6 Festive Watches From 2020 Bound To Unfetter Your Wrist This Season
What one person may consider extremely fancy, flashy, and reserved for only the most special occasions another might think of as a daily wearer because they love the style, the comfort, or how it makes them feel.
That is the beauty of watches: they represent your personal style as much as they are a tool for displaying the time.
When I see certain watches, I feel that they are best worn at festive times of year or at festive occasions – like the unbelievable beauties I have had the pleasure of donning at various editions of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève: the Vacheron Constantin Heures Créatives Heure Audacieuse (2019), the Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock Black (2017), and the fully diamond-set Chopard Classic (2015).
Sometimes you just want to be festive without being “too much,” though, right? Well, I’ve got just the watches for your wearing pleasure this holiday season – all of which would look great and proportionate on every wrist regardless of gender. And all of which do not go overboard on the sparkle, yet do not fall short in radiant elegance.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin with black aventurine dial: a shiny black hole
I shouldn’t be so surprised: A. Lange & Söhne takes my breath away with every single release. But when I opened the photos of the Saxonia Thin with its new black aventurine dial, I was struck by such a strong longing that I actually laughed at myself. And who would have thought that it would be the dial of this Saxonia Thin, and not its movement, to do that to my poor heart?
The Saxonia Thin is already a striking dress watch, but adding an unusual and rare black aventurine dial has turned it into an absolute sleeper in terms of a superior dress watch.
What exactly is aventurine? Most people would be excused for thinking it was a mineral, and, confusingly, there is actually a mineral called aventurine, a form of quartz with microscopic mica crystals giving the translucent crystal the appearance of containing 1,000 stars.
But what is more widely known as aventurine as it is in use in the watch industry for dials is simply glass with the inclusion of metallic crystals. The initial creation of aventurine is believed to have been a happy accident in one of the glass-blowing workshops in Murano, Italy (see the full story in Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist).
The most common aventurine contains copper oxides (along with small amounts of other metal oxides) that chemically reduce the oxides into elemental copper, allowing metallic crystals to form. Cobalt or manganese are used to create more silvery crystals while making a glass that ranges from dark blue to purple. This might be the most familiar example for watches: dark blue aventurine looks incredible as a watch dial. But a less known color, and apparently only recently more widely available to glassmakers, is black aventurine.
The black variation is the starkest form of aventurine glass made, resembling a truly black star-studded night sky. To our knowledge, Christiaan van der Klaauw introduced the first black aventurine dial in 2018 on the incredible Planetarium model. The material has not been widely used since, making this A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin not only gorgeous and under-the-radar festive, but also rare.
Find out more about the Saxonia model family in Second-Row Stars: A. Lange & Söhne’s Saxonia Model Family.
Read everything you ever wanted to know about aventurine in Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist.
For more information, please visit www.alange-soehne.com/en/timepieces/saxonia-thin/saxonia-thin.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin black aventurine
Case: 40 x 6.2 mm, white gold
Movement: manual winding Caliber L093.1, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, power reserve 72 hours, hand-engraved balance cock, untreated German silver movement, assembled twice
Dial: solid silver covered by a thin layer of black aventurine
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 50 pieces, boutique edition
Price: €24,500 (in Germany)
Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée: historical brilliance
Black is not the only festive color for an elegant dial. Another supremely festive and elegant hue is blue, and with the Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée the dial even showcases a style rarely found in watches today – which is glamorous but low key at the same time.
The Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée makes use of extremely traditional techniques to fly in the face of modern design directives, which in my view makes it quite festive as well. Jaquet Droz has a history of preserving traditional techniques, whether mechanical wizardry or métiers d’art.
The paillonnée technique is an extremely difficult enamel process that produces incredible results. The technique is so difficult that very few brands take the time to create these dials, yet they represent what Jaquet Droz is about: skill, craft, and tradition.
The delicate decoration of the paillonnée technique is beautiful, of course, but its beauty belies its technical creation and the skill that goes into it. First, guilloché is applied, upon which comes a base layer of colored enamel. This layer is then fired to create a translucent base that will hold the exquisite paillons, delicate leaves of metal – gold in this case – cut from a very thin foil tin the form of a miniature historical fleur de vie geometrical design.
