Long Live the Bling — the Sparkling Truth at Watches and Wonders

Long Live the Bling — the Sparkling Truth at Watches and Wonders

Anybody believing that the last couple of years’ surge of interest in gem-set watches was leveling off or was on the wane would be mistaken, especially in light of this year’s Watches and Wonders. Industry veterans from Rolex to Cartier showed an impressive hand of bejeweled pieces, as did the younger brands such as Hublot and Gucci. Let’s take a brief stroll up the bejeweled boulevard…

The Crown’s Jewels

It wouldn’t be a spring watch season without some stunning gem-set pieces from Rolex. The Crown is all about evolution over revolution, as an internet-breaking change in bezel color often demonstrates. I personally always look forward to what the gem-set offers will be and am rarely disappointed. This year, alongside some new setting demonstrated on a trio of 31mm Datejusts, Rolex gave pride of place to the new Yacht-Master 40 in white gold. As well as adding a yellow gold Yacht-Master 42 to the seafaring line, a classic-sized 40mm white gold option was added with a diamond and sapphire bezel and diamond-set lugs. The repeated sequence around the bezel includes pink then light-blue sapphire, followed by a diamond, then purple sapphire and dark-blue sapphire. All are trapeze-cut with a triangle-cut diamond at 12 o’clock. The lugs and crown guards have a further 46 diamonds. There is also a full pavé dial if you really want to push the boat out!

The 2022 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 in 18 ct white gold
The 2022 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 in 18 ct white gold
The 2022 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 has a 18 ct white gold, bidirectional rotatable bezel set with 8 trapeze-cut diamonds (approx. 0.92 ct), 32 trapeze-cut sapphires (8 pink, 8 light blue, 8 purple and 8 dark blue) (approx. 4.27 ct) and one triangular diamond (approx. 0.15 ct) at 12 o’clock
The 18 ct white gold, lugs and crown guard of the 2022 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40 are set with 46 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 0.89 ct) along with polished sides

Crash Landing

Cartier is as renowned for its high jewelry as it is for its watches, and when the two combine, it’s a thing to behold. No watch demonstrates this more beautifully or ably as the Métiers d’Art collection, and this year the star of that particular show was the Crash Tigrée Métamorphoses. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but the workmanship and attention to detail were stunning. The case, dial and buckle are set with a combined 242 brilliant-cut diamonds. The bezel and the dial feature enamel work in green and blue hues, and the winding crown is topped off with a pyramid-cut diamond.

Crash Tigrée Métamorphoses
Crash Tigrée Métamorphoses

Gucci’s Wonderland

For Gucci’s second high-watchmaking outing, the fusion of prestigious Swiss watchmaking and Italian design was spun in the fashion of a fairground for the Gucci Wonderland collection. The standout piece in the collection for me was the G-Timeless Planetarium. The watch comprises 12 princess-cut gems, my favorite being emeralds, that encircle Gucci’s new Dancing Hours FlyingTourbillon. The wearer can press a push-button and the gems spin around the central tourbillon, like a vintage ferris wheel.

Gucci G-Timeless Planetarium
Gucci G-Timeless Planetarium

Flickering Fusion

For five years now, Hublot has been working in collaboration with French artist Richard Orlinski, making the artist’s signature sculptures into portable works of art that double as wristwatches. The latest offering is the Classic Fusion Orlinski Bracelet with the polished titanium case now being married to a polished titanium bracelet. The watch is absolutely on point with its integrated-bracelet sports look, but also encompasses Orlinski’s signature facets that seamlessly transition between case and bracelet, which is harder to pull off that we would imagine. The ceramic dial, in either white or black, continues in Orlinski-esque construction and flickers in the light much like a neo-vintage spider-dial sports watch. The real fun starts with the option to have the watch diamond-set, which highlights the angles and the intended interplay between light and shade is stunning on the wrist. Totaling 3.79 carats, the watch has a full-set bezel of brilliant-cut diamonds, and the case and bracelet are set in sequentially alternating or opposite facets.

Classic Fusion Orlinski Bracelet
Classic Fusion Orlinski Bracelet

Precious Plasma

It’s almost a quarter of the way into the first century of the 21st century and like many other things in life that can be man-made, so too now can diamonds for watches. Although the first lab-grown diamonds were produced as far back as the 1950s, the TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma is the first time they have been so prominently featured in a watch. This isn’t simply a gem-set watch; it’s a gem-incorporated watch. The aluminum case has diamonds embedded into it, the dial is sprayed with ground diamond powder, the dial has diamond hour markers, and, most exceptionally, the winding crown IS a diamond! Across the watch this all totals an approximate 10 carats, which is a lot of bling for one hand or wrist to hold. The great thing about lab-grown diamonds is that you can cultivate them to be whatever shape is needed, as demonstrated by the winding crown. It certainly needed some finishing and polishing, but to create the shape from a natural diamond would be impossible due to it being the hardest natural substance on earth. The watch houses TAG Heuer’s in-house 02T tourbillon chronograph, will cost half-a-million Swiss Francs, and will be made in only a few examples. But why settle for a diamond “topped” winder, when you can have an actual diamond crown?

The TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph is a showcase for grown diamond technology
The TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph is a showcase for grown diamond technology

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Ross Povey

Ross Povey, the founder of TudorCollector.com is regarded as the world’s leading expert on vintage Tudor watches. Although an expert on Rolex and Tudor watches primarily, Ross’s work covers the entire field of horology and he is currently Editor-in-Chief of Revolution magazine in the UK. He writes for and has contributed to some of the most influential horological publications, including; The Telegraph, The Rake, Bulang & Sons, Watchonista, Hodinkee, QP and is the co-author of the book Daytona Perpetual, a celebration of the automatic Rolex Daytona released through Pucci Papaleo Editore. Ross is also an international speaker and regularly hosts watch events in the UK and Europe.

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