Shooting stars and diamonds: 10 of the most bewitching pieces for women from Watches & Wonders
From stars that shoot across the dial to everyday diamonds, the most important horological event of the year, which recently took place in Geneva, did not disappoint its female fans.
Luxury watch collecting might still largely be a man’s sport, but the best watchmakers know that there’s a lot of fun to be had catering to women, too. The complications are more romantic, precious stones can be used with abandon and the smaller sizes are a test of mechanical skill.
After previously checking out the best men’s watches at the recently concluded Watches & Wonders 2022 and its satellite events in Geneva, here are some of our top picks for the ladies.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS LADY ARPELS HEURES FLORALES
Van Cleef & Arpels loves making the kind of watches that make you forget what a watch is actually for in the first place. In this case, the dial is brimming with gold branches, enamelled butterflies and diamond-set flowers, with not a single numeral, hand or index in sight.
Time is told poetically, where the hours are represented by open blossoms, and the minutes are read off a retrograde track on the side of the case. The former is where the real magic happens. Using a patent-pending system that took five years of research and development, the flowers seem to bloom in random positions, but they actually do so in a series of three different cycles.
A centrifugal regulator inside the barrel also controls the speed of the petals’ animation so that they close slowly but pop open almost instantaneously in the most delightful manner, with the entire sequence taking about four seconds.
Inspired by Swedish botanist Carl Von Linne’s 1751 book, Philosophia Botanica, and the story’s time-telling flowers, Van Cleef & Arpels has realised his fantastical garden in two editions: In 38mm white gold with blue and green flowers, or rose gold with red and pink flowers.
As inventive as Hermes’ horological offerings can be (check out its new dual time watch in our men’s roundup), the brand’s much older designs shouldn’t be ignored. The first Kelly watch, modelled after the padlock that comes with the famous Kelly bag, debuted in 1975 with leather straps. Chic yet cute, the watch has enjoyed continued production in a variety of options for decades.
This year, Hermes is setting aside its leather expertise to offer the Kelly with a bracelet for the first time. In gold or stainless steel with several diamond-set options for either metal, the Kelly is finally ready for more glamorous festivities.
There is however, a version that comes with a leather sautoir necklace and a protective leather clochette, for those who like their accessories transformable.
CHANEL J12 DIAMOND TOURBILLON
If this watch looks familiar, it is because Chanel did indeed release a flying tourbillon for its J12 collection seven years ago, appropriately named the J12 Flying Tourbillon. This year’s J12 Diamond Tourbillon, while boasting the same sophisticated styling and hypnotic complication, uses an in-house movement for the first time instead of the one previously made by Renaud & Papi.
Rather than a diamond-studded star, the tourbillon cage is ringed with diamonds and decorated with a 0.15-carat solitaire in its centre. The 18k white gold bezel is set with a further 34 baguette-cut diamonds totalling approximately 3.5 carats, with more round-cut diamonds adorning the hands and crown. The case and bracelet are made of glossy black ceramic, typical of the J12 collection, though a more subdued matte black ceramic and steel version is also available. Both are limited to 55 pieces each.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE RENDEZ-VOUS DAZZLING STAR
Sure, seeing a star shoot across the sky is pretty rare. But rarer still are watches like the Rendez-Vous Dazzling Star that put the thrill of the astronomical event on your wrist. Developed in-house by Jaeger-LeCoultre, the automatic Calibre 734 is a standard Rendez-Vous movement that’s been updated with a module to send a brilliant golden star shooting across the dial at random points in the day.
Except it’s not random, but the result of clever watchmaking. The star is launched when the barrel is fully wound, so with an average amount of wear the mechanism should trigger five to six times per hour, though you’d probably only catch sight of the star once or twice a day. Still, the way the module is built means you can technically force the star to appear by manually winding the watch, but why take the fun out of a chance sighting?
The display is made using a three-layer sandwich dial construction, and the centre star disc moves neither too fast (like a jumping hour) nor too slow (like a date window), but instead glides smoothly across its aperture. It is presented in pink gold with 436 diamonds set into its 36mm case.
VACHERON CONSTANTIN TRADITIONELLE PERPETUAL CALENDAR ULTRA-THIN
Complications don’t always have to be poetic to appeal to feminine sensibilities. Vacheron Constantin’s approach to fine watchmaking has always been straightforward and articulate, and its new perpetual calendar for women is no different.
