Miniature marquetry is a rare métier d’art. Artisans create beautiful dials with geometric motifs or images that look like paintings at first glance. Only upon closer inspection, usually with a loupe, can you see the minuscule pieces that create the design. Only a handful of brands have the ability to produce marquetry watches. They take hundreds of hours to produce, and very few artisans have the technical ability to create them.
Marvelous Marquetry Watches
Patek Philippe Ref. 995/113J
Patek Philippe is credited with reviving the art of miniature wood marquetry. It has some wristwatch dials with marquetry, but the best examples are on the back of pocket watches in its Rare Handcrafts collection. Patek Philippe’s artisans exclusively use wood in its marquetry watches, which is very impressive when you see how realistic the designs are and how tiny the pieces must be to create such a vivid tableau.
First, the artisan draws the design, scales it down to the size of the dial, and then cuts out pieces of the drawing to create a template. Then, they choose the wood they will use for each section. In fact, they use a huge array of different species of wood to find the right color, grain, and texture to bring the design to life. Once the wood has been assigned to each section, they cut the pieces using a special saw. They don’t cut just one piece of wood; they cut up to 10 pieces at once so they can find just the right piece. Hundreds of pieces can be in each dial, so this is a laborious process. Once the pieces have been cut, the artisan assembles the motif and glues the wood atop the base to create the image. Finally, the dial is sanded, varnished, and polished.
This watch is inspired by ancient tapestries and features hundreds of pieces of wood from 38 different species. In addition, each Rare Handcrafts watch is one-of-a-kind and is typically reserved for the brand’s top collectors.
Piaget Gleaming Savor Watch
Piaget includes unique métiers d’art watches in its high-jewelry collections, a testament to their rarity and the expert craftsmanship involved in each one. The Solstice collection included the Gleaming Savor watch, which evokes a starry night sky by using blue and green marquetry and diamonds. Piaget also looked to Rose Saneuil, a Parisian artist renowned for her marquetry, for this gorgeous dial. The marquetry is crafted from sycamore wood, straw, and elytron (insect wings) and accented with glittering rays of diamonds. The bezel and lugs are then set with more diamonds, adding to the glamour. It also features an in-house ultrathin movement.
Chopard Happy Sport Métiers d’Art
Chopard elevated its Happy Sport watch collection with limited-edition métiers d’art featuring different types of marquetry, including mother-of-pearl and gemstone. The Sea Turtle watch features a rose gold turtle swimming through an underwater garden. The turtle is set with diamonds, and its shell is crafted from a cabochon-cut aventurine stone. Chopard used four layers of marquetry to create a three-dimensional underwater world. Slices of green mother-of-pearl and opal create aquatic plants. The Happy Sport collection is known for its dancing diamonds, which are typically round. This watch has a diamond-set bezel and features three pear-shaped diamonds placed between two sheets of sapphire glass. The diamonds dance freely across the dial as you move. It’s powered by an in-house movement with a 65-hour power reserve.