Tag Archives: sapphire

Inner Workings Exposed: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire


Transparency has long devilled Swiss watchmaking, as far as standards, costs and corporate structures go, but he watchmakers themselves have no trouble pushing admirably see-through efforts. While BaselWorld 2017 did not see greater openness from the brands, we did get a few fascinating watches that will no doubt make us all think sapphire is going to be the carbon of the next few years. Bell & Ross have no less than two watches that build on this narrative, the first of which is the BR-X1 Tourbillon Skeleton-Sapphire.

Inner Workings Exposed: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire

The design-forward Swiss watchmaking firm has been mining this vein for some time now and it looks like we’ll spending a few issues looking into them – or perhaps more appropriately looking through them! The second – and far more intriguing piece – will have to await more details but suffice to say it is a watch with no true case…

For the record, it should be noted that the entire case of the BR-X1 here is in sapphire, specifically five corundum blocks for the case back, middle, top and bumpers, and held together with those very visible screws. The extreme transparency here means the manufacture calibre BR-288 is visible from every angle. There is a lot to take in with this manual-winding movement, including the trademark X-shaped bridges, and the particularities of the one-minute flying tourbillon as well as the intermediate wheel.

Followers of Bell & Ross will recognize commonalities here between this and the BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon (the brand’s first model in an all-sapphire case) and this latest model is a variant, though not obviously a base. The architecture of the calibre BR-288 and calibre BR-285 are quite different, with the going train here arranged along a single vertical axis. Bell & Ross have taken great pains to point the special construction of that intermediate wheel, which sports teeth in entirely new shape. The advantages of this new shape are reportedly in managing friction and, to quote the press release, optimizing” tight tolerances.

As far as the case is concerned, such beauty comes at a price of course. It reportedly takes days to carve out the various case components for a single watch. This is likely achieved by diamond-tipped tools in an industrial setting so leave aside all thoughts of craftspeople toiling away at blocks of sapphire crystal with chisels and the like. This sort of endeavor is a technical challenge that is simply impossible to execute without contemporary means.

Bell & Ross have some patrimony here as the brand has been on the cutting edge of the sapphire case trend, such as it is, so it both hardy and pretty, with a water resistance of 30 meters. Obviously, the case will be highly scratch-resistant but like all crystals, appropriate care should be taken. A limited edition of eight worldwide, the watch indicates hours and minutes, relegated to a subdial at 12 o’clock.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire Price and Specs

Movement Manual winding calibre BR-288 with one-minute flying tourbillon; 100-hour power reserve
Case 45mm in sapphire crystal; water resistant to 30m
Strap Translucent rubber with Kevlar
Price S$535,000

New Luxury Watch: Why the Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is more expensive than the average BR chronograph

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is 45 mm in diameter with titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts. Rocker push-buttons. Back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance.

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is 45 mm in diameter with titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts. Rocker push-buttons. Back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance.

Bell & Ross has dropped a new luxury watch and while it’s not the most expensive Bell & Ross, it is probably among the more expensive chronographs the French brand has ever released and World of Watches is going to explore the aspects which add to the price of the Bell & Ross BRX1 Black Titanium Chronograph

New Luxury Watch: Why the Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is more expensive than the average BR chronograph

The grade 5, lightweight and resistant, titanium case is machined and made by a heritage 1936 case-polishing workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds begun by brothers George and Francis Chatelain.

The namesake G&F Chatelain workshop eventually progressed and specialised in progressive stamping and precision machining  by acquiring a stake in Standoz & Co in 1963., and then completing the acquisition in 1993, 30 years later. By 2006, the Chanel-owned company added specialist know-how of material ceramic production which they have now used to create the high-tech ceramic bezel to the latest chronograph from Bell & Ross.

The Bell & Ross skeleton chronograph is equipped with a calibre BR-CAL.313. Automatic mechanical. ‘X’-shaped upper bridge. 56 jewels, 28,800 vph.

The Bell & Ross skeleton chronograph is equipped with a calibre BR-CAL.313. Automatic mechanical. ‘X’-shaped upper bridge. 56 jewels, 28,800 vph.

Given their supplier relationship with laudable brands like Richard Mille, your “fraction of the price” Bell & Ross chronograph is definitely a story worth telling when you regal others on how you came to be wristed this beauty.

As a result, the 45mm BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is the perfect synthesis of Bell & Ross ‘ expertise in the world of aviation watches and master watchmaking-  Add elongated, rectangular ergonomic integrated into the case, pivoted push buttons, operable through a pilot’s flight gloves and what you get are chronograph functions which are easily and efficiently accessed in a wide variety of situations and environments.


Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph with hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock. Skeleton date at 6 o’clock. Chronograph: 30-min timer at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds.

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph with hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock. Skeleton date at 6 o’clock. Chronograph: 30-min timer at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds.

