Seriously Crazy Watchmaking
You may not expect it, but some of the most audacious surprises in the crazy watch design category are coming from legacy brands. That’s because within the hallowed houses of traditional watchmaking, it’s crazy design that provokes dialogue about technical and aesthetic innovation among diamond cutters, jewelers and craftsmen; their high jewelry masterpieces offer an outlet for showcasing the daring and edgy.
Take the venerable house of Breguet and its aptly named 2015 design, Be Crazy. The culmination of its flower series. Featuring an 18 karat gold body with over 70 carats of 1,000 iridescent baguette-cut diamonds arranged as petals staggered in rows that gently curl around the wrist, the bloom-like timepiece simply stuns. Not to mention, in the center of it all is an ovoid dial with remarkable radial paving, an homage to the Queen of Naples. (After all, it was her majesty who had commissioned Abraham-Louis Breguet to conceive the world’s first wristwatch for her delicate wrist in 1810).
Though obviously a design tour de force, Be Crazy still is a true Breguet: underneath all of the shimmering diamonds is the house’s legendary in-house Caliber 586 and an engine-turned platinum rotor.
At the intersection of traditional arts and crafts and visionary design is Hublot’s Big Bang Tourbillon Reserve 5 Days. Marrying the past with the future, the watch features two of the most complex setting techniques: totaling 84.90 carats, the white baguette diamonds on the bezel, dial and center of the watch’s 18 karat white gold bracelet are invisibly set; the diamonds on the bracelet’s sides boast a Clou de Paris setting. An undertaking of nearly 700 hours per model, the spectacular work is compliments of the House of Salanitro, the gold standard—quite literally—for high jewelry watch settings.
Though not yet a legacy brand, Jacob & Co. also continues to impress. With the help of a loyal roster of rap icons—Jay Z, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, among others—Jacob Arabo made the diamond watch a hip-hop style staple. Always a trendsetter, “Jacob the Jeweler” loves to adorn his already over-the-top designs with colored diamonds… A lot of colored diamonds.
His extravagant Millionaire watch features 276 natural yellow diamonds with a total weight of 127.45 carats. Of course, the design plays baby brother to Jacob & Co.’s Billionaire watch, which boxing champion Floyd Mayweather purchased for $18 million in 2018.
Just like elegance itself, a delicate, feminine diamond watch will never go out of style. Among the most prestigious houses, Van Cleef & Arpels is famous for crafting timeless natural diamond timepieces. One of their latest, the 9.91-carat Sweet Charms watch adds a touch of cheerful playfulness to functionality, thanks to its white gold rotating charm.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ forever-modern Cadenas watch also shows off the house’s trademark femininity. An icon since its 1935 debut, the watch features an angled dial that conceals its face to anyone other than its wearer, an especially neat trick considering that, at the time of its inception, societal rules said it was quite unladylike for a woman to wear a wristwatch at all. A recent all-diamond version amplifies the marriage of beauty and functionality.
Turning to Piaget, “crazy” becomes a game of illusion. Covered in 314 brilliant-cut and 85 baguette-cut diamonds, the Manchette watch from the Couture Précieuse collection wraps the wrist like a cuff. Its white gold bracelet, which just happens to be a watch,has intertwining high jewelry diamond-set laces. And with a dial discreetly located on the inside of the wrist, spying the hour has never been easier or more audacious.
It’s such creative audacity that Piaget has hallmarked over the years. It doesn’t hurt that for their high jewelry watches, they find inspiration everywhere—from the desert to the discotheque. Case in point: its strong but refined White Titanota, which honors its muse,aflowering desert succulent, through 328 brilliant-cut diamonds set on an18 karat white gold case and bracelet.
Another, its cheeky Limelight Party Disco Ball, is inspired by the heady days of Studio 54. Referencing a mirrored disco ball, the award-winning watch features a polished white gold half-sphere sparkling with 114 brilliant-cut diamonds and a black satin strap. In keeping with the flirtatious spirit of the era, the half-sphere conceals the Piaget 56P quartz movement entirely.
Of course one can’t talk about crazy watches without mentioning Audemars Piguet’s all-diamond Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon. The design pushes the brand’s already unparalleled high horology statement, carrying with it two important debuts for the distinguished house: the watch is the first Royal Oak Concept model for women, plus the watchmaker’s first flying tourbillon ever—one that’s fully visible through the openworked dial. A bold 18 karat white gold timepiece, Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon features 468 baguette-cut and brilliant-cut natural diamonds carved into no less than 48 different sizes chosen to match the gentle curves of its case; each stone taking over one hour to be set. Good thing these watchmakers have, well, the time.