We all know the adage ‘diamonds are forever’, but diamond-set watches boast an added element of (fitting) timelessness. A precious hybrid between watchmaking and fine-jewelry artisanship, a diamond-set watch should be appreciated for its duality – after all, not all watches set with scintillating stones are simple, and not all ‘serious’ watches are without sparkle. “Over the past few years, diamonds have garnered a cool, laid-back luxury status,” says Libby Page, senior market editor at NET-A-PORTER. “Not always flashy, there is brilliance in the subtlety of diamond watches; whether the stones are decorating a watch face or embellishing a diamond-studded strap, the options are endless for every style or occasion,” she adds.
When looking to invest in a diamond timepiece, the first step is to assess what level of adornment you want to achieve. For sheer, unadulterated razzle dazzle, they don’t come much more frosted than Vacheron Constantin’s ‘Egérie’. Set with a blinding four karats, this is the ultimate timepiece for those drawn to lustrous jewels, yet the taupe satin strap ensures it doesn’t feel too blingy. “It’s interesting that we are now starting to see changeable straps at every level of fine watchmaking,” says Edwina Hilton, fine-jewelry and watches buyer at NET-A-PORTER. “This watch comes with an additional brown alligator strap, so the satin version can be saved for special events, while the leather one brings a daytime aesthetic to the bejeweled dial,” she says.
If a full-on diamond-set face feels too extravagant, then a classic design with a diamond bezel should be your go-to. Those seeking a bezel with extra oomph will love Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ‘Rendez-Vous Dazzling Night & Day Automatic’, which features a double row of diamonds – and almost a full karat. At 36mm, this is a substantially sized rose-gold timepiece; each diamond is perched in a tall setting that allows light to flood into each stone, creating potent scintillation. “The detailing on this watch is astonishing, from the miniature moon phase to the delicate inner circle of glistening diamonds – this is the sort of piece that can be paired with a couple of rose-gold diamond tennis bracelets for souped-up glamour, or just as easily worn as a jewel in its own right,” says Hilton.
Those seeking subtler styles should consider the unisex watch models out there right now – pieces that are worn by men and women alike, with just a dash of diamonds. A sports watch, for example, doesn’t have to mean all steel and no sparkle: the Piaget ‘Polo’ is a chunky, luxe athleisure design that exudes the elegance of an exceptionally fine watch. The diamond-set bezel elevates the modern curves of the cushion-shaped case, but the beauty is in the detail – each hour index is adorned with three tiny diamonds, adding extra accents that scintillate in the sunshine. “Delicately scattered diamonds can be subtle yet chic – it all depends on the watch they’re decorating,” says Page. “As a minimalist myself, I adore a watch with a subtle diamond bezel, such as IWC Schaffhausen’s ‘Portofino Automatic’, which also has tiny diamond indices.”
Diamonds don’t, however, have to remain in the more classical positions of hour markers, lugs or a bezel. In fact, some maisons bravely employ them as audacious design features, instead. Hermès Timepieces’ ‘Cape Cod’ model, for example, was inspired by the silhouette of a ship’s anchor, and this rose-gold version features the anchor motif traced in diamonds upon the dial. To style, consider adding boho-inspired jewels, such as beads, charm bracelets, embellished cords, or a chunky chain for that contemporary insouciant vibe.
It’s important to think holistically about your overall sense of style when committing to a fine-watch purchase, too. Work out if you’re a minimalist or a maximalist – or perhaps somewhere in between – then consider how a watch can enhance the looks you keep on rotation. “Style a diamond-set watch over a simple black turtleneck and it’s immediately the keystone of your outfit in the most effortless way,” says Page. The perfect candidate for this particular look? A watchmaking icon since its debut in 1912, Cartier’s iconic ‘Baignoire’ oval case delivers just the right dose of diamonds for daytime or decadence.