My 5 Favorite Diamond-Set Watches Of 2019 – And Why You Should Care
by Martin Green
It’s a strange feeling to be writing a story that you know will not be among the your most popular. Considering the topic – “diamond-set watches” – I’d be happy if even a few of you get to the end.
Among watch connoisseurs, diamond-set watches still have a stigma of being the exclusive territory of women, rappers, and people with dubious sources of income. But in all honesty, the satisfaction lies not in writing it to win the popular vote but rather in telling the story of what makes these watches exceptional.
One of the things that fascinates me about-diamond set watches is the craftsmanship needed to create them. This is a process that cannot be automated and a skill that requires a lot of time to develop.
Over this past year, I have been fortunate enough to have visited the workshops of both Harry Winston and Grand Seiko/Credor, including the studios in which the artisans add gemstones to those brands’ diamond-set watches.
While they are a world apart, geographically as well as culturally, the craftspeople are almost the same, working with pride and dedication, committing themselves to the cruelest masters of all when it comes to achieving the highest quality: themselves.
It is that extra touch of craftsmanship that makes diamond-set watches always something special for me, combined with the extra dimension that diamonds can bring to the design of a watch.
It is also somewhat of a slippery slope because diamonds do not necessarily make a design better. They can do a lot of harm, both to the overall look of a watch and the reputation of the diamond-watch genre as a whole.
In quite a few cases they seem to be only added to inflate the retail price, but in others they add that magical extra touch. In 2019 we saw quite a few watches that belong to the latter category.
So without further ado, here are my five favorites introduced this year and the reasons why I like them.
Greubel Forsey Balancier Contemporain
Does a Greubel Forsey need diamonds? For sure not. But they do add something. Why?
Because Greubel Forsey applied the same dedication to perfection to the diamonds and the setting of them that it usually reserves for its movement and cases. The brand’s designers did not opt for the scintillating fireworks that brilliant-cut diamonds can provide, but rather went for the more understated shine of the baguette cut.
The type of cut also played a vital role in allowing the diamonds to underscore the Greubel Forsey philosophy. For one, the baguette cut allows for a setting that is both seamless and invisible.
Apart from a small rim of white gold making up the flange, the bezel, case, lugs, and even the crown are all diamond set.
The clarity of a diamond is much more visible in larger stones – though there is literally nothing to see in the diamonds on the Balancier Contemporain as Greubel Forsey went for the Internally Flawless (IF) grade (see Detailed Primer On Gemstones And Their Appreciation: An Introduction To The Finer Things for more on the diamond grading system).
This is a very high and rare classification, especially since Greubel Forsey also opted for the D to E color range, which means that the stones are colorless.
Captured in a stunning setting, these diamonds are as perfect as the movement, beautifully representing the only way that Greubel Forsey could have done a watch set with these precious sparklers!
For more information, please visit www.greubelforsey.com/en/collection/balancier-contemporain.
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Balancier Contemporain
Case: 41.6 x 12.21 mm, diamond-set white gold
Movement: hand-winding Balancier Contemporain caliber with variable inertia balance beating at 3 Hz/21,600 vph, 72-hour power reserve, twin spring barrels, frosted titanium base plate with frosted German silver bridges
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds; power reserve indicator
Limitation: 33 pieces
Price: on request
MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
The Legacy Machine FlyingT by MB&F is a watch that so beautifully highlights the different kinds of magic produced by brilliant-cut and baguette-cut diamonds.
The FlyingT with pavé brilliant-cut diamond setting on the case and dial puts an emphasis on the glitter and glamour that diamonds are often associated with. On the dial space, the setting radiates outward as MB&F placed the largest diamonds around the tourbillon opening at the center, setting smaller stones as they get closer to the outside edge. The effect is like a glittering sunray.
The scintillation is insane, making it far more of an instant eyecatcher than the version featuring baguette-cut diamonds.
That one entices differently, mostly with its seamless setting and understated wow factor. Compared to the pavé setting, the one with the baguette-cut diamonds looks more contemporary.
The diamond cut allows the precious stones to be less at odds with the movement itself, providing a moment for the beholder to let sink in that this is the most precious, most exclusive, and most expensive version of the Legacy Machine FlyingT on the wrist.
For more information, please visit www.mbandf.com/en/machines/legacy-machines/lmflyingt.
Quick Facts MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Case: 38.5 x 20 mm, white gold, set with brilliant-cut or baguette-cut diamonds
Movement: automatic caliber with three-dimensional vertical architecture, central flying 60-second tourbillon, four-day power reserve, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: CHF 135,000 (pavé diamonds); CHF 298,000 (baguette-cut diamonds), all prices excluding sales tax
Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski Titanium Alternative Pavé
I always seem to surprise people when I say that I am a big fan of Hublot. While this brand may not be the most obvious choice for the resident gentleman of Quill & Pad, I am a big fan of the brand’s designs, which I consider some of the best in the industry.
