At Tiffany & Co’s flagship store in London, a sales assistant demonstrates how the case of a watch from the HardWear collection can be removed from its chain-style strap, so the bracelet can be worn on its own as a piece of jewellery. By adding another chain, the watch can be styled as a double wrap around the wrist, around the neck — as a pendant or choker — or even worn in the hair.

The piece’s versatility reflects the revived trend of wearing watches in different ways, as demonstrated by celebrities at public events.

At the Grammy music awards in February, singer Taylor Swift wore a vintage timepiece refashioned by jewellery designer Lorraine Schwartz as a choker, following in the footsteps of Rihanna, whose neck was adorned by a watch choker by Jacob & Co at Pharrell Williams’ debut show for Louis Vuitton last year.

The Barbadian singer started off the trend of wearing watches differently by strapping another diamond-studded timepiece by Jacob & Co to her ankle for the Formula One Grand Prix in Las Vegas last November — and a precedent can be found in a scene from the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s in which a male guest bends down to check the time from a lady’s ankle.

Such high-profile appearances have helped turn the spotlight on the watches themselves. “By leveraging influential voices, brands . . . have the power to drive trends and reignite desire for their products,” says Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer at Launchmetrics, a company that measures the media impact of events for brands.

Taylor Swift set her Lorraine Schwartz watch to midnight © Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Rihanna attends the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit
Rihanna at last year’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, to which she wore an ankle watch © David Becker/Formula 1/Getty Images

She says that, in one week, Swift garnered a total of $1.7mn of “media impact value” — a proprietary metric to measure the monetary effect of social media exposure. Similarly, Rihanna, wearing a Jacob & Co’s choker, had a value of $479,000, according to Launchmetrics.

Although celebrities have amplified the trend, brands also deserve credit for highlighting different ways of wearing time. Pendant watches have been popular for a few years now, with Dior reimagining its Gem Dior collection as necklaces, Piaget reviving its heritage in the genre, and Jaeger-LeCoultre introducing an opulent version of its iconic Reverso as a diamond- and onyx-adorned pendant.

Aside from pendant watches, Chanel introduced ring watches, and Cartier made a splash during couture week with its Polymorph collection, including dials nestled in a brooch, a lapel pin, and a carabiner clip, presented in a dimly lit room at the Ritz in Paris as dangling from a pair of jeans.

A Cartier carabiner clip watch, set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and hard-stone beads
Cartier’s art deco coloured watch lapel pin from the Libre Polymorph collection

“At Cartier, we have always thought about offering different ways of wearing time,” says Pierre Rainero, the house’s director of image, style and heritage. Cartier’s experiments with time resulted in the creation in 1904 of the Santos, one of the first watches for men to be worn around the wrist at a time when men were only interested in pocket watches, and the Mystery Clock, in which the hands seemingly float in thin air. The latest Polymorph timepieces are all secret watches with quartz movements, which means they are essentially jewellery pieces that tell the time in an amusing, unexpected way.

Rainero’s sentiment is echoed by Jaeger-LeCoultre chief executive Catherine Rénier. “A watch is not only made to provide time, but it also creates an emotional relationship, a memory, evokes a strong feeling, or can be worn as jewellery,” she says. Pieces such as the Reverso secret necklace have attracted a new clientele “with a refined appreciation for both fine jewellery and exquisite timepieces” who value the maison’s long-standing heritage in métiers d’art, she adds.

Chanel’s ‘Mademoiselle Prive Pincushion Ring Couture ring watch launched at Watches and Wonders this week
The watch features a quilted motif dial with yellow gold pins adorned with culture pearls, diamonds and yellow gold miniature pearls

Aside from being a perceived hit on the red carpet and social media, unique watches attract fresh clients and sell well among affluent buyers.

Cynthia Tabet, Piaget’s product marketing director for its Metaphoria ring watch with aquamarine, says the piece can appeal to clients who are not looking for a watch but find they have “a crush” on the design. It sold out immediately, like the maison’s Swinging Sautoir when it was presented at last year’s Watches and Wonders fair.

“Such pieces interest experts [and] collectors who are drawn by the daring designs and couture lovers who want to own these atypical statement pieces,” Tabet says. “They are attracted by the jewellery element, and the watch in it provides the extra wow effect.”

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Secret necklace
Piaget’s Metaphoria ring watch with aquamarine

Laurent François, managing partner of Paris-based advertising agency 180 Global, says unusual timepieces catch the attention of watchmakers’ audiences on TikTok and Instagram, leading to content and memes being shared when celebrities wear them — ultimately helping keep the industry youthful and relevant. He also says the trend reflects the idea that “jewellery and watchmaking are starting to converge and blend”.

“It’s no longer a matter of choosing one over the other but of combining the two,” he argues. “Finally, it comes down to the craftsmanship and perceived value of luxury goods. It is also a signal from watchmakers to reclaim leadership in educating about the required expertise, passion and craftsmanship. It is about making a statement and expressing a strong point of view.”

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