A hallmark of the X1 range of Bell & Ross watches is the expansive sapphire crystal which reveals the skeletonised chronograph calibre – a base ETA 2892 with Dubois-Depraz chronograph module comprising the BR Cal. 313 set with an open-worked date wheel accompanied with a lattice-work diamond shaped bridge emanating from the central pivot holding the hour, minutes and chronograph seconds hands.

Consequently, the new limited edition Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph with a 250 piece production run is more expensive than the average Bell & Ross chronograph.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph Price & Specs

Sophisticated and reliable, the skeleton chronograph movement of the BR-X1 chronograph is truly exceptional and combines Haute Horlogerie finishes with extreme lightness. Limited to 250 pieces, the BR-X1 Black Titanium chronograph is priced S$27,200.

Case: 45mm diameter – Titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts – rocker push-buttons – back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance. – 100m water resistant
Movement: calibre BR-CAL.313 – self-winding – 4Hz frequency – 56 jewels
Strap: black rubber strap with steel and rubber pin buckle

Iroshini Chua

Iroshini Chua: Romancing The Stones

Having come from a multi-generation Sri Lankan family of gem traders, the Gunawardanas, many of my fondest memories have to do with gemstones. The earliest memory I have of “playing” with gems is of me propped up next to my dad at the age of four, observing him as he arranged an array of coloured stones in lighter to deeper shades. Growing up, I also always saw my late mother sitting on the bed before taking off her earrings lest they dropped on the floor.

I remember her falling in love with a Cat’s Eye chrysoberyl, and my father surprising her a few weeks later with the stone set in a ring surrounded by diamonds. It was a “just because” piece of jewellery, for no particular occasion, but the sweet gesture left a lasting impression on me. While her life was surrounded by all things bedazzling and she was no stranger to fine jewellery trends, the majority of her own pieces were customised. And it is the same for me.

Iroshini Chua

Pink Sapphire and Diamond earrings

At a young age, I was made aware that gems offer a whole spectrum of colours and sizes, and not everyone’s taste is the same. My passion and knowledge of gemstones compelled me to start designing jewellery for friends and associates as a hobby business since my 20s. This year, I’d finally re-launched it as my private label offering ready-to-wear pieces as well as bespoke services.

And why not? Although I am a medical doctor by day and trade, I have never forgotten my heritage. Besides, having become a Singapore citizen and lived here for 13 years, I have a burning desire to share what I know after encountering so many women who only buy jewels from stores and never thought to make their own.

Perhaps they don’t trust private jewellers as much as large, international houses, but what they may not realise is that these jewellery brands buy stones from wholesalers like my father. Perhaps they cannot envision the end product, as customising involves looking at the gems and imagining what they might look like once assembled. Or perhaps, they simply prefer instant gratification.

Iroshini Chua

Emerald and Diamond ring

Thankfully, this is changing for the better – not just with consumers who prefer to be more involved with their jewellery creations, but also the local jewellery and gemstone industry, which is seeing more independent businesses making waves and getting noticed.

For me, the vivid and vibrant colours of the diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies I grew up with captivated my imagination but also cultivated within me an innate sense of how best to harness their beauty as well as a burning desire to do them justice.

Moreover, I feel a strong sense of familial and cultural duty. Sri Lanka’s history of high-quality jewellery craftsmanship dates back to the days of the various kings and caste systems, when part of the family name denotes the ancestral occupation. This means even today, Sri Lankans observe the tradition of commissioning pieces with jewellery artisans, whose names signify that they have learnt the rare skills from their ancestors.

This is one of the main reasons in launching my own jewellery brand – to ensure these artisans who depend on my family for a means of living continue to have a source of income, and that their traditional expertise doesn’t become a forgotten art. In creating a jewel made by such artisans from scratch, you could say my clients are patrons of heritage, which is something even the most influential of maisons are espousing.

As a personal experience for my clients, there is never a time when they don’t enjoy the entire process. While they are usually overwhelmed by the endless possibilities at first, I guide them into understanding what they really want, and then the fun begins with designing. Imagining what the end product looks like is always difficult for them, but that actually adds to the delight when they receive the completed piece. Almost always, they are taken aback by how beautiful it is, and they get addicted to the process of creation.

Iroshini Chua

Amethyst and Blue Sapphire ring

Weaving their own inimitable style into the design and being involved in the process lend more meaning, and give them control over the budget. Because of their inputs, the jewels assume the dignity of a one-of-a-kind heirloom, an object of beauty, for which posterity will remember them. I have helped clients design jewellery pieces that offer more mileage, such as unique rings that double as scarf holders and brooches. With a bespoke service, the sky’s the limit.

A private jeweller can also change aspects of a design to tune it to a client’s exact taste at any time during the process. In a way, the relationship with a private jeweller is much like that with a hairdresser or doctor – long-term and intimate.

