Long ago in the 19th century well before nearly everyone on the planet had a smartphone, and even before the inner workings of a timepiece were small enough to fit on the wrist, time was mostly told with a pocket watch. Which raised an important question for those whose fashion selections were pocketless: How does one wear—or better yet, conceal—the time?
After experimenting with styles worn round the neck, around the waist and on brooches, the development of improved watchmaking technology in the early 1900s finally brought the wristwatch to the forefront. Considered rude for a lady to check said watch during any given social gathering, the 1920s gave rise to a new kind of wristwatch: one that looked like anything but.
Appearing like a piece of diamond jewelry, secret watches allowed for its wearer to check the time without anyone realizing. And although checking the time on a watch is of less importance today, the secret watch tradition continues, blending the traditional practice of complex watchmaking with the art of high jewelry design and craftsmanship.
Parisian jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels was one of the original secret watch creators circa the 1930s. The Ruban Secret Watch, for example, is a modern version with links to the past. Featuring an elegant diamond bow that would fit right in at a Gatsby party, the piece is expertly set in white gold, and boasts 1140 round diamonds of different sizes that weigh in at over 20 carats total. The watch face itself is elegantly revealed with a flick of the bow.
Piaget’s famed Swiss watchmaker Nicolas Mohs says, “The secret watch is the ultimate expression of creativity and complexity.” And that’s exactly what’s on full display in the brand’s Golden Oasis Secret watch. After all, its diamond covered dial is hidden behind palm fronds set in 18 karat white gold; composed of over 1200 individual diamonds, it weighs a whopping 24 carats.
Royal family-favorite David Morris, the London-based jeweler also known for his pieces featured in many James Bond films, knows one way to stand out: natural pink diamonds. His Fancy Cut Pink Diamond Watch does just that. Set in white and rose gold with over 11 carats of mixed-shaped white diamonds, and an unthinkable 41 carats of pink diamonds its watch face is covered by a single rose-cut pink diamond.
“The secret watch is the ultimate expression of creativity and complexity.”Nicolas Mohs
Among the most recognizable of all secret watch designs is the Serpenti Misteriosi Romani, by luxury Italian jeweler Bulgari. Introduced in the 1940s, the Serpenti has evolved beautifully ever since. Modern and extraordinary, while staying true to the classic Bulgari Serpenti style its 18 karat gold setting is covered in pavé diamonds, and features pear shaped green emeralds for the eyes (a most perfect pop of color).
London jeweler, Graff, owner of some of the world’s most valuable diamonds, too has their take on the secret watch. In true Graff fashion, the Oval Diamond Secret Watch was meticulously crafted over hundreds of hours in order to properly match and set the 65-plus carats of diamonds. The result: a fan-shaped masterpiece that utilizes a design of oval diamonds to conceal a diamond watch dial.
Luxury Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet recently released a trilogy of ultra-contemporary high jewelry pieces, the most extravagant, eye-catching and elaborate of all being the Diamond Outrage Secret Watch. Featuring 9,923 round brilliant-cut diamonds and 354 custom baguette-cut diamonds are perfectly set in white gold spikes surrounding the wrist. Unseen behind diamond-adorned double doors is the mirrored watch face with blackened gold hands that make this piece rise above its category. It’s the addition of the concealed watch that turns these otherwise extraordinary works of high jewelry art into something even more special. A piece of jewelry with a secret. A secret you can keep to yourself or choose to share as you see fit.