Playful new twists on wraparound watches

Playful twists on signature watches by leading marques are producing a dynamic new generation of wraparound styles. Fiona Matthias reports

Clockwise from top left: Bulgari rose gold, steel, diamond and rubellite Serpenti Tubogas 103150 watch, £20,300. Cartier yellow gold and sapphire Mini Panthère de Cartier watch, £15,500. Harry Winston yellow gold and diamond Emerald watch on satin strap, £8,700. Hermès steel Cape Cod GM watch, £3,050. Jaquet Droz steel, diamond and aventurine Lady 8 Petite Aventurine watch on leather strap, £12,200. Chanel steel, onyx and lacquer Première Rock Intense Black watch on steel and leather strap, £4,050. Dior steel, diamond and lacquer La Mini D de Dior watch on patent calfskin strap, £3,100
Clockwise from top left: Bulgari rose gold, steel, diamond and rubellite Serpenti Tubogas 103150 watch, £20,300. Cartier yellow gold and sapphire Mini Panthère de Cartier watch, £15,500. Harry Winston yellow gold and diamond Emerald watch on satin strap, £8,700. Hermès steel Cape Cod GM watch, £3,050. Jaquet Droz steel, diamond and aventurine Lady 8 Petite Aventurine watch on leather strap, £12,200. Chanel steel, onyx and lacquer Première Rock Intense Black watch on steel and leather strap, £4,050. Dior steel, diamond and lacquer La Mini D de Dior watch on patent calfskin strap, £3,100 | Image: Omer Knaz

“Come on everybody, clap your hands. Aw, you’re lookin’ good.” And there’s no reason not to be. With brands from Bulgari to Chanel, Hermès to Harry Winston doing the twist so impeccably, there’s never been such a generation of curling and coiling watch straps and bracelets to adorn the wrist and quicken the heart rate. While the wraparound or double-tour strap isn’t a new concept, it’s getting fresh energy in the form of these pieces that can be worn loosely for a casual contemporary bracelet effect or armlet style for an infusion of gladiatorial empowerment.

Fashion designer Martin Margiela introduced the double-wrap style in 1998 as part of his first catwalk show at the helm of Hermès. Just as the brand, by way of its leatherworking skills, popularised the watch’s shift from pocket to wrist in the early 20th century, Margiela’s watchstrap-with-a-twist – presented by its then-artistic director as a new take on the Cape Cod, launched in 1991 – proved a winning formula. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it before, and sales rocketed,” recalls Hermès Watches CEO Laurent Dordet.

The marque has evolved year on year, and its latest iterations include a Milanese double-tour strap option in the Cape Cod 23mm and 29mm forms (£3,050) with a particular “boldness” to the styling, according to Dordet. Milanese straps – fine-mesh, flexible, knitted metal – draw on the expertise of their namesake city, one of the leading armour-producing centres of Europe, so boldness and strength are implicit. The steel bracelet, however, marks a departure for a brand so renowned for its leatherwork.

Van Cleef & Arpels yellow, rose and white gold, diamond, emerald, ruby, tsavorite-garnet and onyx Secret de Coccinelle watch, £870,000
Van Cleef & Arpels yellow, rose and white gold, diamond, emerald, ruby, tsavorite-garnet and onyx Secret de Coccinelle watch, £870,000 | Image: Van Cleef & Arpels

Its Médor Rock (£2,250), on the other hand, plays to these artisanal strengths, and three new versions of the model, which Dordet describes as “playful as ever, and something decidedly different”, are reaching stores now. A pyramid-shaped stud case (16mm x 16mm, made from stainless steel) hides the square dial and is available mirror-polished, lacquered (in white, black, vermilion red or inky blue) or lacquered and cross-set with 44 diamonds. Each is fitted with a smooth calfskin triple-tour strap from the Hermès palette: vermilion red, grained white, inky blue, etoupe, orange, capucine, black barenia or natural barenia.

The design’s distinguishing pyramid shape has its origins in hunting-dog collars, but the polished cabochon also references the clous de Paris (or Paris hobnails) dial decoration. This stud style was taken up by fashion houses in the 1930s, influencing the Hermès dog-collar bracelets still produced today (which in turn led to the Médor secret watch of 1993). Since then, transformation has been as much about the leatherwork as the timepieces it secures. “Straps are a distinctive element, and foremost a Hermès signature,” says Dordet.

Time doesn’t stand still for Cartier either, as it simultaneously preserves and evolves its own signatures. The Panthère de Cartier, launched in 1983, was a classic from the outset, but was discontinued in the early 2000s. Whereas its first rendition was gender neutral, the square-cased style, with its elongated Roman numerals, rounded lugs and crown guards, reappeared as a ladies’ watch in 2017, in just two sizes: 22mm and 27mm.

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But the Panthère has recently elevated its feminine charms with the addition of mini and small models (£15,500) with either a double- or triple-loop, bricklay-patterned bracelet in 18ct yellow gold; in rose gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds; or in rhodium-finished white gold with diamonds. The Panthère’s appeal has often been attributed to the supple linked bracelet, but it’s the refined synthesis of form (the looped bracelet) and function (the utilitarian case) that makes these new additions pure Cartier.

