Women’s watchmaking was taken to new heights at Geneva’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) with the debut of exceptional creations that combine artistic high-jewelry techniques with horological prowess. Van Cleef & Arpels debuted a women’s version of its Midnight Planétarium astronomical timepiece for its female clientele while keeping it similar in appearance, and Audemars Piguet unveiled a long-awaited Royal Oak Concept for women 16 years after it was introduced for men. Bulgari created a women’s minute repeater with the serious collector in mind. And while Richard Mille set diamonds in carbon for the first time, Cartier created what might be the most Instagrammable timepiece of the year.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ Lady Arpels Planétarium
This new timepiece takes a slice of the heavens and miniaturizes it for the wrist. Van Cleef & Arpels’ Lady Arpels Planétarium complication illustrates the Sun (in pink gold) and its closest planets: Mercury (pink mother-of-pearl), Venus (green enamel), and Earth (turquoise) as well as its natural satellite, the Moon (diamond). Each celestial body orbits around the center for the number of days it takes them to orbit in space. That means the moon will orbit in 29.5 days, Mercury in 88 days, Venus in 224 days, and the Earth in 265 days. The planets are attached to their own rings, which move according to each of their calibrated times.
The seven rings are made of aventurine—a popular material in watch releases this year—a form of iridescent quartz that mimics the night sky. An outer ring features Arabic numerals and a shooting-star marker that tell the time. But, if anything, this will be more of a conversation piece meant to be admired (front and back) rather than used as a utilitarian means of checking the clock. Flip the piece over, and you will see a larger version of Earth in turquoise next to a diamond crescent moon that rests on the oscillating weight, as well as the names of each planet in French accompanied by their respective stones mentioned above. Also on the caseback are two magnified displays telling the year and the month and date.
First introduced as a men’s piece in 2014 called the Midnight Planétarium, Van Cleef & Arpels kept the same high complications and aesthetic of the original and reduced it in size to 38 mm to fit a woman’s wrist. It will be available on either a sparkling blue alligator strap or on a diamond bracelet.
Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater
In watchmaking, the minute repeater is the grande dame of highly complicated timepieces, and this one happens to house the thinnest movement of its kind in the world. The Bulgari Finissimo movement used in this watch is the same movement in Bulgari’s men’s Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater. In the Diva Finissima, the chime of the minute repeater is activated by an 18-karat pink-gold and diamond petal that slides to strike the mechanism, which chimes the hours, quarters, and minutes.
Bulgari’s expertise in watchmaking is only matched by its exquisitely crafted jewelry. Here, special techniques were used, like the Japanese art of Urushi lacquer, to create the deep cinnamon brown and gold-flecked dial. Urushi is an ancient skilled artisanal craft in which the sap of a lacquer tree is used to create various decorative objects, but the substance is poisonous to the touch until it dries; it’s typically only handled by those skilled in its use. Surrounding its Urushi dial is an 18-karat pink-gold case with a brilliant-cut diamond setting and an 18-karat pink-gold crown set with a faceted diamond. The 37 mm piece will be limited to only 10 pieces worldwide.
Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère
Here is the watch that launched a thousand Instagrams at SIHH. Cartier took its iconic Panthère and gave it the hourglass treatment—a mere flick of the wrist sends over 900 tiny gold beads scattering across the surface of the dial until they fall into place to form the outline of the face of a panther. It’s the ultimate party trick, but it’s also a true beauty both in appearance and in craft.
The watch features a caliber 430, an ultra-thin hand-wound mechanical movement, to prove it holds its own in fine watchmaking. It was 5 years in the making and holds two patents, including one for the liquid that suspends the tiny balls and one for the glass encasement.
The 37 mm watch is housed in an 18-karat pink-gold case encircled by brilliant-cut diamonds. The watch will be available in black as well as limited red and green versions available in 100 numbered pieces each.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon
This is the first Royal Oak Concept model for women since the birth of the collection in 2002 and the first flying tourbillon creation for the brand. This is an important watch for female collectors of Audemars Piguet, and it will be available in two versions—brilliant-cut diamonds or baguette-cut diamonds set in 18-karat white gold.
The open-worked barrel at 11 o’clock is surrounded by a snowflake and diamond-set icicles—and at 38.5 mm and 7.07 mm thick, this is a lot of watch. This will appeal to a woman who isn’t in the market for something dainty, but she isn’t averse to piling on the diamonds (397 for the case and dial, and 62 for the dial in the brilliant-cut version) to turn a few heads, either.
Richard Mille RM 07-01 Gem-Set Black Ceramic
This sleek, new watch from Richard Mille features pavé diamonds set in NTPT carbon. This new technique, which has never been done before, involves the work of special machines and tools in order to set the diamonds in such a hard material. The 2.55 mm diamonds are set in red-gold prongs, which are then placed into tiny holes that have been drilled into the case.
Those diamonds accent the brand’s signature tonneau-shaped case, which measures 45.66 by 31.4 mm and features a skeletonized dial. A decorative frame of pavé diamonds set in red gold rests on top of the skeleton and encases an onyx center.
Despite the gold and the diamonds, this watch should easily transition from the tennis court to cocktail hour. Richard Mille’s timepieces are always created with the sports enthusiast in mind—the RM 07-01 has an 18-karat-gold rotor that can be adjusted to suit the wearer’s level of physical activity.