Diamond Precision: Time is more precious when prestigious watchmakers turn to stones

By Neil Dolby
Dec 12, 2023

For extra-special elegance and sparkle, watches embellished with diamonds raise their appeal that notch higher. Their allure is such that these fine mechanical works of art represent some of the most desired – and visually stimulating – timepieces available to collectors.

The heart of watchmaking, Switzerland, is replete with Haute Horlogerie manufacturers including Audemars Piguet, which recently unveiled two limited-edition 39 Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin models entirely set with gems. The 18-carat white-gold version has an 8.1-mm-thick case set with 138 brilliant-cut diamonds – about 2.6 carats – and glare-proofed sapphire crystal front and back. Adding to its lustre, the bracelet features 968 brilliant-cut diamonds and the dial is set with 422 brilliant-cut diamonds (for a grand total of 1,528 brilliant-cut diamonds and 8.3 carats) along with white-gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating.

The 18-carat yellow-gold model is similarly carpeted with gems across the case, bezel, dial and bracelet – though these are yellow sapphires forming 10.41 carats.

Cartier delighted with a number of exquisite high- jewellery watches at Watches and Wonders 2023. The iconic Cartier Jewelled Tank watch remains true to its design code with its distinctive rectangular dial and parallel brancards. Whilst retaining that undeniable Tank identity, the bejewelled models are elevated by a flexible bracelet of mobile cylinders in onyx, chrysoprase or coral with articulated links to offer greater comfort, and a face flanked on all sides by diamonds of varying sizes. These new Tank watches pay homage to the colour palette of Jeanne Toussant with their coloured stones – coral, chrysoprase, amethysts and diamonds – and interplay of colour contrasts. The amethysts, coral, and chrysoprases, rose-gold dial of the Jewelled Tank watch, large model, quartz movement is set with 272 brilliant-cut diamonds and features polished rose steel sword-shaped hands.

For the new Baignoire Allongée, Cartier has built on the original design by creating a case composed of two parts combined by means of a micro-welding tool to incorporate two colour codes – yellow gold and white gold. It features a diamond-lit case that contrasts with a dial divided into different sections of varying sizes; the white and yellow gold areas are distinguished by a hand-carved sunray motif. The case is set with 212 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 2.81 carats.

The Baignoire continues to evolve and new Jewelled Baignoire editions showcase lines of diamonds that ring a snow-set dial and then extend the length of the bracelet to enhance the timepiece’s slim curves.

Presenting a discreet diamond face, Patek Philippe’s Ref: 4997/200R Calatrava in rose gold sets 76 internally flawless Top Wesselton diamonds around the bezel. An ultra-thin self-winding Calibre 240 movement with a 22-carat gold mini-rotor powers the timepiece, which is housed in a 35 mm- diameter rose-gold case with a sapphire crystal caseback. Of note is its colour scheme: an eye- catching purple lacquered dial with an embossed pattern and rose-gold dauphine hands harmonises perfectly with a purple calfskin strap with a satinated finish and rose-gold prong buckle.

Richard Mille’s iconic RM 07-01 collection of automatic watches aimed at women is joined by new Intergalactic models combining the brand’s signature Carbon TPT with diamonds. The possibly unique combination of Carbon TPT – ultra-lightweight but strong with a warm velvety texture – and diamonds undoubtedly gives these models extra sparkle and highlights the fine attributes of each. Such is the strength of this high-performance material that settings for the stones as well as some snazzy red- gold prongs are machined with a diamond-bit milling tool. Diamonds are particularly prominent on the RM 07-01 Starry Night, worn with a Carbon TPT bracelet, and Bright Night models.

The new Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 by Rolex welcomes dials made of decorative stone in shimmering tones that evoke the Mediterranean coast. Green aventurine, carnelian and turquoise are paired with watches in 18-carat Everose, yellow and white gold respectively. Each of these three models features a diamond-set dial, diamond-set bezel and President bracelet with a concealed folding clasp. This bracelet, composed of carefully selected 18-carat gold, is a brand signature dating back to the launch of the line in 1956. A total of 52 brilliant- cut diamonds are affixed to the bezel in a precisely aligned, hand-carved setting.

Unveiled at Watches and Wonders 2023, Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony Self-Winding Jewellery novelty glitters with diamonds, boasting a total encrustation of 769 round-cut stones, of which 420 embellish the dial. This sleek 18-carat white-gold watch comes with a sapphire crystal caseback and a shiny dark-blue alligator leather strap.

Chopard’s Red Carpet Collection 2023 embraces a plethora of watches exotically and colourfully adorned with diamonds. These Haute Joaillerie masterpieces include Ref. 104429-1001, which shimmers with pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds, and the dazzling Ref. 104672-1001 with 28.3 carats of white diamonds and 21.65 carats of emeralds. Ref. 134154-5001’s pretty satin strap is distinguished by a diamond-set buckle.

Chaumet has numerous models adorned with diamonds including the Souveraine and Maharani secret watches worn with black alligator-leather straps. The former dazzles with an 18-carat white gold case and hinges set with 111 brilliant-cut diamonds, and a secret cover resplendent in 155 brilliant-cut, pear-shaped and rose-cut diamonds.

Marble Marquetry by Harry Winston, on the other hand, is a spectacular bracelet watch showcasing 56 blue sapphires set among a blaze of white light comprising a grand total of 208 brilliant- cut, baguette-cut and pear-cut diamonds.