In my family, jewels have been passed down four generations. I have a Sri Lankan ruby hair accessory that no one in this day and age wears. It is supposed to be inserted into a hair bun, and is around 80 to 100 years old. Just as I can’t wait to pass it on to my daughter, Aiyana, I would also love to see other women do the same for their kids, and start their own precious family tradition.

Text by Iroshini Chua

This article was first published in WOW.

Art, Science, Gems and Lunch with Van Cleef & Arpels

Having just had lunch with Cate Blanchett and looked at more jewelry and raw gemstones than most humans ever have, I can say without reservation that Friday last was indeed well spent. For a watch and jewelry specialist like me, having a go at more than 400 pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels and looking at the raw materials, courtesy of the French National Museum of Natural History, is a real treat. In case you are a regular curious George about such matters, you can give yourself this very same treat (minus Ms. Blanchet) by heading over to The Art and Science of Gems exhibition at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

First of all, let us address the Cate Blanchett matter. Ms. Blanchett was a guest of Van Cleef & Arpels at the launch and she stayed on for lunch, where she entertained the press by posing for pictures with them. Pro tip: Ms. Blanchett prefers to have her picture taken as opposed to grabbing a selfie. Her dedication cannot be overstated: she arrived that day and left that night. Considering that the entire event, including lunch took upwards of five hours, I was impressed; if this wasn’t about jewelry, even I would have gotten fidgety.

Malachite from Tourtscheninowski, Ural mountains, Russia. MNHN Collection Paris

On that note, what is really impressive about The Art and Science of Gems exhibition are the natural pieces on display. Unless you have spent time in a mine somewhere, it is simply not possible to see the raw forms of the gemstones that a jeweler like Van Cleef & Arpels selects and carves into astounding forms. Take malachite for example, which is an important part of Van Cleef & Arpel’s offerings. This image of the exhibit (above) just goes to show that the raw form is every bit as impressive as the finished product. The image of opals below will also do the trick.

White noble opal massive and two cabochons. Queensland, Australia. MNHN Collection, Paris

On other hand, there are also exhibits of ancient rock (4 billion years old!) and a giant quartz crystal to illustrate the depth (literally) of the mineral wealth of our planet. Of particular importance is an exhibit of a meteorite studded with peridots. Yes, some of our mineral wealth comes from outer space, including – as it happens – all the gold that we use. The gold that formed with our planet sank to the core, being so dense. That bit of trivia will make you a hit at all the jewelry-themed galas you might attend.

Now some will find all this a chore but it is one thing to read a screed like this one and quite another to immerse yourself in the beautiful environs of the exhibition. It will allow you to feel the value of the gemstones and materials on display, and even the ones that might be decorating your person right now. On that note, here is an image of Ms. Blanchett posing among the exhibits to inspire you.

Cate viewing 'The Art & Science of Gems' exhibition at the ArtScience Museum © Allen Tan

As for the jewelry itself, be warned that you may be stunned into disbelief. Take the image most associated with this exhibition, the Bird and Pendant clip once owned by Polish opera singer Ganna Walska. The briolette-cut yellow diamond – a mind-numbing 96.62 carats – is the star attraction of course but the piece in itself, transformable into a pendant and earrings, just takes your breath away.

Believe it or not, that is not most amazing crafted object on display. We recommend taking some time to discover the minaudieres and the mystery setting pioneered by Van Cleef & Arpels. Of course, it goes without saying that you should look out for the zip creations, which the maison developed for the Duchess of Windsor, the infamous Wallis Simpson. The zip necklace is today inextricably linked to the heritage of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Something we do not have an image of but you need to see to believe, is a shaped ruby sphere that is roughly 10,000 carats. Yes, that is not a typo, we did not add a zero. It is about the size of a croquet ball or about half the size of a bowling ball. Find out more about the exhibition here.


Geoffrey Parker poker set

World’s Most Expensive Poker Set

Geoffrey Parker poker set

Geoffrey Parker, London-based maker of the finest games on the globe, is offering the world’s most expensive poker set for $7.5 million, Justluxe reports.

The bespoke set comes housed in a genuine alligator skin case finished in any color the client chooses, fitted with 18k white goldcombination locks and hardware.

The case’ suede lining features an 18k gold and diamond frame holding 384 18k white gold chips, each inlaid on both sides in shagreen (stingray skin).
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Kobe Bryant creates Swiss Watches

Nubeo is a company known for jellyfish-shaped watches. In collaboration with the basketball star Kobe Bryant, this luxury watch brand creates a limited-edition line.

Composed by high-tech sport watches, the collection’s prices start at about $21,000 and topout at $285,000. The Black Mamba series, in honor of Mr. Bryant’s nickname, will be launched at Baselworld 2009, in Basel, Switzerland, and will go on sale this fall.

