One of the many glorious outcomes of the current renaissance in ladies’ timepieces is the unique beauty resulting from the application of elements from the world of couture to craft of luxury watchmaking. Like haute horology, high fashion couture is all about hand craftsmanship using centuries old skills – sewing beads onto dresses, hand tatting lace for the skirt of a gown, embroidering silk threads into hand-woven fabrics, always executing everything to the highest standards of workmanship. Couture watch brands, along with houses such as Cartier that have always attended to the outward finish of timepieces, have been raising the bar in women’s luxury watches by bringing in new materials and techniques – we have seen wood and straw marquetry, engraved mother of pearl, sculpted mineral dials and now, feather marquetry by two brands famous for adoring women: Harry Winston and Dior.
Just as there is a master craftsman for every skill involved in the couture or haute horlogerie finishing process, this work is done by none other than a plumassière, or feather artist. In the case of Harry Winston, this person is Nelly Saunier, who runs one of the most sought-after couture ateliers in Paris and collaborates with top fashion brands – the parakeet bolero she made for Jean Paul Gaultier is the stuff of fashion legend. In addition to extreme dexterity, feather marquetry requires excellent perception of volumes and above all of colors. Each of the brand’s three Premier feather marquetry pieces is set with the feathers of a different species: peacock, pheasant and guinea fowl. The birds are specifically bred for this purpose. Each case is set with 66 diamonds. The buckles are set with 29 diamonds.
Dior’s Dior VIII Grand Bal Plumes collection of watches takes the concept one step further by setting feathers into the rotor, which is positioned on the dial rather than the caseback, where it sways like the skirt of a Dior couture ball gown. A spectacle that certainly gives the dance of the tourbillon a run for its money.