iconic-and-innovative-metal-bracelets-that-are-as-emblematic-as-the-watch-itself
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The innovative design and craftsmanship of these watch bracelets elevate horology.

Rolex

Developed in the late ‘30s by watch bracelet manufacturer Gay Frères (Rolex acquired the company in 1998), the Oyster is one of the world’s most recognisable bracelets. Patented by Rolex in 1947 and composed of broad, flat three-piece links, the bracelet has gone through minor updates over the years. Its most recent was for the 2020 Oyster Perpetual Submariner and Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date. Now boasting a broader centre link to accommodate the slightly larger 41mm watch case, it is equipped with an Oysterlock folding safety clasp, designed and patented by Rolex, to prevent accidental opening. It also features the Rolex Glidelock extension system that allows the bracelet length to be adjusted up to 20mm without tools, as well as a concealed attachment system to ensure seamless visual continuity between the bracelet and case.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner, 41mm, in Oystersteel is powered by the new calibre 3230 with a 70-hour power reserve

Bvlgari

Straddling the universes of jewellery and horology, the Serpenti wraparound bracelet watch is synonymous with Bvlgari. Aside from the Tubogas design from the ’70s that was inspired by the protective flexible coil around gas pipes, the 2014 Serpenti Spiga (Italian for wheat) featured a wraparound bracelet with a wave-like motif representing a wheat stalk. Enriching the collection this year is the diamond- set Bvlgari Serpenti Spiga in gold, which draws from a 1957 heritage timepiece with a square face and a modular construction for its bracelet. To form the intricate mesh-like matelassé pattern without soldering, each module of the Serpenti Spiga bracelet is inserted around an internal flexible spring that
is shaped into a coiling bracelet. The single-row watch with a white mother- of-pearl dial comprises 40 links cast from 40 different moulds, while the bracelet on the two-row variant with a black lacquered dial consists of 70 links. For red-carpet events, there’s the white gold version that is fully embellished with over 800 diamonds.

Bvlgari Serpenti Spiga rose gold quartz movement watch, 35mm, with a diamond-set bezel and two-row bracelet with 461 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 2.83 carats

Audemars Piguet

In 1971, then Audemars Piguet’s managing director Georges Golay contacted a watch designer for a steel watch sketch as requested by a distributor. The design for the Royal Oak was presented the very next morning by the legendary Gérald Genta. Featuring an extremely slim case, revolutionary octagonal bezel with exposed retaining screws and integrated bracelet, the watch that would be the maison’s most iconic model and Genta’s masterpiece was inspired by a vintage commercial diver’s helmet attached to the rest of the suit with screws. The bracelet was produced by Gay Frères, which was consulted on its design to ensure Genta’s vision could be realised. Like a supple joint, it comprises parts arranged in descending order with alternating links and connecting studs that fit seamlessly without any gaps.

Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon, 41mm, in pink gold with a grey sunburst Tapisserie dial is powered by the Calibre 2950 with a power reserve of 65 hours

Piaget

Since the ’60s, Piaget has been breathing life into its high jewellery and watch creations with Palace Décor, a hand-engraving technique unique to the house. Over the decades, more than 100 textured, shimmery motifs have been created on these bracelets. Mostly nature-inspired, designs have included fur, foliage, wood and leather grain. Adorned with a hypnotic arrangement of marquise- cut gems echoing a macaw’s feathers, the Radiant Plumage watch from Piaget’s Wings of Light high jewellery collection is accompanied by a Palace Décor bracelet resembling a ribbon of iridescent raw silk. However, it’s the reverse side that reveals the technical virtuosity. Here, a multitude of miniature gold links have been tightly assembled before they’re painstakingly soldered one by one to create a remarkably supple bracelet. The master engraver then works on the bracelet front, laboriously hand- carving the motifs on the surface until the joins between each link disappear.

Piaget Radiant Plumage white gold quartz movement watch, 27.9mm by 22.9mm, with nine yellow sapphires, five blue sapphires, three red spinels and seven Paraíba tourmalines weighing a total of 6.07 carats

Breitling

Watch enthusiasts know that the manufacture’s Chronomat watches were ’80s icons. Beyond the eye-catching case and rotating bezel with rider tabs, there was the unmistakable bracelet with a rouleaux (French for roller) profile. Composed of a series of steel cylindrical links resembling slim bullets with rounded ends, the bracelet boasted extraordinary flexibility, and was sturdy and comfortable on the wrist. Following last year’s relaunch of the Chronomat, Breitling launched its first-ever Chronomat for Women collection this year. Available in 32mm quartz and 36mm automatic variants, the ’80s-inspired watches feature a modernised rouleaux bracelet with slight updates. Along with flat ends topped with polished bevels, brushed cylindrical links are now punctuated by polished rings on alternate links for a sleeker look. Adding a sophisticated touch is the concealed butterfly clasp.

The Breitling Chronomat Automatic 36, 36mm, with bi-colour steel bracelet and diamond-set red gold bezel, diamond hour markers and red gold crown, is equipped with the Breitling Calibre 10 with a 42-hour power reserve

Van Cleef & Arpels

First created in 1934, the Ludo bracelet is an emblematic Van Cleef & Arpels piece that evokes a belt with a flexible mesh accented with a jewel-encrusted motif in place of a buckle. While the original creation was composed of briquette motifs, a version comprising small articulated hexagons was added the following year. The maison honours the signature piece with its latest Ludo Secret watches. A hard or precious stone cabochon rotates to reveal a mother-of-pearl dial encircled by diamonds and gemstones resembling a rose. To create the impression of a delicate weave, each hexagonal motif is carefully assembled and individually adjusted by hand to achieve the bracelet’s incredible articulation. Keeping with the maison’s tradition of transformable pieces, the Ludo Secret watch can be worn in various ways.

Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret quartz movement watch, 159mm, in rose gold with a mother-of-pearl dial, two red corals, 90 diamonds weighing 7.43 carats and 97 rubies totalling 8.37 carats

Cartier

The deconstructed chain-link bracelet on the Maillon de Cartier gold watch is an architectural play on classic codes with a literal twist. Approaching the design as a jewel first with a timepiece residing in it, Cartier’s artisans perfected the watch’s geometric aesthetic only after 35 prototypes. Flexible rectangular links are offset and aligned on the bias at a 32-degree angle to create a stunning visual impact, while the watch blends in seamlessly with a hexagonal case and dial. With a silvered sunray dial, black Roman numerals and blue sword hands, the watch is offered in five references, ranging from a yellow gold model to a white gold version bedecked with 486 diamonds.

Maillon de Cartier pink gold quartz movement watch, 16mm by 17mm, with 400 brilliant-cut diamonds set in the case and bracelet

Zenith

In 1969, the manufacture sought the expertise of watch bracelet specialist Gay Frères to create an original and exclusive bracelet for the avant-garde El Primero, the world’s first automatic high-frequency chronograph. The result was the Ladder bracelet, which showcased an unusual open design that boasted superior comfort and a dressier look compared to other sporty steel bracelets of the time. A Zenith icon, the coveted bracelet made its grand return in the 2020 release of the El Primero A384 Revival. This year, the bracelet completes the retro look and feel of the Chronomaster Revival A385, which features the hallmark smoked brown gradient dial with vignette effect. An actual reproduction of the original 1969 model, its only differences are the domed sapphire crystal and a display caseback that offers a full view of the El Primero 400 chronograph movement. The new variant is also offered in a light brown calf leather strap.

Zenith’s Chronomaster Revival A385, 37mm, in steel is driven by the El Primero 400 Automatic movement with a power reserve of 50 hours

(Main and featured image: Rolex)

This story first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.

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