All luxury mechanical watches are works of art. But the level of craftsmanship required to set diamonds on watches puts diamond-set luxury watches in a category all their own. Read on to learn more about the complex art of setting diamonds on watches.
Designing a Diamond Watch
Image Courtesy of Titoni
The process of creating a diamond watch starts with designing the watch itself. When a luxury watch company decides to create a diamond watch, they will choose between one of two options: outfitting an existing watch within their range with diamonds or creating an entirely new diamond watch design. Far more often, brands decide to add diamonds to an existing watch design, as this creates an elevated version of an already celebrated watch, which appeals to more watch collectors. However, many watch houses (and more boutique watch houses in particular) do create exclusive diamond watch designs.
Whether a designer is designing a new diamond watch or outfitting an existing design with diamonds, the diamond watch design process is intricate. Designers must decide where to place diamonds, which shape and size of diamonds to use, and how to arrange diamond settings to create a seamless look. If a designer is adding diamonds to an existing model, the design process takes a great amount of care. Designers must decide how they will modify a watch’s case, bezel, lugs, dial, or hour markers in order to create space for these additional diamonds, while still ensuring the watch’s structure is intact and that the watch still has a recognizable shape.
It takes a great amount of careful planning to place diamonds into an existing watch design. With one small miscalculation, the structural integrity of a watch’s case, bezel, or crown can be destroyed, which can allow moisture or dust to enter a watch’s case. Additionally, miscalculations can cause damage to a watch’s actual mechanical movement or tourbillon.
Structural damage is a very common problem for individual consumers who decide to get an existing watch in their collection retrofitted with diamonds or other gemstones. When a luxury watch company such as Rolex makes a diamond watch, they can perfectly adjust the size of the watch’s metal materials to accommodate diamonds and their settings. However, an existing luxury watch that was not designed to accommodate diamonds is unlikely to have enough space for diamond settings. For example, a standard Rolex Datejust simply will not have enough room upon its stainless steel watch case, its bezel, or its dial to add many types of gemstones without damaging the Rolex itself. Attempting to aftermarket-set diamonds into a timepiece often leads to the creation of tiny openings that destroy the structural integrity of the watch, so we generally advise against attempting to do so.
The Diamond Selection Process
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Another critical part of setting diamonds on watches is selecting the diamonds themselves.
You have likely heard of the 4Cs of diamonds: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. A substantial carat weight is a high priority for many types of diamond jewelry, like engagement rings or diamond studs. However, for diamond set watches, high individual diamond carat weight is unimportant. When designers create diamond watches, they prioritize the watch’s overall design. Generally, the goal for a diamond watch is to create a design that has diamonds seamlessly incorporated into the watch. So diamond watch designers do not simply select the largest possible diamonds, but instead select diamonds that are the perfect size and shape to fit a watch’s curves and angles. Many diamond watches have a high total carat weight (the combined carat weight of all the diamonds within the watch), but few feature large diamonds, as large precious stones would interrupt the design of most watches.
The other 4Cs— color, cut, and clarity— are important for diamond watches, as is diamond shape. Cut and clarity are important for the brilliance of diamonds, so watchmakers look to select only diamonds that score high in these categories. Additionally, the color of all diamonds used in luxury timepieces must be impeccably matched, in order for the diamonds to look seamless together. Then, shape is perhaps the most important aspect of the diamonds used for watches.
Diamond shape is the shape a diamond has been cut into. (Note: Diamond shape is not to be confused with diamond cut, which is how well a diamond is cut into its shape.) For luxury watches, round brilliant cut diamonds and baguette cut diamonds are by far the most utilized shapes, as these shapes best work within the curves of a watch. After designing a watch, designers must then either source diamonds with, or custom cut diamonds into, the exact proportions necessary to fit the intricate design of their model.
Setting Diamonds on a Watch
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The last step in creating a diamond watch is setting the diamonds upon the watch, which takes an extraordinarily high level of skill. The diamonds used in watches tend to be quite small and diamond watch designers also often opt for invisible stone settings (rather than bezel settings, prong settings, or standard pave settings) in order to achieve a more seamless look. Many diamond watches feature custom setting types or highly complex channel settings.
The intricate nature of most diamond watch designs requires that the jewelers or watch craftsmen who set diamonds into watches be extraordinarily skilled. They must be able to perfectly— and securely— place these small diamonds into these intricate settings, whether they’re doing so for Jaeger Le-Coultre, Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Chopard, Audemars Piguet, Cartier, or any other watch house.
The Fine Art of Setting Diamonds on Watches: Final Thoughts
Every step in creating a diamond watch— from the initial design process to the final stone setting process— requires impeccable planning, a masterful understanding of watch design and jewelry setting, and superb attention to fine detail. It takes the work of numerous expert designers and craftsmen to create a superior diamond set watch. Diamond watches are not only attractive and luxurious, but some of the most finely made of all luxury watches.