The line between jewelry and watches is often vanishingly thin. So how does one easily distinguish the two? Jewelry is wearable art, often produced from precious materials and finished with complicated decorative techniques. A watch is a wearable instrument to tell the time that might be complicated. On the surface these items are totally different, but the reality is that because we wear watches and we want them to say something about who we are, the two concepts are merged.
It is often said that the jewelry borrows heavily from that of the watch world, but what is more true is that watches often more readily borrow concepts and elements from the jewelry world. This fact is the most obvious when inspecting high-end women’s watches, which must be useful and comfortable, but are also often valued for their beauty, originality, and let’s admit it, sheer sparkle value.
One interesting interpretation of the jeweled timepiece, which is quite common among high-end pieces, is the secret watch. Here a timepiece has a hidden face that disguises the object as pure jewelry until the wearer wishes to see the time. These watches began in an era when it was not deemed socially appropriate for a woman to wear a watch, and thus her ability to check the time was allowed to be hidden and discreet. Cartier produces a range of modern interpretations of this concept such as the Panthere Secret. The brand’s famous feline ambassador has been rendered in luscious detail across a range of models. This one hides the time from view, making for a mostly jewelry-themed item, but with a welcome horological twist.
Cartier Panthere Secret
Before there were watches on bracelets there were jewelry bracelets, and the former borrows heavily for the latter. Bulgari for instance produces an incredible twisted gold bracelet known as the Tubogas paired with a snake-shaped watch head to create the Serpenti Tubogas. Double strands of springy gold comfortably hugs the watch to one’s wrist. This particular style is directly inspired by jewelry bracelets, but these days the concept is most notably associated with timepieces and not strictly jewelry.
Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas
Surface decoration is as important in jewelry as it is watchmaking, and the two often heavily borrow from one another. Movement decoration is where watchmaking excels, and exterior decoration is where jewelry makers are the experts. When the two combine, you are often left with a beautiful result.
Recently Audemars Piguet borrowed an originally Italian jewelry technique of gently hammering gold for its Royal Oak Frosted Gold collection. Hammering the surface of gold creates tiny nicks on the surface that catch the light, and offer increased brilliance and lustre for giving an iconic watch design a jeweled appearance.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold
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Ariel Adams – United States
Ariel Adams started writing about watches in 2007, almost immediately after finishing law school. Since then he’s never looked back – combining his business skills with an enduring passion for timepieces and all things “well-made”. In addition to running the world’s highest-traffic online watch magazine, Adams also wrote a book, The World’s Most Expensive Watches, and also lends his voice to leading watch and thought publications around the world.