Watchmakers tickle fancies with feathers and bamboo

Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:21am EDT
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By Victoria Bryan and Nathalie Olof-Ors

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) - Feathers, unscratchable gold, bamboo and even straw. Adorning watches with regular gold and silver is rather boring these days, as designs at the 2012 Baselworld watch fair showed.

Displays sparkling with the usual gold, diamonds and other precious gems, watchmakers were also keen to show their expertise by designing and working with new materials.

Harry Winston worked with plumassiere Nelly Saunier to unveil four elegant watches that used peacock and pheasant feathers arranged in intricate geometric patterns on the dial.

"In some civilizations, feathers had a similar value and meaning to diamonds," Frederic de Narp, president and CEO of the jeweler and watchmaker, told Reuters at the fair.

Gucci Timepieces went back to nature and its famous bamboo-handled bag for inspiration, presenting watches with elegant round faces, bamboo inlaid around the bezel and on the bracelet.

Continuing the natural materials theme, Patek Philippe used wood marquetry, while the watch division of Hermes recreated two of its famous check and chevron tie prints using straw marquetry in watches costing around 150,000 Swiss francs ($161,100).

For those who don't wrap their Swiss-made watch in cotton wool, manufacturers have come up with tougher materials, such as unscratchable gold at Hublot and aerospace-engineered zalium at Harry Winston.

Jean-Claude Biver, chairman of Hublot, even carried around a steel file to demonstrate the indestructibility of its new unscratchable gold that it has patented.   Continued...

An employee makes the final touch on Altanus booth at Baselworld fair in Basel, March 7, 2012. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann