In July 2023, Ineichen offers a selection of fine and important jewelry watches at Gemstone Symphony auction.
Jewelry watches that sparkle with diamonds and other precious stones rarely attract much attention when they show up at watch auctions. We took the liberty of calling them ‘Sweets for the wrists’ because in normal life, the exact opposite happens when such watches show up on their owner’s wrist – the watches attract everyone’s attention because they’re so glamorous, radiant, brilliant, and obviously luxurious. However, on the secondary market, they don’t always have an equally brilliant fate. A collector, a connoisseur of the art of watchmaking, may not pay due attention to such watches, because according to a preconceived notion, the contribution of high watchmaking art in jewelry watches is small. As a rule, jewelry watches are equipped with simple calibers, often quartz movements. And the more impressive a watch is as a piece of jewelry, the simpler the watchmaking component usually is, as almost all of the brand’s efforts are focused on the jewelry aspect. However, there are notable exceptions to this rule.
With this auction we want to draw attention to extraordinary jewelry watches
The reason for this is obvious to us. There are ordinary jewelry watches and there are special watches. When valuing ordinary jewelry watches, the most important factors are the weight of the precious metal and stones, and the quality of the gemstones. A certain proportion of the value is the brand and very rarely an interesting mechanism.
These evaluation criteria certainly apply to special, unusual jewelry watches, however other factors outweigh them – the story this watch tells, an outstanding design, and an interesting caliber, especially rare and complicated ones. This is the best case when the obvious skill of the jeweler in making such watches is complemented by the outstanding skill of the watchmaker. Together, they’re capable of performing miracles. This has led us to organize a thematic auction dedicated to jewelry watches – ‘Sweets for the wrists’, which deserves the attention of a discerning collector and connoisseur.
High watchmaker premium: what advantages does it have for the buyer of jewelry watches?
When analyzing the offer at the auction, it’s also necessary to take into account what happens to the watchmaker’s premium on the secondary market. The fact is that when issuing jewelry watches, the manufacturer usually includes a fairly high premium in the price, which is significantly higher than the premium charged for similar models in non-jewelry design. That is why diamonds and other stones turn out to be significantly overpriced when we analyze the cost of new jewelry watches. Of course, just the feeling that the watch is new is a good psychological compensation for this additional premium. However, once a piece of jewelry is offered on the secondary market, this markup usually drops to a level that would be considered acceptable on the open market.
It should be noted that the high markup charged by watchmakers for jewelry watches is by no means a fraud. Much of it’s due to the high level of expertise required by a gem setter when setting a watch. This is especially evident when the bezel is set with baguette-cut stones, because then the shape of the stones must be altered, which can take on a trapezoidal or even more complex shape, since the stones must follow the outline of the bezel, and fitting the stones requires expertise and takes a lot of time. Of course, this process has little impact on the cost of the stones themselves, as it only reduces the carat weight, but ultimately it has a very large impact on the cost of jewelry watches.
Inlaying watches with gemstones have one more feature that should be taken into account. In general, stones of approximately the same quality should be used in the manufacture of watches, especially in terms of color tone and the degree of imperfection. Patek Philippe and Rolex brands are known for using the highest quality stones, as are the products of well-known jewelry brands such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Bulgari and several others. However, to get accurate information about the quality of the stones, you should consult a professional gemologist.
Sometimes you can find incredible watches with diamonds and precious stones at auctions for very low and therefore extremely attractive prices – in relation to the retail price of a new watch. Therefore, we recommend the collector and connoisseur of rare watches to carefully study the offer of jewelry watches. They’re often very rare and sometimes even unique. It could be a unique limited or special edition, which is very likely to be very small limited edition, down to a single piece compared to the usual editions of matching non-jewelry watches – due to the small number of buyers willing to pay a very high price for a new jewelry watch.
Jewelry watches are usually treated with care
We’d like to point out another important aspect. As a rule, such specimens are in good to very good condition. Most watches with diamonds and other precious stones are almost never used by their owners – how often do they think about using such watches in everyday life? Of course, this cannot be a definitive recommendation, but only an indication, which doesn’t exclude the need for a professional condition assessment.
The baguette cut is the most popular
When it comes to the question of which cut is recognized as the most valuable, there is no clear answer for the jeweler. Generally speaking, the best cut is the one that most impressively brings out the decorative qualities of the gemstone. In the production of jewelry watches, small stones are usually used, and the type of cut is mainly based on the effect that the designer expects. However, in today’s market, the prevailing opinion is that the most valuable and desirable watches are those set with baguette cut stones. Yes, this is understandable, because due to their own geometry, they create the biggest reflections and therefore make the most vivid impression. Moreover, baguette cut diamonds are often larger and offer an interesting alternative to the well-known round cut diamonds found in most jewelry watches.
