Looking for Robb Report UK? Click here to visit our UK site.

How Pendant Watches Re-Emerged as the Coolest Way to Tell Time

Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, and Jaeger-LeCoultre have all introduced stylish, discreet, gem-set sautoirs—the preferred ladies' watch of the early 1900s.

Piaget Palace Decor Sautoir in Gold, Diamonds, Emeralds and Malachite Piaget

The pendant watch is back. Originally designed for women to discreetly check the time, these days they are more of a style statement than an elegantly furtive way to check the hour. Several were introduced at this year’s Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva, where they exemplified what was, in general, a year of design-oriented introductions rather than horological masterpieces.

When a pendant watch—a covered or open watch suspended from a chain—is a little longer, with multiple layers or tassels, it is generally defined as a sautoir. The term was coined in the early 1900s to describe a long necklace with a tassel or ornament at the end, which complemented the long tailored suit dresses that were popular at the time—the trailing bustles of which cried out for balance in the form of elaborate, elongated neck features. But pendant watches have existed since the 16th century as precursors to the pocket watch.

Today, sautoir watches exist as jewelry pieces with the quirky allure of old-fashioned time-telling. They are less formal than a jeweled choker, but still more glamorous than some dress watches. The covers or backs, or both, are traditionally gemset, engraved, or enameled, which makes it the ideal showcase for mètiers d’art expertise. Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, and Van Cleef & Arpels introduced versions this year, suggesting the reemergence of the design.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Secret Necklace
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Secret Necklace Jaeger-LeCoultre

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Secret Necklace reminds us that the Reverso has always served as a perfect canvas for gem-setting. In its earliest iterations as a ladies’ watch, it was often used on a cordonnet-style strap—a black textile bracelet finely woven into a cord. On the new Reverso Necklace, the cord is reimagined as a supple chain made of diamond-set links and polished onyx beads. On the front side, the dial is designed with numerals in a boxy onyx chapter ring surrounded by diamonds. The back is set with diamonds and black onyx in an intricate geometric kaleidoscopic pattern. Vertical rows of grain-set diamonds wrap around the sides of the case and frame the dial. As with most pendant watches, the dial appears to observers to be upside-down, but it’s designed that way so that only the wearer can read the time as the piece is lifted into their line of sight. The watch and chain are set with over 3,000 diamonds totaling over 18 carats.

Piaget Gold, Turquoise and Diamond Palace Decor Necklace

In Piaget’s atelier, the duo of Palace Decor sautoirs are multi-layered constructs made of hand-twisted gold links (each chain takes 130 hours to make) with tassel-style flourishes dangling from pendant watches. The caseback of one is set with a 25.38-carat Zambian emerald cut in Piaget’s signature oval shape—the dial side is made of malachite.

Piaget Palace Decor Necklace
Piaget Gold and Diamond Palace Decor Necklace Piaget

On the other, the dial is engraved gold surrounded by diamonds and a border of wider twisted gold. A tassel made of strands of bezel-set diamonds is suspended from the case. Piaget also introduced a pendant necklace with a dial and large oval links set with turquoise, alternating with open gold or diamond paved links.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the more casual option of the three. The Parisian house extended its Perlée collection of gold-bead motif watches to a trio of gemstone pendants, applying the motif in four rows around the caseband, on the bale, and on the watch cover between gemstone settings in either sapphire, emerald, or ruby. Three other styles are comprised of covers set with decorative hardstones. The covers of each rotate to reveal mother-of-pearl dials surrounded by a ring of diamonds.

Needless to say, these will all be limited in production but if you’re looking to make a standout style statement that rivals your neighbor’s wrist candy any of these should do the trick.

More Watch Collector