diamonds are secured by a frame of gold prongs, which are then set in precision-drilled cavities inside the material. And with that Mille even succeeds in making diamond setting high-tech!
In most cases, all the watches I’ve mentioned so are are quite subtle – for diamond-set watches, that is.
So, you ask, was there nothing over-the-top elaborate? Unapologetically set with as many diamonds as they could possibly find space for?
Such watches were very rare at this edition of the SIHH, but fortunately we could count on Girard-Perregaux to delight us with some exquisite high-jewelry versions of the Cat’s Eye. Yet also here, it was not a grotesque display of wealth, but rather intricate settings with diamonds of different sizes that really played to the oval shape of this special watch and set off the beautiful aventurine dial.
In general, I think that brands are starting to understand how to better use diamonds to advantage and how overkill, either in size or the number of individual diamonds set on a watch, can harm this niche within the market.
While there were fewer diamond-set watches on display at SIHH 2018, the quality of them was very high. And so it goes to prove that less really is more.
Quick Facts Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère
Case: 37 x 6 mm, pink gold set with 88 brilliant-cut diamonds (2.15 ct)
Dial: red, green or black with 900 gold beads that form a panther head when held horizontally
Movement: manual-wind Caliber 430
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 100 pieces each with red or green dial; unlimited number of black dial
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 07-01 in gem-set black ceramic
Case: 45.66 x 31.4 x 11.85 mm, black TZP ceramic set with 0.25-millimeter full-cut brilliant diamonds and red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber CRMA2 with base plate and bridges in titanium, red gold variable geometry rotor for optimized winding, free-sprung balance with variable inertia
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: no price announced yet
Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium
Case: white gold set with diamonds, 38 mm
Dial: aventurine, pink gold sun, gold shooting star, pink mother-of-pearl Mercury, green enamel Venus, turquoise Earth, diamond-encrusted moon
Movement: unspecified automatic movement with planetarium module by van der Klauuw, 40-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; Mercury, Venus, Earth rotating around the sun at actual speeds, moon orbiting Earth in 29.5 days, calendar (on back)
Price: $245,000 on blue glitter alligator skin strap, $330,000 on diamond-set white gold bracelet