The rare gems
The attractiveness and value of jewelry watches are greatly increased when the watch is set with rare or popular stones. Large stones are undeniably attractive, especially high-quality diamonds, Burmese rubies and Ceylon sapphires. The perceived value of a watch can also be influenced by other factors. In particular, it’s known that diamond mining at the Argyle Mine (Australia) ceased in 2020. This deposit accounted for about 90% of the pink diamonds entering the market. Therefore, watches with pink diamonds are of interest. Similarly, another colored stone – Paraiba tourmaline. The original deposit in São José da Batalha (Paraíba, Brazil), where tourmaline with a rare greenish-blue hue was discovered in 1980, has already been depleted, which has naturally led to a surge of interest in this stone, although tourmalines with the characteristic ‘Paraiba’ hue are mined in other deposits.
Original or non-original condition?
Jewelry watches sometimes appear on the secondary market that aren’t authentic to an expert. These are watches that have been unofficially altered by inlay work or the replacement of original parts with non-original inlay work without the brand’s permission. Rolex watches are the most commonly affected by such activity, but cases have also been reported by other well-known brands such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. To safely distinguish a watch set with diamonds or other precious stones from a genuine watch, a professional inspection is required. Aftermarket sellers use the colloquial terms ‘bust down’ and ‘iced out,’ while original jewelry watches are referred to as ‘factory set’ or simply ‘factory.’ A factory set watch sold at auction doesn’t have to be brand new, but it must have the exact features and finish it had when it was made by the brand.
‘Pepsi’ of the high jewelry art
Although Rolex doesn’t specialize in making jewelry watches and most of its range doesn’t fall into that category, this brand’s jewelry releases elicit a strong emotional response from everyone. The classic formula works here: Either you hate Rolex jewelry watches, or you love them. There are plenty of both, but the army of fans is large enough to make Rolex jewelry models sell well on the secondary market. First and foremost are the jewelry versions of the collection’s most popular models, like thisRolex GMT-Master II Ref. 116759 SARU (Lot 1) in white gold with a blue-red rotating bezel set with 22 Top Wesselton diamonds, 18 sapphires and 18 baguette-cut rubies, while the zero (24-hour mark) is marked with a triangle-cut diamond. This reference, launched in 2007, is a gem-set cosplay of the incredibly popular original Rolex GMT-Master watch with the iconic blue and red GMT 24h steel bezel, known to Rolex aficionados as ‘Pepsi’. This Ref. 116759 SARU, dated 2012, is the most luxurious version of this reference with inlaid bezel, case, dial and the center links of the Oyster bracelet, while the other two versions have fewer diamonds.
Meteorite in the sky of diamonds
Rolex Sky-Dweller Ref. 326259 TBR (Lot 2) in white gold with diamond-set case and clasp of a black rubber strap and a ‘smart’ rotating bezel set with baguette-cut stones has a rare feature: a meteorite dial. This reference is certainly one of the extremely rare models, as it’s believed that it was extremely short-lived and remained in the catalog only until 2022, after it was launched in 2021. Interestingly, the bezel set with baguette diamonds retains the full functionality of the Sky-Dweller, which is one of Rolex’s most sophisticated creations. It’s the only model from the brand that has the function of an annual calendar with date and month display, and the watch also has a GMT time zone display. To manage all these functions, the watch is equipped with a smart bezel that allows you to adjust the mode of the crown to correct the indications. The combination of mechanical sophistication and high-quality jeweler’s work gives this watch a unique status, which is underlined by its very high retail price.
The modest luxury of a Pearlmaster
The Pearlmaster is the only Rolex line where gemstones are standard. This in no way means that these models aren’t advanced from a technical standpoint. It’s wrong. Of course, it can look frivolous, but only in another brand’s collection, but not in Rolex. Just imagine, in the brand’s Datejust collection in 2015, the Pearlmasters were the first Datejust models equipped with the advanced caliber 3235 of the last generation, and the first with a case size of 39 mm. Here you can see one of those models: the Datejust Pearlmaster 39 Everose Ref. 86285-0004 (Lot 3) with a branded rose gold alloy case, a sparkling diamond-set bezel, and a gorgeous dark blue ‘Aubergine’ sunburst dial.
