Watches

The best turquoise watch dials 2021

Green and blue are favourite timepiece tones but now it's time for turquoise to get a look in

By Tracey Llewellyn

Turquoise was first mined, and brought to the world’s attention, by the Egyptians as early as 6000 BC, and has long been used for jewellery by civilisations including the Aztecs and Native Americans. Lying somewhere between green and blue on the spectrum, the mineral first came to Europe from central Asia, via Turkey, where it was bought by travelling merchants, who christened it after the French for Turkish stone: ‘pierre turquoise’.

The ornamental stone has been used time again by watchmakers for cabochon beads to decorate bezels, crowns and bracelets and in wafer-thin veneers for dials. From Piaget’s unique creations of the 1960s so loved by movie stars and socialites including Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, to pieces such as Chopard’s L’Heure du Diamant, Bulgari’s Serpenti, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Sweet Alhambra, Chaumet’s Hortensia Eden and Dior’s Grand Bal Plume, the aqua-hued gem has found its place among the highest of jewellers.

Introducing the exhibition Turquoise, Water, Sky in 2014, Maxine McBrinn, Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico described the cultural significance of both the stone and the colour: “Turquoise stands for water and for sky, for bountiful harvests, health and protection. Blue-green symbolises creation and the hope for security and beauty. These ideas were so important that if the stone was not available, its colour was represented through other methods.”

This is equally true in watchmaking where the colour has been reinterpreted in different ways and using alternative materials. And, while Ultimate Grey and Illuminating Yellow may be the official Pantone colours of the year, it seems that in 2021 horology is bucking that trend in favour of turquoise.

Harry Winston Ultimate Emerald Signature

Price on request, harrywinston.com

Harry Winston’s love affair with gems began when he was just 12. Recognising a 2ct emerald in a pawn-brokers shop, he bought it for 25 cents, selling it within a week for $800. Forevermore, emerald-cut jewels, with their stepped edges creating the perfect play of light and shadow, became his good luck symbol. Today, the Ultimate Emerald Signature takes position at the peak of Harry Winston’s High Jewellery Timepieces collection.

A secret watch, where the dial is obscured by a swivelling cover, the Ultimate Emerald Signature was originally created in 2014, showcasing 10cts of diamonds within a white-gold, pyramid frame. Now, for 2021, it has been joined by two versions featuring Paraíba tourmalines (as well as a pair of deep-blue sapphire models). Deliberately flexible in design, the timepiece can be worn as a wristwatch, a pendant or a brooch.

Harry Winston’s Ultimate Emerald Signature

Blue has been a recurring colour for Harry Winston since the company’s acquisition of the 45.52ct blue Hope Diamond in 1949, and the new tourmaline models bring the colour turquoise into the frame. The cases (which feature a clamp system on the reverse for wearing as a brooch) are in white gold set with either diamonds or alternating layers of diamonds and tourmalines. A swivelling, emerald-cut Paraíba tourmaline sits atop the dial, which is paved with 98 brilliant-cut tourmalines.

The 32x46mm, quartz-powered pieces are finished with a turquoise satin strap and presented along with an accompanying white-gold neck-chain set with 12 brilliant-cut diamonds.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36

Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36

The recent clamour for Rolex professional models, expressed through record auction prices for originals and monster waiting lists for contemporary versions, makes it is easy to forget about the brand’s prowess in gem-setting, first seen in the beautiful deco cocktail watches of the early 20th century. With some of today’s jewellery pieces harder to come across than the steel sports watches – think the fabled Rainbow Daytona – the brand has this year introduced three more sparklers in the Day-Date family.

The white gold version, like its siblings that are set in yellow and Everose (red) gold, features an Oyster case and a dial dripping with diamonds – 254 brilliant-cuts on the case, 52 on the bezel and a face paved with a further 450. Despite the sparkle, functionality is always paramount at Rolex, and the watch is powered by a new generation, self-winding Rolex movement that provides the mechanical excellence expected from the brand.