The opening line of 17th-century poem The Clock Face – “Time is a serpent coiled up on itself” – could have been written for Bulgari’s Serpenti collection, had wristwatches existed at that time. It’s an image that chimes perfectly with the latest Serpenti models, with their curling tails and twisting straps: from the brown ceramic Serpenti Spiga (£10,400) and the Serpenti Tubogas 103150 (£20,300), with its single-spiral steel and rose-gold bracelet, both launched in January, to the Serpenti Twist Your Time (£3,480-£8,950) and the high-jewellery Misteriosi Pallini (price on request). The Twist Your Time, created for a younger customer, is a combination of the Serpenti watch case and a leather strap, while the Misteriosi is a tour de force of gem and jewellery engineering, with the snake’s body taking two years to develop.

Today the biggest trend is to customise, because the young generation wants to be part of the process,” says Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, senior director of Bulgari Watches Design Centre, of the Twist Your Time model. “You can choose the case, the diamond, the bezel, the colour of the strap, the colour of the dial. You can choose so many things. In the end, you can make 150 different configurations of the same watch.”

Hermès steel and silver Médor Rock watch on calfskin strap, £2,250
Hermès steel and silver Médor Rock watch on calfskin strap, £2,250 | Image: Calitho

This is the first time the Serpenti case has existed without its metal bracelet. It remains distinctly Bulgari, however. “Bulgari watches have to be recognisable at 10m,” says Stigliani. “If you are obliged to read the logo on top of the dial, I’ve made some mistake.”

The Serpenti Tubogas in three-tone gold (£35,700), released in 2017 alongside Twist Your Time, curls around the wrist and belies the technical challenges it posed. The tricolour piece echoes a Bulgari feature of the 1960s and ’70s, but between then and now skills were lost. “We found a way to make it again,” says Stigliani. “It was a long process. The problem was sealing the three different elements of gold.” The 35mm watch now flows from its 18ct-rose-gold curved case (set with round brilliant-cut diamonds) into a body of white gold, then yellow gold. The dial is of black opaline and the rose-gold crown is set with a pink cabochon-cut rubellite.

“It’s important for Bulgari to play with materials in an unconventional way. This is part of our DNA,” says Stigliani. Such thinking also inspired the dramatic five-spiral Serpenti Spiga (£22,800) with its black ceramic case, 18ct rose-gold bezel set with diamonds, black lacquered dial and black ceramic bracelet with 18ct-rose-gold elements set with diamonds. It’s a tale of contemporary technology meeting ancient symbolism. The range has now grown with the latest brown ceramic model and its special metallised-treatment curved case with an 18ct-rose-gold bezel set with diamonds, which flows into a single-spiral ceramic bracelet featuring 18ct‑rose-gold elements.  

Bulgari white gold, diamond and emerald Serpenti Misteriosi Pallini watch, price on request
Bulgari white gold, diamond and emerald Serpenti Misteriosi Pallini watch, price on request | Image: Antonio Barrella, Studio Orizzonte

The playful and energetically fluorescent La Mini D de Dior Wraparound (£3,100), a spin on La D de Dior, the first watch designed by the brand’s creative director of fine jewellery Victoire de Castellane in 2003, makes an undeniably strong statement. De Castellane’s passion for vivid colours combined with the sense of whimsy a twisted bracelet can convey is more than evident in the Mini Wraparound, with its double strap of fluoro pink or orange patent calfskin, attached with a steel prong buckle set with diamonds. Unlike the original La D at 38mm, the Mini is 19mm in diameter with a case of stainless steel, housing a quartz movement and a bezel and crown set with diamonds. The dial perfectly matches the glossy strap, with its lacquered neon-pink or orange face and traditional triangular and faceted dauphine hands.

Chanel’s limited edition Première Rock Intense Black (£4,050) takes its cues from its founder’s legendary reinvention of black as a powerful style statement. The Première Rock’s chic-but-edgy triple-loop chain bracelet is interlaced with black leather, and the steel watch case (housing a quartz movement) is black ADLC treated to preserve the surface. Its eight-sided black-lacquered dial echoes the shape of Paris’ Place Vendôme and the Chanel No 5 bottle stopper.

Harry Winston also uses an eight-sided silhouette for the 18ct-yellow-gold case of the Harry Winston Emerald (£8,700). Here, it represents the elegant emerald cut, Winston’s personal favourite. The case, housing a Swiss quartz movement and set with 53 brilliant-cut diamonds, contrasts powerfully with an anthracite-grey dial. The satin double-tour strap is fixed with an ardillon buckle set with 11 brilliant-cut diamonds.

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Jaquet Droz has “embraced the trends of its time” to create its newest variations on the Lady 8 Petite. Two recent releases feature a double-wrap strap, emphasising the symbolic figure of eight that is synonymous with the brand. The Lady 8 Petite Mother-of-Pearl (£11,350) uses a black grained calfskin strap paired with the 25mm stainless-steel case housing a self-winding mechanical movement, a mother-of-pearl dial and a pearl at 12 o’clock framed by 41 diamonds. The Lady 8 Petite Aventurine (£12,200), also diamond bedecked, has a double strap in blue grained calfskin complementing the aventurine dial and an aventurine ball bearing at 12 o’clock.

The new Lady 8s were “conceived as an ode to femininity and elegance”. The last word in femininity, however, may have to be given to Van Cleef & Arpels and its Secret de Coccinelle (£870,000), a unique piece with a leaf of emeralds and tsavorite garnets in yellow gold that wraps around the wrist, delicately and organically. A ladybird in rose gold with Mystery-Set rubies, plus white gold set with diamonds and onyx, hides an 8mm x 21mm watch case holding a manual-winding mechanism.

Between this ornate and compelling twist in the tale and the distinctly contemporary, dynamic new generation of double tours, the wraparound watch is clearly having the time of its life.

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