The Watches Swinging Back Into Style

Brands from Van Cleef & Arpels to Jaeger-LeCoultre introduce modern versions of the vintage look.

Article by Roberta Naas

The Bulgari Secret Watch Necklace CameoBulgari’s Secret Watch Necklace Cameo Imperiale, featuring an image of queen Cleopatra, resembles an elaborate coin, hidden beneath which is a watch. Courtesy of Bulgari.

The pendant watch has its roots in the 17th century — and has sparked several waves of popularity over the years, including the Belle Époque of the 19th century, the Art Nouveau period of the early 20th century and the 1970s.

Now the style is back, with luxury watchmakers from Jaeger-LeCoultre to Chanel introducing designs inspired by history but with contemporary panache.

“If you look back to the beginning of portable timepieces,” says Paul Boutros, deputy chairman and head of watches for the Americas at Phillips auction house in New York City, “the pendant watch really began as a matter of convenience, a way to transport a watch in a way that looked like jewellery and made a statement.”

In that period, watches were all handmade and very costly — so it was wealthy men who devised ways of attaching their timepieces to chains or lengths of ribbon so they could be worn around the neck or hung from a belt for all to see.

By the 19th century, women had watches and began attaching them to long swaying necklaces, called sautoirs in French, which often were embellished with diamonds and other gemstones.

Then, “in the 1960s and especially the ’70s”, Boutros says, watchmaking brands that also made jewellery introduced some elaborate pendant watches. For example, in 1971 Piaget made a sautoir watch with a tiger’s-eye dial and beads on a gold chain that sold in 2015 for 23,750 Swiss francs (now the equivalent of $40,988) at a Phillips auction.

“Sautoirs bring together Piaget’s mastery of ultrathin watch movements and expertise in gold craftsmanship,” Jean-Bernard Forot, head of patrimony for Piaget, says during a phone interview from the company’s headquarters in Plan-les-Ouates, just outside Geneva. “This is shown in the creation of the pendants in the ’60s during an amazing period of creativity. We called these long pieces ‘Swinging Sautoirs’ and they became the perfect emblem for the beautiful jetset society of the time who kept asking for more.”

At the 2023 Watches and Wonders Geneva, the brand unveiled three one-of-a-kind Piaget Sautoir watches (prices on request) as well as updates of some of its most evocative designs from the past.

One Piaget Sautoir is a twisted double-strand 18-karat gold chain, which took 130 hours to make, featuring a 25.38-carat oval cabochon-cut Zambian emerald and an oval 18-karat yellow-gold quartz watch with a malachite dial and a bezel set with diamonds and emeralds.

The second was embellished with turquoise and the third, a particular challenge to the artisans, was an 18-karat braided gold chain with 6.41 carats of diamonds. According to Forot, it took seven months to make the third Sautoir because the brand “had lost the technique from the ’60s. They patiently found the techniques again, threading the gold by hand into these tiny chains and adding the modern eye on it to make it even more perfect.”

Chanel pendant watch
Two views of a Chanel yellow gold and black lacquer pendant watch. The diamond-set lion’s face rotates to reveal the dial. Courtesy of Chanel.

Secret Watches

More often than not, a modern pendant watch is also a secret watch, the industry’s term for timepieces with covers that can be moved aside to reveal the time. The style allows the dial cover to be decorated with diamonds and other gems, engraving, marquetry or other artistic embellishments to heighten the sense that the piece is true jewellery, as well as a watch.

This year, Chanel, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari and Jaeger-LeCoultre all introduced sautoir necklaces with hidden dials.

Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé Lion collection, which debuted at Watches and Wonders Geneva, includes an 18-karat yellow-gold pendant watch with a black lacquer dial, covered with the diamond-set face of a lion on a black background that can be swivelled aside to reveal the time. The quartz watch is accented with 336 diamonds totaling 7.90 carats and hangs on a necklace of black onyx, gold beads and diamonds. Only 20 will be made (price on request).

“A sautoir that secretly tells the time,” Arnaud Chastaingt, director of Chanel’s Watchmaking Creation Studio, wrote in an email, “means a lot of inventiveness to integrate a calibre, to dissimulate the dial, to work the hinges.”

