When I look at a watch, I’m usually drawn to the dial or maybe some element of the case that strikes me as either unusual or exceptionally made. The details on any of these six watches certainly meet my usual criteria. I also love an exhibition caseback that exposes the engine keeping time behind a hidden sapphire. Something about the visible movement seems very personal, like a secret window that only a select few ever see since sharing it means taking the watch off your wrist, turning it over and maybe even handing it over to a lucky observer. Decorated movements are quite common, especially on fine Swiss watches. It’s easy to find the familiar Côtes de Genève stripes and a delight to see perlage, engraving and other decorations that can only be created by master watchmakers who spend hours on this kind of meticulous handwork. After admiring this kind of work for decades, I typically have a pretty good idea of what to expect when I turn a watch over. Typically.
Breguet always loads its watches with beautiful calibers but I was captivated by what’s inside the Marine Dame. At first glance, the rotor appeared to carry a sunray pattern but upon closer inspection, I realized that it was actually decorated with mother of pearl that matches the dial. It’s not “regular” MOP, either. Instead, it resembles a highly magnified slice of a coral reef with sinuous threads gently cresting like ocean waves. Breuget added 31 diamonds totaling almost 0.1 carats to the edge, which gives the whole assembly a bright-sky-over-the-ocean feel. As it spins, the underlying decorations appear – colorful jewels, chamfered bridges and plates, delicate components of metals and silicone. It would be tempting to wear this 18k rose gold masterpiece upside down but not only would you be revealing the secret to everyone, you’d also miss out on the MOP dial surrounded by 50 premium diamonds weighing 1.165 carats.
The dial on the oblong Reine de Naples combines a creamy natural MOP layer with a hand-etched round section beneath the sweep of the rose gold open-tipped hands. Oversized rose gold applied Roman numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock anchor the dial which, aside from a whimsical Breuget mark and number contoured on the curve at 10 o’clock, is otherwise unadorned. The Reine de Naples pays homage to the first wristwatch ever made – a Breguet commissioned by the Queen of Naples in 1810. That watch disappeared in 1855 after it was sent to Breguet for service and its whereabouts remain one of the world’s great unsolved horological mysteries. The Reine de Naples’ case and three-row chain bracelet are forged from 18k rose gold. This bejeweled timepiece has 83 brilliant cut diamonds around the bezel and on the lug plus another 104 diamonds on the bracelet for a total weight of 2.16 carats. There is also an inverted .15 carat crown-set diamond. An exhibition caseback reveals the beautifully decorated automatic movement. This Breguet is elegant, weighty and timeless with bold proportions as well suited for a grand ball at Versailles in the mid 1800s as it would be today.
The case and bezel of Hublot’s Classic Fusion Orlinski King Gold Pavé Watch is dotted with 1.6 carats of brilliant diamonds. They are set in King Gold, an alloy of gold and platinum exclusive to Hublot. This watch is visually striking as light reflects in all directions off the faceted case. Even the dial is faceted, which tricks the eye into a sense that the flat sapphire crystal actually gathers to a pyramid-like point. The watch represents a collaboration between Hublot and Richard Orlinski, the renowned French contemporary artist most well-known for his Wild Kong sculptures. At 40mm, the Classic Fusion is a substantial and modern work of art that appears to be in motion even when it is standing still.
H. Moser & Cie. Offers a different take on luxury that’s more subtle and classic in design. Moser’s lustrous dials are the brand’s signature and the burgundy fume dial on the Endeavor Centre Seconds has all the richness and depth expected from the brand. Bursts of light jump off the center of the handmade sunray dial before mellowing to a deep burgundy. Other than the delicate tulip-shaped hands, the dial is completely bare – no markings, logos or even the familiar “Swiss Made” indication. Sixty bead-set brilliant diamonds adorn the steel bezel, which sits seamlessly atop the sculpted and polished steel case. A grey alligator strap is the perfect contrast to the dial. Flip the watch over to reveal Moser’s highly decorated movement visible behind the exhibition caseback. Only 100 of these minimalist limited editions exist.
The case on the 18k rose gold automatic Carl F. Bucherer Pathos Diva Mother of Pearl watch is loaded with surprises. At first glance, the white stripes on the bezel and sides of the watch appear to be painted but in fact, the rose gold case has a skeletonized wave pattern that exposes a white foundation. The aureole design’s dimension is enhanced by 54 VVS diamonds totaling 0.7 carats stretching from the tips of each side’s opposing lugs. Every element of the design is intentional. From the faceted rose gold markers circling the creamy mother of pearl dial and the cut outs on the rose gold hands to the exhibition caseback and solid 18k rose gold bracelet, the Pathos Diva’s elegance radiates beautifully.
Girard-Perragaux’s Cat’s Eye Celestial Aventurine Dial moonphase watch looks like a painting: an oval canvas set horizontally, shimmering aventurine perfectly expressing a star-filled sky and a bright mother of pearl moon partially obscured behind two rows of curved lines that form the horizon. The dial’s center section floats slightly off center, which draws the eye to the moon. The effect is enhanced by the markers – three round diamonds at 11, 12 and 1 o’clock that blend into the night sky, then a series of arrowhead-shaped markers, each with two diamonds, grounding the design. Rose gold is the perfect frame for the deep blue dial, especially with the sparkle of 95 brilliant-cut diamonds wrapping around the bezel. The moonphase complication on the G-P caliber GP03300 is remarkably accurate; once properly set, it only requires adjustment every 360 years. I’d suggest storing this one, or really any moonphase of perpetual calendar, in a watch winder. Anything from Wolf Designs will maintain your settings so you’ll always be prepared to navigate by the stars.
Bobby Frank is a freelance writer and musician based in Nashville. He’s been an avid watch collector since discovering a sample case full of early digital watches at his father’s office in the late 1970s. Current favorites include the Rolex Batman, Zenith Chronomatster and Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar. A timekeeper to his core, Bobby plays the drums in several bands that perform across the Southeast including Tennessee Dead, a Grateful Dead tribute band.
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