July 22, 2014

The Time of Your Life

It’s not march, and we’re not hares—but that doesn’t mean we can’t be mad as hatters for a truly wonderful watch. Whether sporty or sophisticated, technologically advanced or simply something to sigh over, we’re late for a very important date with some of the most amazing watches in Southwest Florida. Fortunately, this adventure is just beginning, and we hope you’ll follow us as we take the plunge.

Timeless Classics

A watch may be much more than a timepiece. Under proper circumstances, it can be a time machine, too. Consider a repeater watch. They’re wonders of gadgetry, but they’re also rich reminders of another era. A repeater watch gently tones the time—a clever trick if you lived in a period without the sight-granting benefit of electricity, and an especially valuable feature if you were, say, rushing to a midnight rendezvous.

If we were en route to such an assignation, we know which watch we would carry. Exquisite Timepieces’ Gerald Genta Octo minute repeater is almost too dazzling to be donned in the dark, but we’ll make an exception for this $289,000 piece. The dramatic red, black and gold dial is slightly reminiscent of a roulette wheel, but there’s no gambling on its ability to tell time. This gentlemen’s watch features a jumping hour, retrograde minutes and a push piece that prompts the watch to chime the current hour, quarter-hour and minute, each in a different note.  

If that sounds more like art than appointment-setting, we don’t mind. A finely wrought watch ultimately does both, says Fabien Tref of Exquisite Timepieces. “It’s really art that you can enjoy,” Tref says. “A painting stays on your wall. A watch can travel with you.”

Well, that’s just what we want, isn’t it? Once our evening engagement is complete, let’s flash forward to 1901 and enter the age of aviation, when Louis Cartier overheard Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian-born pilot, remark how difficult it was to check his pocket watch while in the cockpit. Three years later, Cartier presented his friend with something considered quite innovative at the time: a wristwatch, finished with a design inspired by the flush rivets on Dumont’s airplane.

Cartier’s aviation-influenced watch just enjoyed an upgrade. The Santos 100 Carbon Collection, launched in September, includes a new diamond-hard carbon coating to prevent scratching. The watch is available in an array of metal combinations, including rose gold and titanium, and starts at $6,200.

But that’s not all Cartier recently reintroduced. In June, the company brought back its beloved Baignoire watch, a favorite of French style icons such as Catherine Deneuve. With its oval dial and slim strap, this classic watch may seem simple, but we’re sure there’s no such thing as a basic Baignoire—especially not when it’s rendered in 18-karat yellow gold, finished with a diamond bezel and wrapped up neatly for $49,900 at the Cartier boutique in Waterside Shops.

Fashionably Punctual

Old habits die hard, but when you wear Yamron Jewelers’ Harry Winston Signature 5 watch, you might have to forego any familiar attempts at being “fashionably late.” After all, at $214,300, the Signature 5 is the right bit of loot for sensational soirées and glamorous galas, but not something to slip into if you want to convince a crowd that you lost track of time. That’s because this brilliant watch steals everyone’s attention, glittering with 26 carats of colorless, flawless, round-cut diamonds and 18-karat white gold. Yet it rests so evenly upon a lady’s skin it feels like fabric—very fabulous fabric.

If you think the Signature 5 is out of this world, then cast your eyes downward and make a wish on the Chopard jewellery watch offered exclusively by Saks Fifth Avenue. The Aventuriné glass used for the dial holds shimmering copper clusters and a whispery shooting star numerical design. Add more than 20 round diamonds around the bezel, and this Chopard watch for $67,150 becomes one heavenly body that we’re happy to have here on terra firma.

Since it’s not off-trend anymore to wear multiple watches, why not combine the best of sky and earth by pairing the Chopard watch with something fierce from Bigham Jewelers? The dial and case on Carl F. Bucherer’s Alacria Fancy Wildcat Diva watch bears a bejeweled tiger stripe of more than 900 black, yellow and cognac-colored diamonds. With so many stones, you might worry about damage to your clothing, but not so: Bucherer is noted for its setting techniques, and to run a finger over the piece is to feel only perfectly smooth pavé.

There are 25 of these watches in the world, and Bigham carries one. It’s $75,500, and with its svelte stingray band and shapely paw clasp, it’s sure to have you grinning like a cat—and we think you know which one.

As long as we’re mentioning that famous literary feline, let’s discuss a certain card-consorting queen as well. We think we’ve located the watch she would wear. Exquisite Timepieces’ Roger Dubuis’ King Square Ladies’ Tourbillon 28 Heart watch has a case that is 34 millimeters square, which gives it a princely presence. But what makes the $178,000 watch mesmerizing is its skeleton presentation, revealing that the watch’s inner workings are shaped into hearts.

There are 27 visible hearts (one is a spring that can’t be seen), including two heart-shaped rubies. The hand of the tourbillon, a tiny mechanism that counters the effect of gravity, doesn’t miss the motif, either: It’s curved like Cupid’s arrow.

