It is often regarded as the face of a watch. An infinitely small area providing infinite scope for expression and a stage on which to express the incredible creativity of watchmakers turned artists, dials shine even more brightly when setting the scene for the treasures of Nature. Diamonds, fine or precious stones, mother-of-pearl, hard stones, aventurine, natural pigments. These mesmerizing forms of beauty, tamed by the deftness of the artisan, establish refinement as second nature within feminine watchmaking.
It sends us rain and sunshine, tracing and erasing landscapes, producing marvels and rare phenomena, entran- cing and inspiring human beings in sometimes incredible ways. Bountiful nature, which since the dawn of time has unstintingly shared the best the Earth has to offer. Exceptional stones and indescribable colors, sparkling as they clothe time in supremely precious style. Among the inescapable treasures provided by nature are the countless diamonds loved as much by watchmakers as the women whose wrists they embrace. These perfectly brilliant or baguette-cut gems pave dials in light. Girard-Perregaux has set them like a theatre curtain raised to reveal mother-of-pearl marquetry adorning the dial of the Cat’s Eeye Sparkle La Fenice ; while Cartier use them to shape the outlines of a stylized panther on a gold and onyx cuff watch featuring a dial topped by an over 27-carat heliodor (also known as golden beryl).
Cat’s Eye Sparkle La Fenice Girard-Perregaux
Onyx and heliodor cuff watch © Cartier
Following Droz demonstrated that the mechanics worked via natural means and was not the result of sorcery, the King paid handsomely for its “Shepherd’s Clock” which remains on display from the Spanish palace museum. The popularity and funds from this venture led Droz to produce ever more astonishing works of automata, such as The Writer. In many ways, these were precursors to modern computers, and a testament to the astonishing engineering skill of Droz because of his time.Despite his fame and skill, Droz’s workshop went into liquidation in 1790 when drafts built on their principal correspondent in China came back unpaid and their primary customer in London failed. In 2000, the Swatch Group obtained the brand and re-established Jaquet Droz Bird Watch Replica in their city of origin, La Chaux-de-Fonds. Ever since that time, the brand has been paying tribute to the skills and passions of their creator, releasing the first Bird Repeater at 2012 (revisited hands-on here) and refining it further with all the Charming Bird watch in 2015 (hands). The latest Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater combines two of the maison’s eight “codes” or primary disciplines, automata and Ateliers d’Art, or the decorative arts.The dial to the Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater is made from mother of pearl, hand-engraved and painted to portray a lush forest scene. After the moment repeater function is triggered, there are seven animated elements on the dial which spring into life:The waterfall in the background appears to flow.The hummingbird inhabiting the centre of the dial moves towards the tree of glowing orange birds of paradise near 9 o’clock and beats its wings around 40 times per second.The peacock at 5 o’clock opens and closes its tail feathers.The toucan close 3 o’clock emerges from the palm leaves and may open and close its beak.Three dragonflies near 9 o’clock flit round and flap tiny Super-Luminova coated wings, which ought to look especially attractive in low light.
Sheer unadulterated beauty
Nonetheless, watchmaking for women does not of course confine itself to the undeniable charm of diamonds. The brilliance of the latter is often a lure to draw the eye towards other equally fascinating natural gems. Whether sculpted, engraved or guillochéd, mother-of-pearl embellishes many feminine dials. Chanel’s one-of-a-kind Mademoiselle Privé Décor Coromandel models inspired by Coco Chanel’s famous lacquered screens are adorned with coral, turquoise, cornelian, mother-of-pearl or lapis lazuli, sculpted using the antique glyptic technique. A subtle and rare form of expertise requiring as much delicacy and precision as the art of enameling that is far better known and more widely used.
Mademoiselle Privé Décor Coromandel © Chanel
Applied to dials in much the same way as paintings, pigments are also some of these marvels produced by nature. Well accustomed to the complexities of enameling, Van Cleef & Arpels introduces a veritable manifesto of style and poetry with its Charms Extraordinaire Fée Sakura watch featuring an enchanting pink lacquered dial mingling mother-of-pearl, enamel and diamonds. And what amazing depth in the black Grand Feu enamel dial adorned with a miniature pink flamingo adorning the Petite Heure Minute Black Enamel created in the Jaquet Droz Ateliers d’Art !
Charms Extraordinaire Fée Sakura watch © Van Cleef & Arpels
Petite Heure Minute Black Enamel © Jaquet-Droz
Tamed by the human hand, materials and colors along with precious, hard or fine gemstones represent infinite riches that exalt feminine watchmaking, even in their simplest possible expression. One has only to think of the beauty radiating from the turquoise or opal adorning two Piaget Altiplano models celebrating the collection’s 60th anniversary. Or the luminous charm of the blue adventurine dial gracing the Tonda Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy unveiled by Parmigiani Fleurier. An earthly treasure so fascinating that one might almost believe it is heaven-sent.
Altiplano 60th anniversary © Piaget
Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy © Parmigiani Fleurier
Paul O’Neil, Chief Editor of WorldTempus.com gives us his position
Marie’s title highlights a big difference between the design of men’s and ladies’ watch dials. It’s interesting to note that all the wonderful dial designs listed in this article are created using wholly natural elements. It’s something that is certainly not true for gents’ watches and just goes to show that true beauty is something natural, something that cannot be reproduced by humans, no matter how cutting-edge the technology. Furthermore, the fact that these dials are usually even smaller for ladies’ watches has never been a barrier to creativity or the quantity of precious stones that can be crammed on to them. Head over to WorldTempus and browse through our Watchfinder to see just how much detail can be packed into these dials.