Complications aside, watchmakers need to showcase their ingenuity if they want to carry on dazzling buyers and consumers with a timepiece’s design. From volcano ash and velvet to straw and eggshell inlay, these relatively classic premium watches are exploring new sides of themselves with a unique dial.
By Eleonor Picciotto
How do you make a piece interesting or how do you make yourself interesting? That’s the question…After designing the most cutting-edge complications, slimmest calibres, the ultimate cases or inventing systems of all kinds earning almost every brand a world record, what else can you do? The design.
A change in colour or material seems to be the easiest style change, especially when we’re talking watches. However, you
need to remember there are limitations such as space, size and weight. Some watchmakers on the quest for creativity use and abuse their brain matter to unearth that little something that nobody’s done before. Guided by their ambassador and Italian dandy Lapo Elkann, this year Hublot has brought out a Velvet collection where every model comes with a pair of sunglasses from Lapo’s own brand Italia Independent. When it comes to originality, a while ago Cartier painstakingly selected flattened pieces of straw then glued them together to create the colourful design of a panda or lion on the Rotonde model.
Butterfly Set toubillon
Lion wood marquetry
Watchmakers may be essential to designing a piece but other sometimes rare and exceptional trades are vital to the success of an often bizarre idea. At Piaget, dozens or even hundreds of hours were spent on the Altiplano. It takes 25 hours to make the Altiplano’s wooden inlay on the dial in flecked maple, over double the amount of time for the Schiuma d’Oro with a gold leaf dial and eggshell mosaic or the Bubble Dots Feather made with 50 shades of blue in a feather inlay. The work is as staggering as it is stunning.
Without question, brands have to call upon external sources, artisans that you could easily call “beauty technicians.”
A dial that gets people talking is one thing but a dial that has a story to tell is something else entirely. The best example is Dior’s tribute to haute couture. Its Fil D’or dial weaves together 4630 gold threads to depict the brand’s pattern to make an optical illusion of a dial elevated by diamonds. The most extreme story is RJ-Romain Jerome’s dial made of ash from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption…
Similarly, Jaeger-Lecoultre and more recently Romain Gauthier have used a meteorite to adorn their dials. Something that’s so grey, so cold yet so beautiful that we easily associate with the creation of the earth followed by its history which is, at the end of the day, our own.