It’s the spirit of the age. The belles of the ball in all their finery have become more discreet and less numerous. High jewellery watches are not the stars of SIHH 2018. Nevertheless, for enthusiasts of exceptional watches, these extremely limited series, some of them one-of-a-kind pieces, continue to cast a spell, standing as they do at the crossroads of high jewellery and watchmaking, sometimes with a little haute horlogerie thrown in. So they are still around, and still as inaccessible as ever. Inaccessible in terms of price, of course, but also in how they are presented. It’s out of the question to actually hold one in your hands, ungloved hands still less.
Often, there might be only one, or two at the most, in the world. That’s not enough to satisfy every request, every avid eye, every curious mind. So there they stay, behind the glass, waiting for a client to ask for a closer look. Then, and only then, will the reinforced glass cage be opened.
The “men’s” 40mm manual-wound variations, in blue, grey or green, could easily be worn by a lady — in fact I prefer that dimension, even over the 38mm automatic, since the ultra-thin case makes it highly wearable. As a great classic, casual watch, it might have been great to see at least one of those anniversary models in steel, though — perhaps next year with no anniversary engraving on the case back? Be aware that some versions have a display case back while others have a closed case back.The 34mm version contains the ultra-thin manual-wound Caliber 430P, which is 2.1mm thick. The circumstance is 6.30mm thick, in white gold or red gold. There is also a diamond variant of this 34mm piece, at a 360-piece limited series. The next size up is the manual-wound 38mm model (also with all the 430P, in a 6mm-thick instance) but with a blue dial that’s marked with a subtle cross-hair in a milder blue color.The Caliber 430P is a evolution of the 9P, the ultra-thin (2mm thick) manual-wound movement introduced by Piaget in 1957.
Luckily, WorldTempus was there to observe these otherworldly creatures in their natural habitat. Often incrusted with precious gems, and fashioned from white or rose gold, they are showcases in and of themselves. Showcases of the brands that create them, of the creativity of the craftsmen and women who bring them to life, and of a still thriving heritage. However rare they may have become, these pieces bear witness to an inventiveness that continues unabated.
They use the strength of simple shapes, like the Cosmos Secret by Van Cleef & Arpels. They encase the arm and clasp it in a tight metallic embrace, like the Sunny Side of Life cuffs by Piaget. They may extrapolate a brand’s aesthetic codes, like the Cartier Panthère Hypnose Pendant, or represent elegantly simply geometrical abstractions, like the Kilkti by Hermès, or Cartier’s Cobra Haute Joaillerie.
Cartier Panthère Hypnose Pendant © David Chokron/Worldtempus
Sometimes, they illustrate a complete story, a poetic sketch encapsulated in a diminutive frame of white gold and pure carbon, adorned with sapphires and garnets, like the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Jour Féerique. In every case, through their meticulous execution, they truly shine, both literally and figuratively.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Jour Féerique © David Chokron/Worldtempus