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Pendant Watches Swing Back Into Fashion

Pendant watches are having something of a fashion moment — just cue the Watches and Wonders fair held in Geneva this spring, where fashion houses including Chanel and Hermès presented several styles of pendant timepieces in their lineups of creations for the year.

With their swaying, sautoir style, these new pendant watches embrace a continuing interest in 1970s-era jewelry and fashions by makers like Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget, while also nodding to fob-chain pocket watches, one of the pillars of traditional watchmaking.

From vintage offerings to bold new designs, we’ve rounded up the best of the pendants from six luxury companies to get you into the swing of things.

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At Watches and Wonders, Chanel introduced three pendant watches as part of its Mademoiselle Privé collection, a line that Arnaud Chastaingt, the director of Chanel’s watchmaking creation studio, said was about intimacy, femininity and exclusivity. Past designs have included a cuff watch, and now sautoir timepieces. “Mademoiselle Privé is an ode to creativity and for me an extraordinary field of artistic expression,” Mr. Chastaingt said in an email, adding that with pendant watches he hoped to “bring audacity and avant-gardism” to timekeeping.

Perhaps the most delightful of his three designs is the Cage Long Necklace (price on application), which is set with 577 brilliant-cut, 26 baguette-cut and 12 trapezoid-cut diamonds. It takes the form of two love birds in a gold cage that dangles from a chain studded with 132 of the diamonds and was inspired by a bird cage that decorates the Chanel apartment on Rue Cambon in Paris. (The space recreates Coco Chanel’s personal apartment and has proven to be a rich source of inspiration — its Coromandel lacquer screens influenced another of Mr. Chastaingt’s pendant watch designs). The one-of-a-kind Cage Long Necklace also features 46 cultured Akoya pearls: The birds are crafted from two oval pearls. On the underside of the cage is the small, almost hidden, quartz watch.

Hermès, another French luxury house, has been exploring the pendant watch form in recent years, using the pocket watch as its starting point. “Pocket watches are dear to Hermès, they recall the origins of watchmaking,” Philippe Delhotal, the creative director of Hermès Horloger, said in an email. The company’s creations juxtapose high complications with tongue-in-cheek design, such as the Arceau Pocket Aaaaargh! from 2020 that paired a minute repeater and tourbillon with a close-up of the face of a Tyrannosaurus in a leather marquetry mosaic. The same watch movement makes its way into this year’s Arceau Pocket Cheval Punk, with a horse’s head and neck on the cover, featuring a whimsical, punk-like mane, all executed via hundreds of hours of engraving, miniature enamel paintwork and champlevé enameling.

It’s an approach to timekeeping that’s less about measurement and control than it is about playing with time, Mr. Delhotal said. The pocket watches are “designed to arouse emotions, open up interludes and create spaces for spontaneity and recreation,” he wrote.

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Introduced in 2021, Dior’s Gem Dior collection is an ode to the rough, organic shapes of gemstones, where asymmetrically-cut stones have punctuated the likes of stackable rings and bracelets and featured as eight-faceted watch dials. Vibrant, eye-popping color is also a signature — think lapis lazuli, malachite, carnelian, tiger’s-eye, aragonite and turquoise — but also cool monochrome designs from onyx and pavé diamonds. Dior has now introduced two medallion-style pendant watches, its first necklace watches, at 25,000 euros or $30,500 each. One — an ultrafeminine model that pairs aragonite with carnelian — is complemented by pink gold and diamonds, and is a follow-up to a matching wristwatch presented earlier this year. The second, with a malachite face, is the more standout piece, its yellow gold and diamond accents expressing Gem Dior’s vintage ’70s vibe.

At Homo Faber, the recent biennial craftsmanship fair in Venice, the Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler Piaget displayed a pendant watch from 1971 that is part of its archives and not for sale. The multi-strand sautoir, in yellow gold with lapis lazuli beads and dial, would not have looked out of place in the Swinging Sixties either — and personified Piaget’s 21st Century Collection, a line of bold and daring watches and jewelry that was created in 1969. Typically set with hard stones and powered by the house’s ultrathin mechanical hand-wound movement, vintage Piaget pendant watches like these have grown in popularity with collectors. In 2012, for instance, Piaget acquired for its archive a ’70s coral and turquoise pendant watch at auction in Geneva for 47,000 Swiss francs, or about $49,000 at recent exchange rates. Jean-Bernard Forot, Piaget’s head of patrimony, said that a similar Piaget piece from the same era was auctioned for nearly double the price two years later.

A resplendent Cartier necklace watch went under the hammer last month at the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale at Sotheby’s in Geneva. The lot — which included a pair of matching earrings — sold for 352,800 Swiss francs, exceeding its pre-auction estimate. The jewel, produced within the past decade, has a cascade of emerald beads and diamonds that culminates in a large emerald carved with a floral design, the top of its center stone set with a tiny watch face just hidden from view — visible only to the wearer.

Olivier Wagner, the head of jewelry sales at Sotheby’s Geneva, said that he had never seen a similar necklace watch in his 17 years at the auction house. He remarked that the design stood out from the typical pendant watches made in the early 20th century. During that period, he said, “ladies were not wearing wristwatches, but they had to have a watch somewhere, so it was concealed in a pendant and worn in an elegant way.”

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The Zurich-based Ineichen Auctioneers sold two limited edition Audemars Piguet pocket watches last month — Ref. 25728 in rose gold and Ref. 25729 in platinum — as part of a special auction to mark the 50th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak wristwatch. The rose gold pocket watch sold for 60,000 Swiss francs and the platinum for 135,000 francs, both exceeding their pre-sale estimates. The timepieces were produced in 1992 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak, and were made in a limited number of 20 pieces each. The two sold last month were each engraved on the case backs as number 15 and had been acquired by a single collector in 1993.

At 47 millimeters and set with a classic white dial on the rose gold pocket watch, and with an openwork design on the platinum one, the timepieces feature a perpetual calendar, a complication sought after by collectors, and come suspended on original and architectural Audemars Piguet fob chains.

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