Haute horlogerie and haute joaillerie can be merged thanks to gem setting, a delicate art which requires an unbelievable attention to detail and which we will be able to admire at Baselworld 2019.
Watchmakers always collaborated with jewelers, especially as, in the past, many of them started in the watchmaking field from the jewelry trade. The practice of adorning watchcases using precious stones, particularly diamonds, progressively spread to embrace every part of the watch, from bracelet to dial, including the lugs, case, and bezel.
When the gemsetter receives a piece to work with, for most techniques the base was already prepared. Each stone’s place was defined and marked out, and guide holes were drilled, though of smaller diameter than the stones will require in the end.
For watches in regular production, this preparatory work, known by the French term mitraillage, is usually performed by machine using a precision tool. However, that is not the case for unique and exclusive creations and special jeweled watches in which craftsmanship reaches the level of high art.
Creating a depression with a ball burr, the gemsetter prepares the bed for the stone. The master artisan then works the metal with his graver, raising it into beads or grains. These tiny amounts of metal will hold the stone firmly in place. When the stone is positioned, the grain is split, and the separated sections grip the adjacent stone on either side. Lastly, the grain is rounded, polished, and any rough edges smoothed. This is a classic setting for diamonds.
Many other techniques can be used. Snow setting, or random setting, offers the gemsetter supreme freedom of expression. It achieves its effect with stones of ten or 20 different sizes. The setter works with a group of stones prepared by a gemologist and seeks to create a harmonious composition with the minimum metal visible between the stones. Nevertheless, each gem must be secured by two or three grains at least. The setter creates his pattern of holes either as he goes along, or all at once, but without a preliminary drawing, giving free rein to his taste and inspiration.
Another method is known as invisible setting. Here, the stones are specially prepared by the diamond-cutter, with a horizontal groove that enables them to be slid onto a gold rail. This way, they are clamped together, aided by the flexibility of the metal. This technique requires extreme precision, as once the stones are in place, they can no longer be removed. The invisible or mystery setting is equally appropriate for baguette diamonds and colored precious stones, as ruby, sapphire, or emerald. It is an extremely delicate work, since the angles of the baguette cut (90° or less) make the stone fragile. However, experienced craftsmen know how to avoid the treacherous and costly pitfalls.
With pavé grain and grain settings a row of diamonds can transform a watch by adding a precious yet subtle luxurious touch. The gemsetter uses a highly precise form of grain setting to ensure that each diamond is securely held in place with small hand-formed grains of gold that are barely visible to the eye. Using the minimum amount of metal and precise spacing and alignment of the diamonds, the result is smooth to the touch and ensures a harmonious look and bright sparkle.
Stay with us to find out more about Baselworld 2019, Haute Horlogerie and the finest craftsmanship.
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