The term high jewelry has changed over the years. Originally, it meant a one-of-a-kind piece using the finest and rarest gemstones that would never be re-created. Each jewel was the highest expression of the house’s craftsmanship and artistry. Today, some brands retain the original meaning and create unique pieces, while others describe any of their significant bejeweled masterpieces as high-jewelry watches. At La Patiala, we consider high-jewelry watches that are unique pieces, as well as those produced in larger quantities, as long as the craftsmanship and gemsetting are incredible and the stones are sensational. After all, some of these timepieces are too beautiful for just a single one to exist. Several other types of jewelry watches are gorgeous, have high-quality craftsmanship, and feature fine gemstones — but aren’t considered high jewelry. These include gem-set watches, watches with diamond dials, and more everyday jewelry watches. Our selection of the best high-jewelry watches features timepieces with mechanical and quartz movements, including some with impressive complications.
Bulgari Giardino Dell’Eden Tourbillon
No one creates exuberant high-jewelry watches quite like the Roman house Bulgari. The pieces are full of life, movement, and carats upon carats of incredible gemstones. The recent Bulgari Eden The Garden of Wonders collection featured five unique high-jewelry watches, including the Giardino Dell’Eden Tourbillon watch. While most high-jewelry watches take hundreds of hours to create, this one took an astounding 4,400 hours due to the complex design and complicated movement.
A lush Mediterranean garden inspired the design. The watch is set with brilliantly colored flowers set at different levels, many with Bulgari’s beloved cabochon-cut gemstones at the center. In total, the Giardino Dell’Eden Tourbillon watch has 6,500 stones, including tourmaline, diamond, tsavorite, garnet, emerald, opal, and multicolored sapphire. There are also two butterflies set en tremblant, a particularly difficult jewelry technique that creates movement in a piece by using springs. The butterflies will “tremble” as you move. It’s absolutely hypnotic and a Bulgari signature. You can see a video of them in motion here. But it’s not enough for the watch to be a high-jewelry masterpiece. Bulgari also uses a mechanical skeletonized tourbillon movement in the watch, showing its high horology expertise.
Harry Winston Winston Candy High-jewelry Watch
Candy is one of the more playful high-jewelry collections to come from Harry Winston in years. It highlights gemstones in bright, juicy colors, and each piece evokes the bonbons of childhood. The collection includes several one-of-a-kind high-jewelry watches, each with a different color scheme. The pink sapphire and ruby model is my favorite, thanks to its bubblegum-pink hue. It features 18 pear-shaped pink sapphires, nine pear-shaped rubies, and 27 diamonds in a fan-inspired design. The pink dial is made from beaded pink mother-of-pearl with a kaleidoscope-inspired motif that also indicates the hours. Two large oval-shaped rubies connect the gem-set platinum case to the pink satin bracelet, which is adorned with even more gemstones. As with many high-jewelry watches, the watch has a quartz movement.
The L’Orangerie high-jewelry watch is an explosion of color and daring design. The 18K yellow gold watch is fully gem-set in an intricate floral motif. Two flowers sit on the front of the watch: one with an open center, the other with a diamond-snow-set dial. Breguet’s artisans set curving, carved flower petals with ombré-colored gemstones in yellow, orange, pink, and red hues. Larger gemstones and diamonds trail from the ends of the petals. The rest of the bracelet is fully gem-set, too. It has over 10 carats of diamond and seven carats of spessartite garnet alongside rubies, spinels, yellow sapphires and beryls, and pink tourmalines. Breguet is a historic watch brand, so L’Orangerie naturally features an automatic movement.
Graff Abstract Diamond
Graff is known for its significant diamonds, so it’s no surprise that it has spectacular high-jewelry watches with stunning diamonds. The Abstract Diamond high-jewelry watch combines round and fancy diamonds in an asymmetrical design. The right side is framed with round diamonds, while the left has a cascading pattern of overlapping pear- and marquise-cut diamonds. The diamonds are different sizes and set in an intricate design. They overlap and are placed at different heights, bringing more light and sparkle into the stones. The petite round dial is set with pavé diamonds in a circular design. In total, the watch features 13.58 carats of diamonds. The Abstract Diamond watch comes on a satin strap and has a quartz movement.
Chopard’s Magari watch debuted at the Cannes Film Festival as part of its Red Carpet Collection — a fitting setting for such a glamorous high-jewelry watch. Magari features over 32 carats of pear-shaped diamonds, including two fancy-colored diamonds. At 12 o’clock, there’s a vivid blue pear-shaped diamond, and at 6 o’clock, a pink one. Both diamonds are significant in size, which is even more notable because these are two of the rarest diamond colors. The dial is micro-gem-set with diamonds too. The watch has an automatic in-house movement with a 40-hour power reserve. Chopard used 18K ethically sourced white gold in the timepiece as part of its commitment to sustainability. More than 30 artisans contributed to the creation of this spectacular timepiece.
Jaeger-LeCoultre 101 Bangle
For nearly a century, Jaeger-LeCoultre has crafted exquisite high-jewelry watches featuring the world’s smallest mechanical movement: Calibre 101. This movement is so impressive that even though it was created in 1929, it hasn’t changed significantly since, a testament to its ingenious design. Of course, it’s been refined as watchmaking has evolved, but it still has the same tiny dimensions. How small is Calibre 101? It measures 14mm x 4.8mm and is just 3.4mm thick. The rectangular movement is perfectly suited for bangles, so many timepieces that feature the caliber look more like jewelry than a watch. The 101 Bangle certainly does. This spectacular high-jewelry watch features 996 diamonds set using the griffe and grain techniques. The architectural bracelet curves around the wrist in an asymmetrical design. One side is rectangular, while the other finishes in a curled flourish. This Art Deco-inspired watch has a petite white dial. It is beautifully finished on all sides with polished gold and even more diamonds.
Piaget Limelight Gala High-jewelry Watch
Piaget’s exquisite Limelight Gala high-jewelry watch has a magnificent black opal dial with a beautiful play of color. It has shimmering shades of green and blue that flash as the light hits it. Piaget accents the mesmerizing colors with diamonds and emeralds. The watch bracelet is set with 91 round diamonds in a channel setting. A row of marquise-cut emeralds encircles the diamonds, beginning at each of the asymmetrical lugs. The emeralds have an airy setting and appear to float alongside the diamonds.
Van Cleef & Arpels Perles de Glace Rose
Rubies, pink sapphires, diamonds, and pearls come together in this interesting high-jewelry watch from Van Cleef & Arpels. While mother-of-pearl dials are common in watchmaking, using delicate pearls on the bracelet is uncommon, highlighting the elegance and artistry of its artisans. The Perles de Glace Rose watch features a petite diamond-set dial, rubies on the bezel, and diamonds decorating the case. The case is connected to the bracelet in a bangle style with two flowers crafted from ruby with diamond accents. The bracelet features gradient pink sapphires alongside pearls that seem to float in their gold settings. The watch was inspired by the pink and red colors that streak across the winter sky at sunrise and sunset, with the pearls representing the frozen landscape. The bracelet is fully articulated, so it is very comfortable to wear.