The best new cocktail watches 2021

Cocktail watches have evolved and this years styles set pulses roaring. Rocks looks at the best cocktail watches from Chanel, Dior, Hermes and Piaget

By Laura McCreddie-Doak

Mention the words “cocktail watch” to today’s woman and you’ll most likely elicit a facial expression comprising a crinkling of the nose, a twisting of the lip, as if to say, “not my sort of thing”. It is a style synonymous with well-behaved young ladies with pinched waists, wide skirts, white gloves and set hair. Ladies who surreptitiously mark the minutes of boring conversation on tiny dials set with diamond chips. 

That definition might need to be rethought. Because this year brands have raised the cocktail bar and reimagined after dark timepieces for a new generation. All the design rules have been thrown out of the window and the dress code on the invitation just reads “diamonds”. 

The Cartier Clash (Un)Limited Mitten Watch

Cartier: The most genre defying piece is the misleadingly named Mitten from Cartier. This is not a watch you wear attached to a string that goes through your coat sleeves. It is a supple mesh fingerless glove, comprising tiny squares of rose gold imperceptibly welded together, on whose wrist lies the elongated form of the Baignoire Allongée. It’s the type of design with a punk sensibility. Immediately you can imagine Zendaya sporting it on the red carpet as an accessory to one of her amazing vintage finds. Two years in the making and a collaboration between a French glove maker and Cartier’s own Maison des Métiers d’Art workshop, which houses artisans proficient in rare crafts. The Mitten takes a whopping 277 hours to make and is also set with close to 1,600 diamonds, which appear to magically radiate from the watch itself. Cartier Clash [Un]Limited Mitten in rose gold and diamonds, price on application, Cartier

Kelly Haute Joaillerie Porter

Hermes: Also going big on the precious stones but in a more of a “Parisian girl rebelling against her mother” way is Hermes’s Kelly Joaillière. Hermes offers two ways of wearing a Kelly padlock shaped watch. The first way is a bejewelled cuff that has slight BDSM aura about it and is set with an astonishing 430 brilliant cut and 57 princess cut stones. If you prefer it was your décolletage that dazzled then switch to the white gold sautoir necklace, its link lit up with yet more diamonds. Kelly Joaillière in white gold, diamonds and mother of pearl, price for both on request, Hermès.

Hermes Kelly Sautoir Necklace

Richard Mille: The new style rules means that “cocktail” no longer has to equal demure. If you’re more in favour of a smoking jacket than a slip dress, Richard Mille’s RM037 Red Gold Snow Set is made for your wrist. Fully pavé, the stones vary in size and are set together in a seemingly random pattern. The diamonds resembling snowflakes falling on icy ground, the red gold case amplifies the disco ball dazzle. Typically for Richard Mille, he hasn’t feminised his traditional curved tonneau case. Therefore, despite all the diamonds, this piece retains a sporty aesthetic. RM037 Red Gold Snow Set in rose gold and diamonds with a white rubber strap, price on application, Richard Mille

Dior Grand Bal Ruban

Dior: The Dior Grand Bal has to contain one of the most romantic complications in watchmaking (and yes that does sound like an oxymoron). The rotor has been moved from the back to the front. Simply because the design team at the Maison thought its movement resembled the swish of the skirt from one of M. Dior’s ballgowns. Like those ballgowns, they are always exquisitely decorated. Iridescent beetles wings, rare lace, peacock feathers, have all been used. On this version, the rotor has been turned into a ribbon bow in rose and white gold set with diamonds. When the motor moves, is evocative of the twirling waist of a woman as she dances in her partner’s arms. Dior Grand Bal Ruban watch in steel, pink gold, white gold, diamonds, white mother-of-pearl and white gold leaf, £39,000, Dior Watches 

Piaget Limelight Gala Rainbow

Piaget: A deviation from diamonds but it’s still a stone-set stunner. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the cocktail watch morphed into a timepiece with a little more personality. The jet set would pair their silk Halston gowns with slim line Piaget cuffs. Those Piaget dials featured brightly coloured hard stones, such as malachaite and jade, and rich gold bracelets. This, from its Limelight collection, is squarely in that tradition. The gold bracelet and dial appear to be one continuous river of precious metal, interrupted only by a circle of tsavorites and sapphires in a rainbow gradation. Now all you have to do is scour 1stDibs for some vintage Halston to match. Limelight Gala in rose gold, sapphires and tsavorites, price on applications, Piaget

Chanel Boyfriend

Chanel: If ever there was going to be a brand to break all the rules it’s Chanel. It’s how Mlle. Chanel started the Maison. Despite dripping its J12 in diamonds for the Electro collection earlier this year, for the party season, it has now pared everything back. There’s a discrete line of precious stones around the bezel. However everything on this mini version of 2015’s runaway success, the Boy Friend is firmly no frills. This iteration is an exercise in minimalism as seen through the Chanel’s aesthetic codes. The 2.55 homage in the strap, the Place Vendome case shape, and the chicly plain dial. It’s a timepiece that demands attention but by whispering not shouting. Mini Boy.Friend in steel and diamonds with quilted calf-skin strap, £6,300, Chanel

See our round-up of the best rainbow-bright watches here

And see the best cartoon-inspired watches of 2021 here

Meanwhile, Takashi Murakami has his own take on a new Hublot watch, see it here