Earlier this year, I had a front-row encounter with embroidery on a watch dial at the Piaget display at January’s SIHH in Geneva. There I witnessed firsthand master embroiderer Sylvie Deschamps’ incredible needlework version of a Piaget Rose decorating the dial of a limited-edition Altiplano
watch. Neither the time required nor the vision-bending miniature work seemed to phase Deschamps, whose only goal was perfection. She achieved it.
Her limited series of eight gold watches is an amazing testament to innovation, creativity and, of course, the patience of the human heart, since each dial not only tells time, but is also a study of time itself. Silk thread is used to delicately “paint” the multi-dimensional appearance of the delicate flower over many hours until it appears that if one were to get close enough, the scent would be as evident as the shimmering pink petals.
Having recently returned from Baselworld, I found embroidery, or “thread” as dial decoration, to be a perfect example of parallel watch evolution, as many brands are indeed employing it, but each in its own unique way. So what separates one brand’s decorated dials from another’s? As with most things in life, it’s all about perspective.
For example, Hublot’s funky new Broderie
features an edgy décor, thanks to its skull design serving as a counterpoint to the delicate embroidery, which is very much in keeping with the brand’s concept of fusion. Dior’s and Chanel’s use of thread has a distinctly “fashion” twist, whereas Harry Winston’s designs are elegantly fitting for the “King of Diamonds.”
The recently introduced Big Bang Broderie
begins its journey to fruition with a charcoal sketch to identify the placement of the embroidery stitches. This sketch is then used to create a blueprint for the fabric design—a skull embroidered on tulle. Switzerland-based Bischoff Textil produced the embroidery, while Busch Composites, also headquartered in Switzerland, devised a process to surround the delicate embroidery in resin and then layer it with carbon fiber to amplify its texture and strength. The watch comes in three variations, each limited to 200 pieces.
An addition this year to the Dior VIII Grand Bal
collection is the Fil d’Or
, or “gold thread.” The company worked with a master lace maker from France to decorate the dial-side oscillating weight on the movement, a hallmark of the Grand Bal
collection. Meant to conjure the sway of a ball gown, the rotor has been dressed in a variety of ways since the collection was first introduced—with feathers, mother-of-pearl and precious gems—each living up to the company’s roots in haute couture.
Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé
embroidered collection offers a range of finely crafted dials decorated with diamonds, pearls, sequins and, of course, silk-thread embroidery. The needlework is done at the Lasage workshop in France at the hands of master embroiderers known for their work in high fashion. The camellia is a recurring theme on the dials of Chanel’s timepieces, since it was Coco Chanel’s favorite flower. Here the floral motif is rendered in silk thread and pearls.
While Harry Winston’s Premier Lace
looks like needlework, it is, in fact, delicately fashioned mother-of-pearl—just 0.15 thick—against a black sunburst dial backdrop. So amazing is the craftsmanship, that one can almost see the strands of thread that comprise the “lace.” This model is also available in pink mother-of-pearl against a Tahitian mother-of-pearl dial, but I must admit I love the stark beauty of the black and white, beautifully punctuated by the diamond-set case.