When it comes in showcasing their rarest models and proudest complications, watchmakers veer towards platinum
Of all the precious metals, platinum is the most noble: thirty times more rare than gold, writes Nick Foulkes in Time Machine Platinum Watches 2010-2011. “The platinum that is worked in the world’s great watchmaking ateliers is 95 per cent pure and possesses the sort of physical properties of which gold can only dream.”
That’s the very reason that platinum is preferred by watchmakers when they present their rarest models and their proudest complications: whether it is A. Lange & Söhne’s fabled Double Split, the tourbillons of Van Cleef &∓ Arpels or the mythical Jumbo Ellipse of Patek Philippe, platinum never fails to bestow a sense of occasion.
“To wear a platinum watch, for however short a time, is to experience the personal timepiece anew: even the most delicate of watches gain in terms of physical presence on the wrist,” says Foulkes.
Platinum is a more dense metal, more than a third heavier than the equivalent piece in gold, its comforting mass holds out a talismanic promise of longevity that is delivered by its molecular structure, as a dense metal it will not shed molecules over time, and it is much harder to scratch than its softer siblings.
Platinum offers new expressive opportunities to contemporary watchmaking, not only because of the importance of technical factors, but also because of its extraordinary aesthetic qualities. All this is sublimed in the snow-white purity of colour and unquestionable intrinsic value of the metal. Presenting select pieces.
Cluster of Time
This Harry Winston masterpiece is part of one of the American jeweller’s most exclusive collections. A pendant watch, as was fashionable in the 1930s, it is reversible and so can be worn as a watch or as a piece of jewellery. The case is platinum, the perfect metal for such a precious timepiece. Cluster of Time is set with over 1,000 diamonds with a total of 57 carats in oval, marquise and brilliant cuts.
The platinum case is teardrop-shaped with the dial and case-back set with diamonds. The dial with pavé of diamonds has baton hands and no markers. The movement is electronic quartz. Its functions include hours and minutes.
Breguet’s latest model is a highly technical watch, boasting extraordinary aesthetics. This is in part due to the decision to leave the structural part of the mechanics of the movement on show and to locate the small guilloché decoration dial at 12 o’clock. All this fits into an impressive platinum case. The mechanism is equipped with a tourbillon regulator and silicon balance spring, powered by a constant torque using a chain transmission.
The circular case is in platinum with the case-back with sapphire-crystal glass revealing the movement. The silver-plated dial is engraved with guilloché decoration by hand, Breguet hands, and roman numerals. The movement is mechanical with manual winding, with tourbillon and silicon balance spring, 50-hour power reserve. Its functions include hours, minutes, and power reserve indicator on the barrel drum.
Hommage La Chaux-de-Fonds 1738
The latest offering from Jaquet Droz features a dial cut from a fragment of a rare blue and yellow speckled Namibian stone, and is set with mother-of-pearl markers. Its large platinum case, 43 mm in diameter, provides a splendid frame. This aesthetic splendour is matched by technical expertise: a perpetual calendar with retrograde day and date indicated by serpentine hands, reminiscent of pocket watches of the past. The counters display the subsidiary seconds and months, while the succession of leap years is shown in a small window at 12 o’clock.
The platinum case is circular with platinum case-back. The dial is of blue & yellow pietersite and mother-of-pearl with Dauphine hands and circular markers. The movement is mechanical with automatic winding, 68-hour power reserve, 28,800 vibrations per hour. Its functions include hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds, and perpetual calendar.
Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix
For the past two decades, this watch with an octagonal case has been one of Audemars Piguet’s great classics, available with a variety of functions and in numerous designs. The latest version uses platinum for a limited series of 75 pieces. It is the sportiest model in the Royal Oak collection, fitted with a chronograph and water-resistant to 100 metres. The manufacture movement can be seen through the sapphire-crystal base and is decorated with all the very finest top-of-the-range chasing.
The octagonal case is in platinum and the case-back reveals the movement with sapphire-crystal window. The black dial is decorated with Méga Tapisserie motif and coloured details, the markers and baton hands have fluorescent coating. It has a mechanical movement with automatic winding, 365 components, 59 jewels, 21,600 vibrations per hour, and 60-hour power reserve.