Setting a watch with diamonds is by no means an easy task. Especially when you talk about high jewellery, or Haute Joaillerie, watch things become very complicated. It is there where the design phase of these watches is critical. Here, a designer not only determines which type of setting he wants to see, but also if this is even possible. Setting diamonds on a watch always means that you have to cut away metal. This metal is precious in two ways: first for Haute Joaillerie watches, like this Piaget Emperador, only 18K gold is being used. Secondly, this metal also precious in another way – it forms the integrity of the case. Cutting away too much can result in puncturing the case that dirt, dust and moisture can enter the case and damage the movement. So after the visual design is done, calculations have to be made, often with the help of CAD-programs on how and where to place the diamonds.

Piaget diamond set watch CADWith brilliant-cut diamonds, often, the setting is adapted to the case. Where there are, for example, correctors, like on the side of this Emperador, you simply leave an open space in your setting. With a baguette-cut setting, as featured on the bezel of this Piaget, it is the other way around. Here, the cut shape of the diamond is modified so that it fits its specific place on the bezel. These modified cuts have to be determined individually, in which the gemologist can procure the appropriate diamonds which the diamond cutter can then cut into the modified baguette-cut style. This requires a lot of expertise, not to mention time.

Gem-set case middle and gouache painting_2When all the diamonds are cut and polished, it is up to the diamond-setter to set the case, and with this watch, also the dial, oscillating weight and folding clasp. He does this by starting with drilling holes and cutting grooves into the precious metal case to house the diamonds. In order to ensure that the diamonds are properly secured, he creates little prongs out of the remaining precious metal of the case surrounding the brilliant cut diamonds. After these prongs are crafted, and of course also finished to perfection, the diamond is placed and secured between the prongs.

Setting the diamond-pavé bezelThe (modified) baguette-cut diamonds are placed in a channel setting. Here, the diamonds are placed next to each other with no metal between them. They are secured on either side by a small strip of precious metal. Since there is no room for error, all the diamonds have to be cut with the utmost precious because when they are not, the setting will show gaps and the diamonds will be insufficiently secured in their setting.

Bevel-polishing the case middleWith a pave-setting, like on this Emperador, you want to show as little bare metal as possible. However, especially with shaped watches like this Piaget, it is important to still outline the unique shape of the case. Piaget did this by not only altering their diamond cuts, but also by leaving small rims of precious metal, that outline the different forms. These have to be polished to perfection to merge with the rest of the design. As easy as this may sound, it is so difficult to achieve. One mistake and the case is ruined, leaving the countless hours that the diamond setter worked on it for nothing.

Checking the time-settingSetting the hands, checking the functions of the movement and finally, casing it all up, will eventually result in a finished watch. A watch that requires the additional expertise of various craftsmen and craftswomen to become a reality, making Haute Joaillerie watches like this Piaget Emperador Cushion a precious league of their own.

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Martin Green
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics

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