The style of a remarkable independent watchmaker, with the brilliance of diamonds
A classic, feminine piece from the Daniel Roth collection, the Masters Lady (Lot 11) follows in the footsteps of the Ultra Thin Diamond-set Automatic Ref. C157, the first design the brand created for ladies at the very beginning of its career. That was in 1991, just two years after its founding, when the brand was still owned by the master himself. In the Masters Lady watch in 18k gold with diamond-set bezel, we can find the most distinctive features of the original Daniel Roth style that are most appreciated by collectors: the characteristic case in the shape of a double arcade, the profile of a case with three ‘apples’, the vertical linear guilloché dial with grey ruthenium coating and silvered chapter ring with Roman numerals and, of course, the blued Daniel Roth hands with triangular tip. Can we say that this model has an excellent auction history? No, of course we can’t. So far, it hasn’t. However, we believe that this watch has good prospects for at least three reasons. First, collectors highly value classic watches from the early days of Daniel Roth. Yes, this is true for the men’s watches. The ladies watch in the original design is a very interesting, spicy expression of the characteristic style of this master. Hence the second attractive aspect: we think this watch is a very welcome addition to the collection of early Daniel Roth watches. And finally, the third aspect: this watch is still very relevant today as an exquisite model for ladies who want to have their own collection of sophisticated, rare watches that show the brilliance of diamonds.
The name Kalla is given by Vacheron Constantin only to those jewelry watches that are magnificently set with diamonds, usually in emerald or baguette cut. As a rule, Kalla watches are shaped, only a few models have a round case. Métiers d’Art Kalla Lune Ref. 83630/000G-9305 (Lot 41) in white gold, offered by Ineichen, is one of these very rare references. It was introduced by the brand in 2007 along with two other models: 40.5mm Ref. 83630/W01G-9305 with inlaid bracelet and the smaller 36mm Ref. 83640/000G-9306, this watch was made in the same year. Following the principle of the Kalla line, the watch is set with baguette-cut diamonds in such a way that only a minimum of metal remains visible. It’s almost completely covered with diamonds, which creates the effect of diamond armor. A total of 360 diamonds, mostly baguette cut, weighing 14.64 carats were used. The watch is powered by an in-house 1410 caliber with manual winding, featuring moonphase and power reserve indicators. The caliber is made according to the rules of Poinçon de Genève, the highest quality standard in the watch industry, as evidenced by the hallmark on the bridge of the movement.
Platinum and baguette diamonds for a minute repeater
The Grande Complications Toric Minute Repeater GMT (Lot 42) is one of the rare complex diamond-set watches from Parmigiani Fleurier. Platinum and baguette diamonds are an exquisite combination that became popular in the 1930s, during the Art Deco period. This Grande Complications Toric Minute Repeater GMT with 60 baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel and black guilloché dial was most likely made in the early 2010s. The watch case is marked with the number 1, which means that this piece was the first of the series and probably remains unique, which isn’t surprising given the rare finish in platinum with baguette diamonds and the presence of a very complex caliber. The hand-wound PF250 caliber features a minute repeater that strikes out the hours, quarters and minutes on demand. There is also a 24-hour GMT indication at 3 o’clock, as well as a date display by the central hand – an extremely rare combination of complications.
High quality calibers and well-known designs
Among the fine collectibles presented at this auction is the excellent Breguet Messidor Tourbillon Ref. 3358BB (Lot 43) in white gold with diamond-set bezel. We always invite collectors to pay attention to the classic Breguet tourbillons of the early references produced since the late 1980s. Especially this Ref. 3358 could be a very interesting addition to a collection that already owns other references or types. In fact, the caliber 558.1 of this piece is a fourth-generation movement, whose main plate is decorated with an engraving of the fourth type. The watch was most likely made in 2004 or 2005. Thus, according to the information available to us, it’s one of the earliest examples of this type.
If you appreciate famous designs, consider the Tank Basculante Ref. 2526 (Lot 17), a small version of the Basculante, Cartier’s unusual reversible watch design. The jewelry decor suits this watch very well, especially since we find a rare diamond-studded checkerboard motif on the back of the reversible case. Among the other eye-catching designs, you’ll find the exceptional white gold and diamond set Perles de Cartier ref. 3053; the early version of an oval yellow gold and diamond-set Breguet Reine de Naples 8908BA/W2/864D00D (Lot 27) made in 2006; the rose gold and diamond-set Corum Golden Bridge Ref. 05.0001 (Lot 12), featuring the exceptional line baguette movement originally conceived in 1980 by independent watchmaker Vincent Calabrese and realized in 2005 in collaboration with movement supplier Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier as caliber CO113 for this model. To fully show off Corum’s masterpiece caliber, the rose gold case is opened from four sides. With this in mind, we also recommend another lot – the Goldpfeil by Vincent Calabrese Jump Hour watch (Lot 26). This model was created by Vincent Calabrese for a project launched in 2001 by the German company Goldpfeil, a manufacturer of leather accessories, in collaboration with seven independent watchmakers. Today, the Goldpfeil project is much less known than the Opus, a similar project by the Rare Timepieces, watch department of Harry Winston, presented in the same year and initiated by Maximilian Büsser. This timepiece is the rarest jewelry version of Vincent Calabrese’s design for Goldpfeil and we consider it a must-have for any collector interested in the creations of independent watchmakers.