Swellboy on… nostalgic jewellery

A hard-to-beat watch and a bracelet that really nails it

Image: Brijesh Patel

If you happen to follow my online meanderings, you will be aware that I am laid low by fairly regular bouts of nostalgia. I do not know how many hundreds of hours I have wasted pointlessly wishing that the modern world were instead the sixties or seventies of the last century. It is hopeless, I know, but on such occasions all I can do is sit and watch movies like Darling and Live and Let Die until the feeling passes.

So all in all you can imagine the excitement with which I seized upon two recent launches: one wristwatch and one bracelet. For as long as I have known him I have been harassing Philippe Léopold-Metzger, the CEO of Piaget, to reintroduce men’s watches with hardstone dials: onyx, malachite, that kind of thing. It was the height of chic in the 1960s and 1970s, and I have to say that he put up with my repetitive lament every year as he launched yet another collection of watches that did not feature said timepieces. And then this year he proudly announced that he had, at last, got round to a malachite-dialled watch. It is a beauty. It captures the spirit of… how shall I put it… exuberance that characterised this intriguing period. The type of onyx telephones and gold bathroom fittings.


Something that is also from more or less the same period and making a return this year is Aldo Cipullo’s nail bracelet for Cartier. Cipullo was a gifted designer who invented the screwdriver-fastened Love bangle that is still a bestseller at Cartier to this day. He seems to have had a fetish for what you might call haute quincaillerie, as he also made jewellery using nut, bolt and nail motifs. I first came across the nail bangle some years ago on the wrist of Cartier’s suave man about London Arnaud Bamberger. Arnaud has a great sense of style, and the nail bracelets looked so good peeking out from under his wrist that I wonder what took Cartier so long to reissue them. However, at last they are making their way out of the Cartier workshops, and were relaunched at a Cipullo retrospective in New York in April (exhibition until May 8 2012).

The 21st-century example looks almost identical to the 1970s original, but, mirabile dictu, is an improvement in that the closure mechanism has been enhanced, so the bracelet is more stable on the wrist and less likely to fly open. I was lucky enough to glimpse one of the new nail bangles (or clou, as the company is calling it) in white gold on the dainty wrist of Cartier’s Hélène Poulit-Duquesne. The only possible improvement I could have envisaged was that it would have looked even better on my wrist rather than hers.


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