Mighty monochrome: black and white watch dials

If two is company, three is a trend in the watchmaking world. And from what I spotted at the SIHH watch salon in Geneva, and some previews from the upcoming watch fair at Baselworld, the return of classic black and white ladies’ watches is nigh. An undeniably elegant white or black dial adds drama to a timepiece and a sense of timeless sophistication.

The Cartier Panthère Mystérieuse watch unites the panther and a mystery movement with its floating hour and minute hands.

Cartier explained the different materials used to create the black and white decorations on high jewellery watches. White surfaces are usually evoked with diamonds or mother-of-pearl, while black can be created from a variety of sources. Black onyx, the mineral, or even black obsidian, are set alongside precious stones in high jewellery timepieces. Black enamel is generally used on the dial and has to be protected under glass; black lacquer, which is more resilient, can be used to decorate the outside of the case – like the lacquer used in some of the models featured in the new Cartier Hypnose collection. Black ceramic, on the other hand, is used to create hard-wearing cases and bracelets, which the owners of the J12 Chanel watches will attest.

Cartier’s fabulous feline first prowled into the Maison’s menagerie in 1914 in the form of ladies’ watches. Well ahead of the Art Deco movement, the Panthère platinum model featured strong geometric forms and recreated the panther’s spots in onyx and rose-cut diamonds. Indelibly associated with the Maison, the panther turned up this year draping his lithe limbs around the case of the stunning Panthère Mystérieuse diamond watch. With his precious coat of black lacquer spots, the panther guards the dial of this mystery timepiece in which two hands float magically in space without any apparent attachment to the mechanism.

The Millenary watch by Audemars Piguet gets its black and white stripes from brilliant-cut diamonds and velvet-black onyx.

For 2016, the Millenary range of Audemars Piguet watches are decked out in hypnotic zebra-striped dials. This exotic white and black dial gets its stripes from the graphic combination of brilliant-cut diamonds and onyx. The 39.5mm white gold case has also been set alight with diamonds, and even the bridge and balance wheel of the hand-winding movement, located on the left side of the oval dial, have been treated to the fancy stripes.

The family of animal watches from Boucheron – a high jewellery zoo of creatures great and small – has recently grown to include Khepri, the astonishing beetle whose wings deploy in flight to reveal a diminutive secret watch. Khepri was the Sun God in Ancient Egypt, disappearing each day at dusk and reappearing at daybreak. In Egyptian art, the beetle pushes the Sun along with its legs and has become a symbol of regeneration and birth. This magnificent white gold beetle with its glossy black obsidian wings and diamond appendages is suspended in a gorgeous diamond trellis bracelet. By depressing a diamond at 12 o’clock, the black obsidian wings part to reveal a delicate, oval mother-of-pearl dial. 

  • Cartier Panthere Mysterieuse watch black dial

    The glossy coat of the Cartier Panthère Mystérieuse shines with 533 brilliant-cut diamonds and black lacquer spots.

  • Audemars Piguet Millenary zebra watch

    Millenary hand-wound watch

    Audemars Piguet

    £ 57,100

  • Boucheron Khepri a Secret watch

    Khepri à Secret watch


    £ 183,000

  • Cartier Panthere Mysterieuse watch white dial

    Panthère Mystérieuse watch