It has a standard perpetual calendar layout, round-cut diamonds on the bezel, lugs and crown, a slim case just 8.43mm thick and 36.5mm wide in white or pink gold, with a blue or white mother-of-pearl dial to match. For the first time in the Traditionelle collection, the straps are interchangeable – and you can choose a dusty rose alligator strap or baby blue one – and it is powered by the beautifully hand-finished in-house calibre 1120 QP.
For women looking to add more high complications to their collection, this is definitely an option to consider.
PIAGET LIMELIGHT GALA PRECIOUS
For the times when you just need a watch to be pretty, you can always fall back on a jewellery classic like Piaget’s Limelight Gala collection. Gradient dials are all the rage now in men’s timepieces, but the ladies can be smug in the knowledge that gradient bezels are far more difficult to execute.
For this Limelight Gala Precious, sourcing the the perfect white diamonds and green tsavorites to achieve that seamless and symmetrical graduation was a months-long process, and setting all the stones in one watch – which also includes a centre dial of snow-set diamonds – takes about 22 hours of work per dial.
Enhancing the green of the tsavorites is a dial made of vividly hued malachite. The white gold bracelet is then textured with the brand’s famous Palace decor, making the entire timepiece a brilliant jewel. It is powered by the 501P1 automatic movement with 40 hours of power reserve, and comes in a 32mm white gold place.
As gorgeous as Tudor’s recent (and numerous) Black Bay additions have been, we all need one or two watches that don’t need to stand out too much, are still reliably made, are versatile to style, and not too precious to wear to a beach or casual brunch. When the Tudor Royal launched in 2020, it promised all of those things, and now there are new 28mm steel and bi-metallic steel and gold versions for the ladies, too.
It has all the standard women’s watch tropes – diamond-set hour markers and bezel, and a mother-of-pearl dial – and is equipped with the calibre T201 that offers a 38-hour power reserve as well as a date function. The screw-down crown also gives it 100m of water resistance, making this perfect for an everyday accessory.
ZENITH CHRONOMASTER SPORT
We’re loving Zenith’s new unisex marketing of its El Primero watches because the new fully rose gold Chronomaster Sport is the bold and glamorous statement women who snub sub-30mm watches need.
It’s 42mm of lustrous pink metal (even the bezel eschews trendy ceramic for more gold) and equipped with the high-frequency, high-popularity El Primero 3600 movement. Watching the central chronograph hand do a full sweep of the dial in 10 seconds is a small thrill only a 5Hz (or higher) calibre can give. Despite this high frequency, the movement has a decent power reserve of 60 hours. There are versions with a black or white dial, but there is also a bi-metallic steel and rose gold model with a silver dial.
CHOPARD IMPERIALE FLYING TOURBILLON
Firsts are a big deal, so Chopard didn’t hold back when it came time to add a flying tourbillon to its Imperiale collection after almost 30 years. This eight-piece limited edition is a showcase of what women’s watches do best, which is to blend artistry with horology. The dazzling display begins with a 36mm ethical white gold case set with diamonds that extend to the lugs and crown.
Mimicking the sparkle is an aventurine dial, where shimmery pearl marquetry and diamond-set petals bloom around the real star of the show: A flying tourbillon in a petal-shaped cage.
The movement isn’t new, having been introduced in 2019, but the LUC Calibre 96.24-C is still a 194-part stunner with a stop-seconds function for the tourbillon, as well as COSC certification – two things that aren’t too common in tourbillon watches. And thanks to Chopard’s patented Twin technology, which refers to its two co-axial barrels, this Imperiale has a respectable power reserve of 65 hours. Available at Chopard boutiques only.
HUBLOT CLASSIC FUSION ORLINSKI BRACELET
French artist Richard Orlinski has been lending Hublot his angular, faceted style for the Classic Fusion watches for five years now, but their latest collaboration swaps out ceramic cases and bracelets for polished titanium.
Now, its 40mm dimensions make this wearable for either gender, and titanium’s lightness make this a supremely comfortable watch, but some might find its polished surface and lack of weight reminiscent of shiny plastic. Which is why we’re leaning toward the diamond-set models, offered with white or black dials, for a little more visual and tactile oomph. The 112 diamonds embedded in the case and bracelet total 3.79 carats.