One of my favorite lines within the collection is the collaboration with French artist Richard Orlinski. His angular approach to objects works wonders when applied to a Hublot wristwatch.
The 2019 additions to this line included a titanium model with asymmetrical case. While the setting is rather traditional with brilliant-cut colorless diamonds, the asymmetrical shape beautifully highlights the different angles of the case.
The dial is also faceted, and here the diamond-set bezel that frames it amplifies its dark color, which seems to have different hues based on how the light falls onto it.
I also have a strong preference for the titanium version over the one in King Gold. The reason for this is that you can polish titanium to a very high gloss, which reflects a lot of light without interfering with its color.
This makes the diamonds stand out, yet at the same time blend into this exceptional creation.
For more information, please visit www.hublot.com/en/news/classic-fusion-orlinski.
Quick Facts Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski Titanium Alternative Pavé
Case: 40 x 11.1 mm, titanium set with 166 brilliant-cut colorless diamonds
Movement: automatic Caliber HUB1100 (based on Sellita SW 300), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, power reserve 42 hours
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 200 pieces
Price: €18,600 / 17,900 Swiss francs
Harry Winston Premier Hypnotic Opal Mosaic Automatic
When it comes to diamonds, Harry Winston is one of the gold standards and most well-known names. The brand was sold to the Swatch Group in 2013 by the heirs of this famous New York-based jeweler; Nayla Hayek is now its president. What I love about her is that she is very visibly passionate about the brand, not only in her expressions, but she also gets a certain twinkle in her eyes when she talks about it.
Harry Winston is to me one of the standards in the world of watches when it comes to diamond settings, a position personally confirmed to me once again with many amazing new introductions seen at 2019’s Time To Move, among them the Premier Hypnotic Opal Mosaic Automatic.
The case is already stunning with its Vendôme-style lugs and perfectly set baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel.
But it is the dial that makes it out of this world. To create this stunning mosaic, Harry Winston combined little pieces of opal with 72 baguette-cut diamonds, the same number of baguette-cut blue sapphires, and 24 princess-cut diamonds.
The Opal Mosaic Automatic demonstrates unequivocally that it is not about carat weight, but all about craftsmanship because only that can provide a truly “hypnotic” result.
For more please visit www.harrywinston.com/en/premier-hypnotic-opal-mosaic-automatic-36mm.
Quick Facts Harry Winston Premier Hypnotic Opal Mosaic Automatic
Case: 36.4 x 10.5 mm, white gold, case and dial set with 233 baguette-cut diamonds (approx. 9.38 cts), 72 baguette-cut blue sapphires (approx. 0.87 ct), 24 princess-cut diamonds (approx. 0.32 ct), 4 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 0.19 ct), and 1 brilliant-cut blue sapphire (approx. 0.05 ct)
Movement: automatic Caliber HW2008, flat silicon balance spring, 72-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; movement operating indicator
Limitation: 8 pieces
Price: on request
Bovet Récital 23
My esteemed colleague Joshua Munchow already shared his excitement for the Récital 23 in a previous article, and I can only concur.
Bovet is a brand that makes a lot of beautiful watches, but some of those even manage to stand out among the company’s high-quality offerings. This is one of those watches, and one where it is obvious that less is more.
“Less is more” might sound ridiculous in regard to a diamond-set watch, but when applied it is an art form not to overdo it. Bovet shows that it masters this by opting for a rather thin bezel set with small brilliant-cut diamonds.
Baguette-cut diamonds might have been more understated, but they would have made the bezel look too massive in relation to the rest of the dial side of this watch.
Bovet only used diamonds as hour markers on the aventurine dial. This provides an extra touch of sparkle that makes the aventurine appear an even deeper shade of blue.
The sloped writers’ desk shape of the case also allows Bovet to play with diamonds: Bovet’s designers opted for an asymmetrical pavé setting that puts even more emphasis on the unique case shape.
There could easily have been more diamonds on the case, and/or the brand could even have set the lugs with them, but Bovet knew it had already reached the perfect way to adorn the Récital 23 with these precious gemstones.
That is also one of the key elements of a great diamond-set watch: not adding as many stones as possible but knowing when to stop adding them.
Further reading: Bovet Récital 23: It’s All Coming Together
For more information, please visit www.bovet.com/timepiece/dimier-recital-23.
Quick Facts Bovet Récital 23
Case: 43 x 28.7 x 14.4 mm, white gold or red gold with diamond setting
Movement: automatic Caliber 11DA17-MP, 62-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase
Price: beginning at 45,000 Swiss francs