The lion motif was chosen, the brand said, because Leo was its founder’s astrological sign. “Gabrielle Chanel’s personal universe remains endlessly a source of true inspiration to me,” Chastaingt wrote. “I love the idea of this lion’s face, dear to Mademoiselle Chanel, beautifully and secretly keeping the time.”

Also at Watches and Wonders Geneva, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced six variations of sautoir secret watches in its Perlée collection. Each one has a 90-centimetre 18-karat gold chain that culminates in a 25-millimetre round secret watch with a mother-of-pearl dial surrounded by a diamond-studded gold bezel.

Three variations feature gem-set dial covers. Two, in 18-karat yellow gold, feature emeralds or sapphires; the third, in 18-karat rose gold, has rubies. The other three use cabochon-cut gemstone slabs to cover their dials: pale blue chalcedony with 18-karat white gold, rose quartz with 18-karat rose gold or blue sodalite with 18-karat yellow gold.

“At Van Cleef & Arpels, we see watches from a jeweller’s perspective and combine the reading of time with the notion of adornment,” Nicolas Bos, the house’s president and chief executive, wrote in an email. This gives rise to necklaces, brooches, bracelets and sometimes even rings fitted with a dial.”

Bos noted that the first Perlée pendant secret watches were introduced in 2019, but were inspired by the style’s 17th-century origins as well as the lapel watches and chatelaines (clusters of chains to hang keys and other household items) that Van Cleef & Arpels made in the past.

“Today,” he wrote, “these references give rise to delicate and unexpected interpretations with creations that allow for a playful vision of time, a time that is both personal and secret.”

Van Cleef & Arpels pendant watch
AVan Cleef & Arpels sautoir secret watch in white gold and pale blue chalcedony. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.
A Piaget Sautoir emerald pendant watch
A Piaget sautoir emerald pendant with a malachite green watch dial. Courtesy of Piaget.
Reverso Secret Necklace by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
A sketch of the Reverso Secret Necklace by Jaeger-LeCoultre. Courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre.

In History

Bulgari also tapped its history this year with its one-of-a-kind Secret Watch Necklace Cameo Imperiale, introduced in May during the house’s high jewellery event in Venice.

Inspired by the Monete Bulgari collections of the 1960s, which featured ancient Roman and Greek coins, the house had artisans in Torre del Greco, Italy, a traditional centre of cameo carving, create a cameo portrait of Cleopatra. The image of the Egyptian queen then was surrounded with diamonds and pink and blue sapphires, creating a watch cover that resembles an elaborate coin.

The manual-wind watch contains an in-house Tourbillon Lumière BVL 208 calibre skeletonised movement, visible through its transparent sapphire crystal. The 56-millimetre case and the chain, both in 18-karat rose gold, are set with diamonds and rubies (price on request).

“Coins are symbols of evolution, they are an authentic and tangible part of our history, they are captivating as they come from so many centuries ago,” Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, Bulgari’s product creation executive director, wrote in an email. “At Bulgari, we love playing with objects, approaching them differently and creating new ways of wearing jewellery and watches. This pendant watch is a fusion between a jewel and a timepiece.”

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s famed Reverso watch, first created in 1931, has the secret watch concept in its very design: a rectangular timepiece whose case can be pushed to one
side, flipped and then pushed back into place to display the other side.

In the case of the Reverso Secret Necklace, a limited edition that debuted at Watches and Wonders Geneva, the case back is set with diamonds and onyx in a geometric floral motif while the dial side is rendered in rose gold, diamonds and black onyx. The rectangular watch is powered by the brand’s Calibre 846, an in-house 93-part manual-wind movement made for the Reverso line (price on request).

The 90-centimetre chain, created in 18-karat pink gold and set with diamonds and black onyx beads, was inspired by the twisted black cord sometimes used as the strap for women’s Reverso watches of the 1930s. Lariat-style diamond-set lugs hug the watch, which has two tassels accented with diamonds and elongated onyx drops.