The foil used here is thicker than standard gold leaf (which is a mind-bogglingly thin 0.1 micron or 1/10,000 of a millimeter) and stamped with a specially shaped tool to create the tiny shapes and sometimes micro textures. The paillons are then very carefully placed one at a time with a brush onto the previously fired base enamel. The design must be very accurately arranged by hand before firing again to lock the pieces into the enamel.
This method is very slow and can take dozens of firings and layers to complete. But once done, the dial radiates with sparkles of gold and the glowing translucency of the colored enamel. The delicate designs locked into the enamel are gorgeous and mimic decorative patterns seen in woodworking, tapestries, pottery, printing, and countless other historical instances.
Yes, some of the sparkle comes from the 123 diamonds set on the bezel and lugs, but I think that the true majesty of this watch lies in the dial. The diamonds accentuate it but aren’t the focus. I didn’t even notice them at first.
See Personal Style: Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée for another variation on this watch.
For more information, please visit www.jaquet-droz.com/en/watches/ateliers-d-art/petite-heure-minute-paillonnee.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée
Case: 35 x 10.8 mm, red gold set with 232 diamonds (1.23 ct)
Dial: blue high-fire enamel with paillons, mother-of-pearl subdial
Movement: automatic Caliber 2653.P with silicon balance spring and pallet fork, twin spring barrels, 68-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 8 pieces
De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius: star studded
De Bethune’s DB25 Starry Varius likewise features a blue dial framed by diamonds, but the effect is not nearly the same, even if it remains just as festive and elegant.
Like with the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin described above, it is hard for me to express my full admiration for this piece without gushing over the ingenious movement at least a little bit. But aside from the elegant thinness of both movements contributing to the overall perception of the watches, it is the dials and the outward appearances that make these two timepieces so festive (and meriting inclusion here).
In 2018, the DB25 Starry Varius Chronomètre Tourbillon justifiably won the Chronometry prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. In 2020, De Bethune introduced a variation of this watch without the tourbillon and in a warm red gold case available with and without diamonds.
Though the Starry Varius is a little more modest in appearance than most of the extroverted De Bethune collection, it is the little details that matter here so much: the drop-dead gorgeous, blued titanium dial base is a great place to start. Representing the heavens, this hue is what I like to call “De Bethune blue.” And it makes my heart beat faster.
The stars decorating this disk of blue, just ready for your eyes to swim in, are pure poetry as they constitute a personalized constellation. Yes, you read that right: when you order the Starry Varius, you can specify the constellation you want these little gold stars to make by providing the date and location from which to see the sky – like a birthday and birthplace.
This miniature cosmos comprises white gold stars scattered in the deep, thermally blued titanium. A Milky Way pattern is additionally micro-milled onto it with laser and gilded with 24-karat gold leaf.
This work of art can be had encircled by the brilliance of 273 small brilliant-cut diamonds or ordered without the extra sparkle. Personally, I’d go for the added shine.
For more information, please visit www.debethune.ch/en/collections/db25-collections/db25-starry-varius.
Quick Facts De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius
Case: 42 x 8.8 mm, red gold set with 273 diamonds (1.33 ct)
Movement: manual winding Caliber DB2005 with twin spring barrels, six-day power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, silicon escapement, titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts, triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 20 pieces
Price: CHF 65,000 (without diamonds); CHF 80,000 (with diamonds)
MB&F LM FlyingT in lapis lazuli: inflections in blue
A dark blue dial with inflections can be just as elegant when it occurs naturally as this new variation on MB&F’s LM FlyingT showcases with its stunning lapis lazuli dial.
The sixth variation of 2019’s best Ladies Complication watch as crowned by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, it is not the least shiny of them, but it does manage to produce its shine with a minimum of added diamonds and the addition of the mysterious glow of lapis lazuli forming the dial.
The actual dial is like a picture frame, placed at a 50-degree tilt so that it can easily be seen without rotating the wrist. But the beauty of the FlyingT is that it takes the technical aspect of a highly complex mechanical watch and sculpts it into an aesthetic one. This is a very important aspect because some people aren’t so interested in the technical details of how the movement functions but do put a strong emphasis on the refinement of the overall result.
This amazing creation adds something new to the world of “ladies’ watches,” highlighting once again that MB&F is fully able to boldly go where no watch brand has gone before. And even be festive while doing it.
Find out more about the start of this model family with much more bejeweled variations and the watches’ technical prowess in MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT: A Sensational Ladies Watch Both Technically And Visually Scintillating.
For more information, please visit www.mbandf.com/en/machines/legacy-machines/lmflyingt.
