After the turn of the 20th century, when it was considered impolite for a lady to glance at her wristwatch during an evening among gentlemen, French jeweler and watchmaker Léon Hatot specialized in creating elaborate jeweled bracelets that cleverly concealed wristwatches. The designs helped him cultivate a following of au courant women, and his business flourished as the Art Deco movement emerged. During this period, Hatot developed a new watch movement, the Rolls—a self-winding movement that, supported by ball bearings to regulate its rate, rolled back and forth in the frame—and a new diamond cut, the Coup de Foudre.
A round cut that reveals eight arrows or hearts when viewed from a particular angle, the Coup de Foudre plays a prominent role in new designs from the resurrected Léon Hatot brand. The collection includes various jeweled watches that are concealed with covers and set with gems. Among the new high-jewelry designs is the Pompon collar, which is appointed with 2,150 round diamonds plus 40 carats of rubies and sapphires in a feminine scalloped necklace. The piece features a removable pendant of cascading diamonds and gemstones that also can be worn on a silk cord. Prices range from $30,000 to well over $1 million for the one-of-a-kind designs.
Before Swatch debuted the modern collection in 2003, the Hatot name had been absent from the jewelry realm for decades. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Hatot closed his bustling Parisian workshop. A vault kept an assemblage of pieces, as well as some sketches, secure for the next 50 years, until his heirs sold the jewelry and watches to several buyers at a Christie’s auction in 1989—for triple their estimated value. Hatot had passed away decades earlier, in 1953.
“Léon Hatot was undoubtedly one of the most influential French watchmakers and jewelers of the 20th century,” says David Warren, Christie’s senior European specialist in the jewelry department. “He was a pioneer of electrical timepieces who was also widely acclaimed for his superlative Art Deco Japanese-style enamel work.”
The brand remained dormant until 1999, when Nicolas Hayek, chairman of the Swatch Group, acquired an archive of more than 5,000 original Hatot sketches along with rights to the Léon Hatot name from Hatot’s descendants. “It is our crown jewel,” says Arlette Emch, president of Léon Hatot and a member of the Swatch Group management board.
To reestablish Léon Hatot as a premier brand, the company recently opened boutiques in Paris, Cannes, and Geneva that offer contemporary designs, such as the Pompon collar and jeweled watches, which are based on Hatot’s original Art Deco jewelry and timepieces. “These jewels are for women who want something truly unique,” explains Emch. “This collection is not about status; it’s about originality and artistry that only a few people will ever own.”