In total, the brand said, more than 3,000 diamonds weighing a total of 18 carats were used on the Reverso Secret Necklace, and it requires more than 300 hours of gem-setting work.

“With a strong Reverso heritage and historic pendant watch know-how, we see that there is still a strong market for exclusive watches that bring together the impressive worlds of high-watchmaking and high jewellery in one,” Catherine Rénier, the brand’s chief executive, said during an interview at Watches and Wonders Geneva. “The Reverso Secret Necklace has reopened a creative realm at Jaeger-LeCoultre, therefore we will continue to design and create more Reverso Secret Necklace expressions in the future.”

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our fifteenth edition, Page 28 of T Australia with the headline: “Swinging Back Into Style”

With Lab-Grown Diamonds, Pandora Takes Its Turn to Shine

Beloved for its charm bracelets but battling declining revenue, Pandora called in a new CEO.

Article by Victoria Pearson

Pandora_Alexander_Lacik_GFX1157Pandora’s chief executive, Alexander Lacik, inherited a “broken” company. Photograph courtesy of Pandora.

“Reinvention” is a divisive word — it can mean both progress and a desertion of prior selves. Pop stars are masters at remaking themselves anew for each album or music video in the pursuit of fan connection and renewed cultural relevance. 

The stakes increase in tandem with the size of the business. The ripple effect the designer Marc Jacobs had on Louis Vuitton — transforming it from an elite heritage luggage brand into a ready-to-wear heavyweight during his nearly two decades as creative director — continues, positively, almost 10 years after his departure. But not all transformations are so successful. The US legacy retailer Gap’s 2010 logo redesign, for example, was met with customer confusion and a dramatic dip in its share price. The company immediately reverted to its former symbol.

Since its inception in 1982, Pandora, the biggest jewellery company in the world by volume — last year the brand sold three pieces every second — has built its identity around affordable luxury. It’s perhaps best known for its Moments charm bracelets constructed with statement trinkets that can be rearranged or added to for as little as $25 per charm. The introduction of the category in 2000 spurred rapid growth for the Copenhagen-founded brand, but when the company went public in 2010 it began a tumultuous cycle of wins and losses.

By 2019, it was clear the brand needed an urgent revamp, a mission given to Alexander Lacik upon his appointment as CEO that same year. 

“I was told, ‘Oh, the company is actually broken, so we need somebody to fix it,’ ” recalls Lacik. “I’ve always ended up somehow being thrown at these types of challenges.”

The straight-talking Lacik wasn’t afraid of a fight. His family fled the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in the late ’60s, immigrating to the lakeside town of Växjö in Sweden. “It was not so easy to grow up,” he says. “Kids can be quite tough on each other. But they learned very soon that if they wanted to pick on me, there was blood involved.”

Fast-forward to his appointment at Pandora. Lacik’s audit revealed a digital brand that had been neglected, a near non-existent sustainability strategy and a company that had lost sight of its founding purpose: crafting price-friendly jewellery that elicited emotional connections. If Pandora wanted to lead in this democratised, emotive space, Lacik reasoned it would need to position itself as a full jewellery proposition beyond just charms. This meant, among other redirections, the introduction of diamonds. “It doesn’t take Einstein to see that diamonds represent almost 30 per cent of all jewellery,” says Lacik. “If you don’t play in that, it’s just a missed opportunity.”

Consumer research indicated there was appetite, but it was vital that the gemstone did not cannibalise the brand’s price point or renewed sustainability goals (which now include a commitment to using 100 per cent recycled gold and silver by 2025). Lacik and his team looked to lab-grown diamonds, a human-made alternative to naturally occurring diamonds that possess the same optical, chemical, thermal and physical characteristics as their natural counterparts and are graded by the same standards (cut, colour, clarity and carat). It’s a growing market, projected to reach approximately $87 billion by 2031.

pandora_lab grown diamonds
Courtesy of Pandora.