We confess to being thoroughly smitten with all these fashionable watches. But as with everything about love, well …

It’s Complicated

In life, too many complications are a nightmare. On a wrist, though, complications are the stuff that horological dreams are made of. Yamron Jewelers’ in-store collection of Patek Philippe watches always totals about 100 and currently includes the Celestial, a $245,000 platinum-and-gold timepiece that would humble even the most serious stargazer. The Celestial doesn’t disclose only earthly time; its dial contains a sky chart to show the moon’s phases and orbit. The watch also tells the time of meridian passage of Sirius and of the moon, plus the hours and minutes of mean solar time.

Such complications require years to pioneer, explains Bruce Yamron, owner of the Naples luxury jewelry boutique. Then, there’s the additional wait for a complications-laden watch to be made and delivered to a client, Yamron adds. Even his store, which boasts a history of more than 50 years with the family-owned Patek Philippe company, cannot merely place a phone order for a watch like the Celestial, he notes. Instead, a client must complete an application, which the store then endorses. The application next goes to Switzerland where, if it is approved, the waiting process begins.

But for collectors of such pieces, Yamron explains, time is on their side. “It is like a Ferrari; it is like a Rolls-Royce,” Yamron says. “These watches have their own cult following.” When a watch holds the technical wizardry of a Patek Philippe, it’s easy to understand the allure. But we’re also stuck on the aesthetic qualities of these watches, including Patek Philippe’s traditional chronograph with 30-minute counter and perpetual calendar. With its platinum case, slick black alligator band and sapphire crystal case back, it’s a $138,500 study in style
and refinement.

A Good Sport

Thus far, our adventure has been quite genteel. Now, we’re ready to dust off our tennis shoes—or our croquet mallets, as the case may be—and wrap our wrists in something sporty. TechnoMarine’s candy-colored confections are precisely the thing to satisfy our craving. Marissa Collections began carrying TechnoMarine watches about three months ago, and with their fun, changeable, gel wristbands, it’s easy to create the illusion that you really have a treasure chest full of rainbow-hued sport watches. Plus, with so many options, you might never again wonder what to wear with what—and all starting at $295 per watch.

Next, we confess it’s a stretch to call anything by prestigious watch-making company Ulysse Nardin a “sports watch”—unless the sport is sailing. Ulysse Nardin once made ship’s chronometers and still honors that history with a small anchor on each watch’s dial. But even the most committed landlubber will admire the watchmaker’s continued mechanical mightiness, as seen in the gentlemen’s Quadrato Dual Time Perpetual. In addition to possessing a perpetual calendar, the Quadrato contains a smartly engineered time-zone quick setting and permanent home-time display. We find the entire piece very sporting indeed, and it’s at Yamron Jewelers for $48,500.

Finally, it’s impossible to mention sports watches without making a bow to that master of the game: Rolex. Bigham Jewelers normally stocks about 300 different men’s and women’s Rolexes, and it is the only official dealer for the brand in Collier County. It’s a tough decision, and we’re frankly torn, deciding to save two spots on our arm. One is for the glitzy glamour of the diamond-encrusted Lady Datejust, a $93,350 watch that’s made from a solid block of 18-karat gold and lined with 879 diamonds.

The other place is for one of Rolex’s newest, an $11,475 Oyster Perpetual Datejust Rolesor. The pale pink dial of this ladies’ watch features a winsome design of fresh, flirty flowers and a diamond bezel, capturing first place in the category of so-called “sports watches” that do double-duty as something we would gladly wear everyday.

Off with Our Heads

Get ready to gasp, because we’re about say something scandalous. No one needs any of these wonderful watches. None of us are imperiled aristocrats in need of a chiming watch on a moonless night. We’re not aviation pioneers, either. Instead, we’re all familiar with a calendar and probably overly familiar with our cellular phones. The latter, of course, is a watch’s biggest nemesis: It shows the time, and more accurately. Plus, you can order pizza delivery with it.

Watches, though, are a passion without compare. That’s why we need them. Bruce Yamron notes that a seasoned collector may wait years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to receive a particular Patek Philippe, but to preserve the watch’s value, the collector will ultimately never even wear it. Moreover, the kinds of technical complications that make a Patek Philippe so enticing to collectors are becoming more commonplace. It’s a Facebook kind of world, Yamron explains, and we’re all going gaga for gizmos. “People seem to be trending toward watches that are more sophisticated,” he says.

Then there is the role of watch as must-have accessory. For this, we defer to Jay Hartington of Marissa Collections, a self-admitted watchaholic. At Marissa’s, Tamara Comolli’s line of ceramic watches has proven popular, Hartington says, owing to its fashion-forward design, range of colors and ease of wear. The watches, which are priced from $780 to $2,230, also exemplify what is becoming the normal look in ladies’ timepieces—they are oversized, almost to a point where they seem faintly masculine.

Hartington agrees that anyone who wears a Tamara Comolli watch—or practically any other—probably isn’t doing it because they need tell to the time. Rather, they’re telling the world something about themselves. “People are wearing them now as fashion pieces rather than for functionality,” Hartington says. “I would be somewhat guilty of that myself.” Guilty? Maybe so. But in our opinion, wearing a wonderful watch isn’t any kind of offense—although it’s definitely something worth losing your head over.

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