An arc-shaped window at 12 o’clock clearly declares the day of the week written in full, while a smaller aperture at 3 gives the date. The hour markers and Roman numerals VI and IX are applied in rich, lustrous, turquoise enamel that is perfectly matched in colour to the polished, alligator-leather strap, its white-gold, folding clasp set with another 61 brilliant-cut diamonds.

£68,900, rolex.com

Breguet Reine de Naples 8938

£44,100, breguet.com

Introduced in 2002, Breguet’s signature women’s watch may be a youthful addition to the brand’s line-up, but its roots actually lie in a timepiece made two centuries ago. Arguably the first wristwatch to be documented, Breguet’s client Caroline Murat, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen of Naples, was the recipient of a one-off repeater watch, which was worn on the wrist, attached by a band of hair and gold threads.

Characterised by its 36.5 x 28.45mm ovoid case with winding crown at 4:30, and off-centre hours and minutes dial, the Reine de Naples has been issued in many versions over the past 20 years with various complications, degrees of gem-setting and bracelet options. The most recent model, launched in summer 2021 features a stunning diamond dial, white-gold case and turquoise strap.

In typical Breguet style, snow-setting has been chosen for the dial, whereby stones of different sizes are used with the metal in which they are set kept to a minimum allowing for the greatest possible shimmer. The chapter ring of the dial is inlaid with milky-white mother-of-pearl, finished with Breguet numerals and hands. Completing the 3ct diamond festival is a rare briolette-cut stone set into the crown.

Despite the diminutive size and obvious jewellery bent of the watch, in typical Breguet style, no corners have been cut with the self-winding mechanical movement which includes a silicon balance spring and platinum rotor.

Bovet 1822 Récital 23

£108,200, bovet.com

The Récital 23 was Bovet’s first watch for women to feature the brand’s signature ‘writing slope’ case, which is designed with ergonomically inclined planes to allow the watch movement to fully fit the space. It was also the first time the design had been presented in an oval shape. The hours and minutes are indicated in an off-centre, turquoise guilloché sub-dial at 6 o’clock, while a three-dimensional, precision moonphase takes pride of position at the top of the face where the case is deeper.

One of the things Bovet is renowned for is its dials, which are made in-house with the highest level of craftsmanship, including this year’s new turquoise guilloché dials that can be seen across several 2021 models. A technique used in watchmaking for the past 300 years, guilloché involves engraving a metal base before layering it with translucent lacquer that highlights the carved pattern. The lacquer is complex, changing from cyan to green as it moves on the wrist and is seen in different light conditions.

A Swiss self-winding movement is housed within the 43×38.7mm red-gold case and a push button has been cleverly incorporated into the crown cabochon to enable simple to adjusting of the moonphase indicator – although, if kept wound and working, adjustment should only be needed once every 122 years.

A diamond set bezel echoes the gem-set hour markers on the dial and, in a final and subtle touch of elegance, a secret message is revealed once every hour as the hour and minute hands cross and form the shape of a heart.

Dior Grand Bal Plume

When Dior launched the 36mm version of its acclaimed Grand Bal, it chose to debut the model with an array of hardstone dials. The signature of the range is the Dior Inversé calibre with functional oscilating weight on the dial side. The spinning rotor is said to evoke images of Mr Dior’s grand ball gowns as they swirl across a dance floor.

One of the most spectacular of the 36mm models, made in just 88 pieces, features a dial of veined turquoise, topped with a rotor adorned with black feathers tipped with yellow plumage and diamonds that form a delicate and precious frill. As the wearer’s arm moves, the rotor spins around an axis made of mother-of-pearl surrounded by a lacy frame of white gold and diamonds.

Proving that more is more where gems are concerned, the polished, stainless-steel case has a bezel set with further round, white diamonds. The exhibition caseback is tinted with black and yellow matching the rotor and a denim strap with diamond-set buckle keeps the look suitable for both day and night.

£24,600, dior.com

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