By partnering with a supplier that uses 100 per cent renewable energy to produce its diamonds, Pandora would have oversight of the gemstone’s carbon footprint — an estimated five per cent of that of a similar-sized mined diamond. It helped that synthetic varietals are 40 to 50 per cent less expensive than natural options. At Pandora, diamonds could be both forever, and for everyone.

In August this year, the brand launched its three lab-grown diamond collections in Australia — Pandora Nova (featuring elegant four-prong settings), Pandora Era (a new take on classic bezel-and-prong silhouettes), and Pandora Infinite (a pared-back collection inspired by the infinity symbol) — with prices starting at $500. “These products stretch your imagination of what this brand is,” says Lacik. “On one hand, it’s a business opportunity. On another hand, it helps us to open up the brand. Diamonds have a very, very strong pulling factor.”

The release involved a star-studded campaign of lab-grown advocates including Pamela Anderson, Grace Coddington, Sherry Shi and Precious Lee. The gen Z actor of “Euphoria” fame and Pandora ambassador Barbie Ferreira flew in to attend the VIP Pandora Lab-Grown Diamonds event in Sydney. 

Reinvention is a risk. One that, for Pandora, is paying off. “This company is future-proofed, and that’s not as obvious for people to see, but there’s a reason why we keep performing the way we are,” says Lacik. “Now, when all the markets are negative, we are positive. It’s not by chance.

Buon Compleanno: Bulgari Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of its Iconic Serpent Motif

“Serpenti 75 Years of Infinite Tales” recontextualises the serpent into a boundless source of creative inspiration, breathing new life into this iconic collection.

Article by T Australia

Bulgari Serpenti_Milan_1Sculpture Factory Serpenti Quayola. Photograph @BASILICO, courtesy of Bulgari.

In a celebration of Bulgari’s iconic Serpenti collection’s 75th birthday, the “Serpenti 75 Years of Infinite Tales” show has officially landed in Milan, marking its only European stop on a global tour that spans cities including Shanghai, Seoul, Dubai, and Tokyo.

The exhibition, housed at the Dazio di Levante in Piazza Sempione, is an immersive narrative journey through 75 years of Serpenti’s evolution, encompassing extraordinary heritage jewellery and watches, as well as High Jewellery creations from the Maison.

What sets this exhibition apart is its reflection of the eclectic nature of the Serpenti symbol, brought to life through the interpretations of six talented artists, including Italian and international talents like Quayola, Sougwen Chung, Daniel Rozin, Cate M, Fabrizio “Bixio” Braghieri, and Filippo Salerni. The latter two, who hail from Milan, underscore Bulgari’s deep connection to the city, celebrated not only for its fashion but also its rich culture and art.

Bulgari Serpenti_Milan_2
"LIFE LINES", Sougwen Chung. Photograph @BASILICO, courtesy of Bulgari.
Bulgari Serpenti_Milan_3
Bulgari High Jewellery display. Photograph @BASILICO, courtesy of Bulgari.

The exclusive event saw a star-studded guest list, including the likes of Cailee Spaeny, the new ambassador of Omnia perfume for women, and friends of the Bulgari brand such as Olympia of Greece, Anna Cleveland, Turkish actress Serenay Sarikaya, Francesca Michielin, Matilde Gioli, Vittoria Puccini, Cristiana Capotondi, and Miriam Leone.

The Serpenti Factory will run from October 11 to November 19, offering a captivating journey into the world of Bulgari’s iconic Serpenti collection. To enhance your experience, students from the Luxury Goods Management master’s course (EMLUX) at Milan Cattolica University will be on hand to guide visitors through the show.

Bulgari’s collaboration with Milanese artists also extends to its boutique in Via del Gesù 4, where two monumental Cuori Fragili (“Fragile Hearts” by Bixio) can be admired. Additionally, the Bulgari Hotel in Milan will host the “Aftermath of a Snake Deconstruction” installation by sculptor Filippo Salerni.

Heart-Shape Gems Get Lots of Love

Jewellers and designers say clients now prefer the silhouette to traditional round stones.

Article by Ming Liu

Heart jewellery_4At Cannes, Gigi Hadid wore a Messika Toi & Moi ring, featuring two big heart-shape diamonds, on her left hand. Photograph by Pascal Le Segretain via Getty Images.

From heart emojis to hands held to form a heart, heart motifs abound at the moment, and the jewellery world has gotten the memo: heart-shape stones seem to be everywhere.

The large heart-shape diamond now worn by Lauren Sánchez — reportedly estimated at 25 to 30 carats and the ring Jeff Bezos used to propose marriage, made headlines during the couple’s cruise around the Mediterranean.

It had some competition in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where Natalie Portman honoured emerging talent at the Trophée Chopard event in a blue Dior gown that matched her Chopard necklace of 25 sapphire hearts, totalling 119.95 carats, with each one trimmed in diamonds. Just days later, Gigi Hadid was photographed on the red carpet in a Messika Toi & Moi ring that juxtaposed two sparkling hearts: a 7.06-carat pink diamond and a 16.18-carat yellow diamond, each accentuated with white diamonds.

In the record-breaking $300 million Christie’s auction of the Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten’s jewellery collection, several heart-shape diamonds exceeded their high estimates, like a 15.05-carat orangy pink one that hammered down for 2.5 million Swiss francs ($4.3 million).

heart jewellery_1
An orange yellow diamond from Paloma Diamonds.
heart jewellery_2
A diamond heart ring by Boodles.

Once considered twee or even tacky, heart-shape stones are “back in the game”, said Valérie Messika, founder of her Paris-based diamond jewellery brand. “When I was younger, I wasn’t so comfortable with hearts. They were too cute and overly romantic.”

The pandemic actually propelled their return, she said: “There are more declarations of love and the need to say I love you — or, ‘I love myself.’ ”

Heart-shape stones are currently best sellers for the Israeli dealership Paloma Diamonds, which sold several coloured heart-shape diamonds, including a purplish pink one, at the Couture jewellery show in Las Vegas in May. It followed what the business described as strong sales of heart shapes earlier that month at the GemGenève fair in Switzerland.

“A heart is a symbol of love — a symbol of affection,” said Benjamin Zenou, Paloma’s sales manager. “And then you combine that with diamonds and the effect is an explosive cocktail. It’s a real attraction.” And at the moment, he said, buyers are avoiding the classic round brilliant-cut diamonds in favour of fancy cuts and shapes, the more unusual the better.

When it comes to hearts, designers agree that shape is everything. Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s co-president, said that it was her favourite and that she preferred “generous hearts”, which she described as “not too skinny, not too fat — and not like Mickey Mouse ears”. (In addition to using the motif for high jewellery pieces, like the one that Portman wore at Cannes, Chopard has a Happy Hearts fine jewellery line featuring the look). 

Heart jewellery_3
At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Natalie Portman wore a Chopard necklace of 25 sapphire hearts, each one trimmed in diamonds. Photograph by Vianney Le Caer / Invision, via Associated Press.

The London jeweller Roxanne First described heart jewellery today as “quite kitsch, but in a cool way.” She, too, is particular about the shape. “It needs to be quite chubby, rather than thin and angular,” she said. “A little cherub-y, chubby heart which makes you feel warm and fluffy rather than, ‘Oh, that’s a bit tacky.’”

First sets her heart-shape stones into minimalist designs, making the gem the focal point, like the Honor’s Baby Blue Necklace ($1,174), named for First’s goddaughter, which has a 1.8-carat blue topaz heart on a simple gold chain.

She also offers 14-carat gold chain-style Love rings, set with 8-millimetre green tourmaline, citrine or amethyst hearts ($729). Coloured hearts, First said, are fun and lighthearted, especially when compared with a white diamond heart, which would cost far more and appear to be more serious jewellery. (Zenou of Paloma noted that cutting a heart shape produced more waste than creating a round brilliant-cut gem.)

Sophia Hirsh, the managing director of the jewellers Hirsh London, also likes coloured gems, but in offbeat shapes — like a 10.8-carat black opal heart pendant with a shape that she described as “thicker on one side and not a perfect, perfect heart.”

“It has character and a fabulous play of colour,” she said, “with soft pastels that went slightly violet and reddish in the daylight.”