Quick Facts MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT lapis lazuli
Case: 38.5 x 20 mm, white gold, set with 168 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 1.7 ct)
Dial: lapis lazuli
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
Price: CHF 125,000 / $138,000 / €118,000, all prices excluding sales tax
anOrdain Model 1 Fumé: accidental brilliance
And here we come to something that is only slightly glittery, but in the right way so that I can call it “festive” instead of “in your face.” And completely without the use of diamonds whatsoever. And – bonus – this watch is also very affordably priced.
Hailing from Scotland, young boutique brand anOrdain burst onto the scene with handmade enamel dials in 2018 with the Model 1. A happy coincidence has led anOrdain’s enamelers to discover a sparkly new variation of the homegrown enamel that is not only extra shiny, but also “fumé” in the graduated color scheme idea that H. Moser & Cie has made famous (but not with enamel).
AnOrdain is quite refreshing with its handcrafted element, young design, affordability, and from what I can tell – thanks to a long-term wearing test and then the purchase of a first-run Model 1 – reliability. I also find these watches imbued with an original personal touch even though a first glance might not yet have revealed that fact with the Model 1.
The anOrdain Model 1 Fumé changes that; the originality jumps off this watch. And the sheer beauty of its dial is mesmerizing, with the shimmering enamel just perfect for wearing during the festive season and every other day of the year.
Back when I did a full review of the anOrdain Model 1, company owner Lewis Heath told me, “This is the start, and we’ll grow more distinctive through the second and third products.” And, boy, has he kept his word!
For more information, please visit www.anordain.com/collections/model-1.
Quick Facts anOrdain Model 1 Fumé
Case: stainless steel, 39 x 12.3 mm
Dial: fired enamel in the brand’s own fumé style with pad-printed markings; available in four colors
Movement: automatic modified Caliber ETA 2824-2 with blackened rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: £1,750 plus applicable tax
Konstantin Chaykin Mouse King: twofold meaning
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t love shiny elements on your watch, not even just a little, but you do love a good sense of humor then this is the timepiece for you.
I specifically chose this watch to bring up the rear of this festive roundup because Konstantin Chaykin’s Mouse King reminded me so much of The Nutcracker’s Mouse King, a character in a ballet that I enjoy seeing around Christmas time whenever I possibly can (not to mention that the libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – there’s that degree in German literature finally coming to use!).
And while I am sure many people probably have the same association, Chaykin crafted this variation of his Wristmons series at least halfway in honor of 2020’s Chinese zodiac Year of the Rat, which we are currently in until February 2021 arrives, bringing the ox as the next Chinese zodiac animal with it.
Adding to the festive feel of the watch, you might want to know that Chaykin did decide to make this watch around Christmas time as the Russian watchmaker was reading a bedtime story to his daughter – you guessed it: Hoffmann’s dark tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The 2020 start of the Year of the Rat (January 25) also coincided with Chaykin’s daughter’s birthday. Surely the stars were aligning, and he decided to give it a whirl (or pirouette as the case may be).
Despite the fact that Hoffmann’s mouse king is a dark, scary creature, Chaykin’s more lighthearted rendition is of course playful and cute. And I say “of course” because it comes from the rather original Wristmon series that began with the much-lauded Joker, a watch whose superpower is to make people smile with its googly, yet functional, eyes.
The color and texture of the Mouse King’s grey titanium case resemble fur, while the dial is indeed very mousy: the mouth (moon phase display) has a charming little tooth, and whiskers are stamped into the dial above it. The eyes (time display) are cartoonishly cute as are the ears, which are actually the lugs.
One technical difference here in contrast to the other Wristmons is the placement of the crown, which Chaykin moved to 12 o’clock so that it could function as a real crown on the head of the Mouse King – and to that end it is crafted in 18-karat gold and topped off by a ruby. Another great detail is the strap, which is decorated to resemble ermine as a royal mantle from a fairytale would be (unfortunately not shown in these photos).
Very festive indeed!
For more information, please visit chaykin.ru/en/collection/joker.
Quick Facts Konstantin Chaykin Mouse King
Case: 42 x 13 mm, titanium, 36 parts; sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Dial: silver and ruthenium plating, two types of guilloche stamping; 9 parts
Movement: automatic Caliber K07-1 (Vaucher 3002); 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: regulator hours and minutes; moon phase display
Limitation: 7 pieces