The 10 best investment-worthy jewellery watches of 2023

Improvements in gem setting techniques have amped up the dazzle factor in a new clutch of jewellery watches, but which ones are worth your money?

Bulgari’s Octo Roma Mediterranea is part of a full high jewellery and watch collection designed to celebrate Mediterranean shorelines

Watch collectors love to debate the merits of triple-axis tourbillons and high-frequency calibres, but mention a gem-set watch, and their eyes tend to glaze over. Even a masterpiece of jewelling is routinely dismissed as just “a ladies’ watch.” But it’s time jewelled watches got some of the merit they deserve, and these 10 new pieces may be the tipping point.

Their merits are many: Diamonds and gemstones have a high intrinsic value that, when added to watches, renders them automatically investment-worthy. And improvements in gem setting techniques have amped up the dazzle factor. Increasingly, there’s been a greater interest in jewelled watches for men — top brands like Bulgari are now introducing jewelled pieces designed for male consumers.

Setting gems into a timepiece is a task as demanding as any that a master watchmaker faces when assembling a grand complication. Techniques have evolved in recent years, with the aim of creating maximum brilliance when light enters a diamond and bounces off one of the side or lower facets at just the right angle. The more metal that surrounds the stone, the more it will absorb rather than reflect light, so the idea is to minimize the metal, either by using a variation of the raised prong setting or cutting away some of the metal around the gems.

It's an alternative to the convention of setting gems directly into the case, surrounded by metal on all sides. A jewellery watch can take hundreds of hours to set — it might be easier, and faster, to make a minute repeater.

Jewellery watches hold or appreciate in value because diamonds and gemstones are commodities in their own right that can be sold separately. They add intrinsic value to a watch, giving them an edge on the secondary market. “We are seeing more jewelled timepieces at auction,” says Rémi Guillemin, head of watches for Christie’s Europe. “Many men’s as well as women’s wristwatches are now bejewelled. They are now part of the catalogues of many more manufacturers due to the increasing demand from collectors for these models. As a result, prices are increasing in the secondary market and at auction.”

The following ten new jewellery watches collectively represent recent innovations in design, cutting, setting and creative colour matching. Wear them with jeans for a high-low vibe or on the red carpet with a tux or a gown.

Cartier Baignoire Jewellery

At 17.1mm wide and 24.8mm long, this isn’t a big watch, but every surface is set with gems in a dainty, open arrangement that lets in plenty of light. The double line bracelet includes a strand of diamonds and another of sapphires. The case is set with sapphires, emeralds and tourmalines, framing a dial paved with 130 diamonds totalling 0.64 carats and a small tourmaline. The movement is quartz. It is a numbered edition of 15, priced at €170,000.

Piaget Aura High Jewellery

True to its name, the Aura radiates light from every angle. Every gem is individually cut and calibrated to fit together like a seamless puzzle. Piaget says it took eight months to gather the sapphires in the desired graduation of colours. The gem setting took another 260 hours. Ultra-thin claws allow the stones to capture maximum light. A unique piece, the Aura contains the Piaget 430P ultra-thin hand-wound movement. Price on request.

Harry Winston Ocean Date Moon Phase Automatic

The Ocean is billed as Harry Winston’s sport model, which it describes as suitable for “everyday wear,” but this version is clearly made for days that are more special than others. Every surface but the date index and the moon phase disk is set, for a total of 40 carats of round-brilliant and baguette diamonds. Even the rotor is set with 26 diamonds. Limited to five pieces. Price on request.

Chanel J12 Hyper Cybernetic

The diamonds on this whimsical watch are snow-set, a type of pavé setting with random sizes on a surface that often creates a specific outline — in this case, a pixelated motif. The case is black ceramic and 18-karat white gold. The watch is set with 240 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 1.30 carats. It’s part of the J12 Interstellar capsule collection, in a limited edition of 55 pieces. Price on request.

Bulgari Octo Roma Mediterranea

This men’s jewelled secret watch is designed in a seascape-with-octopus scene. It’s part of a full high jewellery and watch collection designed to celebrate Mediterranean shorelines, with bright, vibrant gems. The peekaboo cover is set with diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines and sapphires and opens to reveal a watch with the manual BVL 268 SK flying tourbillon. Price on request.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Secret Necklace

This art deco pendant watch reinterprets Jaeger’s flagship collection, the Reverso. It’s set with 3,000 diamonds totalling more than 18 carats set into the chain and case. The supple chain is made of diamond-set links and polished onyx beads. The case and dial are set with onyx and diamonds, front and back. Price on request.

Breguet Reine De Naples 8918

The Reine De Naples, Breguet’s flagship in its ladies’ collection, is distinctive for its feminine oval shape, and this pink version doubles the vibe. The case is 18-karat rose gold, and the dial is pink grand feu enamel. The diamond application is subtle, with the bezel setting matched by diamonds along the flange. The buckle is set with another 28 diamonds, and an oval diamond at 6 o’clock mirrors the case shape. €34,830

Chopard Red Carpet Collection Jewellery Watch

A study in pear-shaped diamonds posed as flower petals, this masterpiece is set with 25.87 carats of pears, 21.65 carats of octagon-cut emeralds and 2.43 carats of round brilliant-cut diamonds. The hands are matched to the very clean, high-color emeralds. The movement is quartz. Price on request.

Van Cleef & Arpels Perlée Pendant

For some brands, a jewelled pendant watch would be an anomalous one-off, but for master jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels, it is a full collection with six gem options, including three exotic hard stones: The covers can be set with sapphire, emerald, ruby or a choice of chalcedony, sodalite or rose quartz. Dials are mother-of-pearl surrounded by a ring of diamonds. Prices on request.

Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo High Jewellery Secret

Designed after a belt-themed bracelet created by the company in 1934, the Ludo’s buckle-motif case-surround is set with 5.68 carats of perfectly matched pink sapphires, cut to fit. The 18-karat rose gold mesh-style bracelet covers the dial but flips up at the press of a button to reveal the time against a guilloched mother-of-pearl background. €135,000.

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