Gucci has been playing with colour as well as size: its latest high jewellery collection, presented in Florence, Italy, in June, featured an 80.8-carat heart-shape yellow sapphire dressed in diamonds and suspended from a chain dotted with multicoloured sapphires and diamonds, and an ultrafeminine gem-set bow motif at the clasp.

Graff has mixed colour with different cuts, like its Tribal Heart earrings, where a 13.10-carat yellow diamond heart rests on a mélange of pear-, marquise- and baguette-cut diamonds. The London-based jeweller also owns one of the world’s largest heart-shape stones, the 157.8-carat Infinity diamond, cut from a 373-carat rough diamond discovered in the Karowe mine in Botswana, and which Graff acquired in 2017. In 2021, the house paired the Infinity heart with 18 more heart-shape diamonds in a tiara that was unveiled to mark the opening of Graff’s Tokyo flagship store.

Heart jewellery_6
A chain-style ring by Roxanne First with an amethyst heart.

Nicholas Wainwright, the chairman of Boodles in London, said there was a big appetite among clients for hearts right now, so one of the house’s new high jewellery suites, called Florence in honour of the city, included an 8.33-carat diamond heart necklace and a matching ring set with a 5.39-carat diamond heart.

Boodles also makes jewels with smaller hearts, too, like a pair of platinum Firework earrings, each one featuring 13 heart-shape diamonds, or a relaxed, sautoir-style Beach necklace that dangles nine diamond hearts.

“We obviously like big stones, three-, five-, 10-carat hearts,” Wainwright said, “but it’s the smaller heart stones that make such delightful jewellery — with individuality and which help the design, rather than just using round stones yet again.”

Boodles also plays with coloured hearts, like its Heart 18-carat gold collar that pairs 27 diamond hearts totalling 12.27 carats (and haloed with pavé-set gold hearts) with 17 sapphire hearts totalling 55.87 carats. There also is another version with 33 diamond hearts and 15 ruby hearts.

Three heart motifs in one jewel? It must be love.

For Jacob & Co., a New Era of Luxury Timepieces in Australia

Hardy Brothers has been appointed as the exclusive stockist of Jacob & Co.

Article by T Australia

Jacob & co_1Photograph courtesy of Jacob & Co.

Seeking to redefine the Australian luxury watch industry, Hardy Brothers has officially become the exclusive stockist for Jacob & Co., the iconic watch brand favoured by international celebrities such as Rihanna, Cristiano Ronaldo, Drake, Bella Hadid, and Jay Z.

Founded by Jacob Arabo, Jacob & Co. seeks to push the boundaries of conventional horology, offering a collection of unique timepieces that bridge the gap between watchmaking and artistry.

Jacob & co_2
Photograph courtesy of Jacob & Co.
Photograph courtesy of Jacob & Co.

Hardy Brothers, the renowned Australian luxury retailer, will now offer a carefully curated selection of Jacob & Co. designs, including some of the most celebrated pieces:

The Casino Series: A timepiece that features a fully functional casino game, and intricately designed roulette wheel on the watch’s transparent back.

Astronomia Collection: Beyond conventional timekeeping, the Astronomia range transcends the boundaries between the celestial and the corporeal. A veritable universe on your wrist, the Astronomia’s unprecedented four-arm movement, featuring patented complications and exquisite craftsmanship, creates a spectacle of rotating and floating objects within a sapphire crystal case.

Epic X Series: The Epic X series’ skeletal architecture captivates the eye, with translucent casing revealing intricate mechanics beneath (crafted from titanium or encased in rose gold).

“As a brand with a 170-year legacy of craftsmanship, we continually strive to bring world-class luxury to Australia,” says Alexander Bishop, Operations Manager at Hardy Brothers, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, The addition of Jacob & Co. Watches to our curated selection represents our passion and our continued ambition of excellence in the Australian luxury retail landscape.”

Hardy Brothers’ partnership with Jacob & Co. is set to offer watch enthusiasts and collectors access to timepieces that effortlessly combine innovation, design, and craftsmanship in one exceptional package.