It is often regarded as the face of a watch. An infinitely small area providing infinite scope for expression and a stage on which to express the incredible creativity of watchmakers turned artists, dials shine even more brightly when setting the scene for the treasures of Nature. Diamonds, fine or precious stones, mother-of-pearl, hard stones, aventurine, natural pigments. These mesmerizing forms of beauty, tamed by the deftness of the artisan, establish refinement as second nature within feminine watchmaking.
It sends us rain and sunshine, tracing and erasing landscapes, producing marvels and rare phenomena, entran- cing and inspiring human beings in sometimes incredible ways. Bountiful nature, which since the dawn of time has unstintingly shared the best the Earth has to offer. Exceptional stones and indescribable colors, sparkling as they clothe time in supremely precious style. Among the inescapable treasures provided by nature are the countless diamonds loved as much by watchmakers as the women whose wrists they embrace. These perfectly brilliant or baguette-cut gems pave dials in light. Girard-Perregaux has set them like a theatre curtain raised to reveal mother-of-pearl marquetry adorning the dial of the Cat’s Eeye Sparkle La Fenice ; while Cartier use them to shape the outlines of a stylized panther on a gold and onyx cuff watch featuring a dial topped by an over 27-carat heliodor (also known as golden beryl).
Cat’s Eye Sparkle La Fenice Girard-Perregaux
Onyx and heliodor cuff watch © Cartier
Sheer unadulterated beauty
Nonetheless, watchmaking for women does not of course confine itself to the undeniable charm of diamonds. The brilliance of the latter is often a lure to draw the eye towards other equally fascinating natural gems. Whether sculpted, engraved or guillochéd, mother-of-pearl embellishes many feminine dials. Chanel’s one-of-a-kind Mademoiselle Privé Décor Coromandel models inspired by Coco Chanel’s famous lacquered screens are adorned with coral, turquoise, cornelian, mother-of-pearl or lapis lazuli, sculpted using the antique glyptic technique. A subtle and rare form of expertise requiring as much delicacy and precision as the art of enameling that is far better known and more widely used.
Mademoiselle Privé Décor Coromandel © Chanel
Applied to dials in much the same way as paintings, pigments are also some of these marvels produced by nature. Well accustomed to the complexities of enameling, Van Cleef & Arpels introduces a veritable manifesto of style and poetry with its Charms Extraordinaire Fée Sakura watch featuring an enchanting pink lacquered dial mingling mother-of-pearl, enamel and diamonds. And what amazing depth in the black Grand Feu enamel dial adorned with a miniature pink flamingo adorning the Petite Heure Minute Black Enamel created in the Jaquet Droz Ateliers d’Art !
Charms Extraordinaire Fée Sakura watch © Van Cleef & Arpels
Petite Heure Minute Black Enamel © Jaquet-Droz
Tamed by the human hand, materials and colors along with precious, hard or fine gemstones represent infinite riches that exalt feminine watchmaking, even in their simplest possible expression. One has only to think of the beauty radiating from the turquoise or opal adorning two Piaget Altiplano models celebrating the collection’s 60th anniversary. Or the luminous charm of the blue adventurine dial gracing the Tonda Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy unveiled by Parmigiani Fleurier. An earthly treasure so fascinating that one might almost believe it is heaven-sent.
Altiplano 60th anniversary © Piaget
As you might be aware already, Michel Parmigiani is a architecture savant. In fact, if he was younger he believed pursuing architecture for a career rather than watchmaking. Not surprisingly then, all of his designs are heavily influenced by his love of architecture and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Toric collection. Why is this set of watches special — aesthetically speaking — would be the bezel, which contrasts gadroons and knurling. As you can see in the image above, the effect is very pronounced in the first model he created, although it has been refined somewhat from the brand new Parmigiani Event Toric Chronomètre.The bezel’s knurling — the Toric’s signature — is, according to Parmigiani, created from the only craftsman in Val-de-Travers to possess this ability and he is the same man that’s been working with Mr. Parmigiani since 1996. This artwork consists of manipulating the material with a wheel that leaves the imprint of its notches in the alloy. As a result, every knurl is unique and any error means decreasing the bezel and starting all over again. The result is a distinctive, stepped event that shows its attractiveness in the details.Like the first model, the Toric Chronomètre features gold, javelin-shaped hands and a very tidy, hot dial. The Roman numerals are replaced by Arabic ones, giving the opinion a far more modern feel and really opening-up the dial nicely. Just above six o’clock there’s an “open” date window, which displays the current date in addition to the preceding and proceeding date.
Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy © Parmigiani Fleurier
Paul O’Neil, Chief Editor of WorldTempus.com gives us his position
Marie’s title highlights a big difference between the design of men’s and ladies’ watch dials. It’s interesting to note that all the wonderful dial designs listed in this article are created using wholly natural elements. It’s something that is certainly not true for gents’ watches and just goes to show that true beauty is something natural, something that cannot be reproduced by humans, no matter how cutting-edge the technology. Furthermore, the fact that these dials are usually even smaller for ladies’ watches has never been a barrier to creativity or the quantity of precious stones that can be crammed on to them. Head over to WorldTempus and browse through our Watchfinder to see just how much detail can be packed into these dials.