Ivan Castro, the jewelry designer who co-founded Nubeo in 2004, is a huge basketball fan and reached out to Mr. Bryant’s agent and marketing manager.

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Rock Candy for Valentine’s Day

For 2009 Valentine’s Day, Rock Candy, a Hong Kong’s multi-discipline brand name specializing in fashion jewelery, has presented a lovely collection full of color, imagination and originality.

Using the finest of materials, Rock Candy creates glamour and chic pendants, like sweet Mr. Robbotto, his 18k gold iconic dolly with sapphires and diamonds, a jewel for play and remember childhood, in a funny mood.

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Hublot Big Bang Saint-Valentin

Hublot unveils a new version of its iconic Big Bang devoted to all those in love – Hublot Big Bang Saint-Valentin.

The extremely elegant and feminine chronograph watch reveals the full range of pink tones symbolizing warmth and purity of love.

The gold case of the watch is presented on an alligator strap in vivid pink. The bezel is paved with sparkling sapphires.

Cartier Rotonde Central Chronograph Watch

One of the most interesting Cartier watches presented at this year’s Salon International de Haute Horlogerie, was the Rotonde Central Chronograph, which uses Cartier’s new in-house manually-wound 9907 MC caliber movement built in La Chaux de Fonds.

Crafted from 18-karat pink gold, the round case of the Rotonde Central Chronograph timepiece measures 42mm in diameter; the grandeur of this form is enhanced by such distinguished Cartier signatures as the beaded crown with its blue sapphire cabochon.

The timepiece is completed by an alligator leather strap, and an adjustable folding buckle in 18-karat pink gold.
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Piaget White Gold Diamond Sapphire Ring

From Piaget’s new Limelight Paris-New York collection, this ring was unveiled at SIHH 2008, and is part of the New York Couture inspired part of the line.

The collection shows contrasts between the two fashion capitals of the world and their diverse fashion and architecture influences.

Loaded with 528 brilliant cut diamonds of approximately 7.17 total carats, this ring a shiner! Add to that 35 baguette cut diamonds totaling around 3.8 carats and luscious blue sapphires – about 2.64 total carats over 116 pieces.
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Jade Jagger and Belvedere create the Jagger Dagger

Belvedere vodka has come up with a new promotional item, the Jagger Dagger, a sword developed by jewelry designer Jade Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and model Bianca Jagger.

The sword dipped in 18K-white gold comes encrusted with 12-carats of brilliant-cut diamonds, 42 pastel sapphires, and a vital blue lapis lazuli square.

The blade is formed using mirror-polished carbon steel with an impression of the similar tree twigs that adorn the Belvedere bottle.
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A 206.82 Carat Sapphire Pendant May Fetch $1.5 million

Featured above is a 206.82 carat sapphire pendant encrusted with diamonds to be auctioned at Sotheby’s auction house in Geneva, London.

Designed by jeweller Cartier in 1951, the pendant formely was a part of collection of Britain’s Wallis, Duchess of Windsor.

It is anticipated to fetch $1.1-1.5 million (Euros 6,97,000-9,50,000) on 15 May.
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Gold Macbook Air

All the super rich geeks, watch out for this decked out 24 karat gold MacBook Air with a decorated version of the classic rainbow Apple.

Air is a standard 1.6ghz/2gb/80GB, with a 24-karat gold plating, polished exterior, and flat/crystallite interior. The price: $5000 USD. However you will have to chip in another 3000$ for the rainbow which is 14-karat gold with 3.8ctw sapphires.

Diamond Encrusted Door Handle

Designer Frédéric Attar has invented a luxe creation that would create a buzz in the luxury market. Falling amongst the category of luxurious collection of brass door handles, now the designer has offered diamonds festooned door handles for Corinne Darmon’s L’Universe de la Poignée. They are available in various shades viz. white, yellow, pink or black diamonds or sapphires. The cost of single door handle starts at €750 and may demand €1,000,000 depending upon your need. Each handle bring document of authenticity along with it.

Tableside Ice Picking With the Jagger Dagger

Belvedere vodka has been doing a lot of promotion lately to build their brand. The latest is the Jagger Dagger, a sword designed by Jade Jagger, Mick’s daughter and creative director at Garrard.

The sword has an 18K white gold studded hilt with 12 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds, 42 pale sapphires, and a central blue lapis lazuli square.

The blade is created from mirror-polished carbon steel with an engraving of the same tree branches that decorate the Belvedere bottle.
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Mobiado Stealth Phone

The Mobiado Stealth phone is a tri-band Symbian Series 40 cell phone with Bluetooth, microSD slot, 2 megapixel camera, FM radio and MP3 player handset which also just happens to be ‘machined from one piece of solid aluminium with an inlay of one piece of sapphire crystal.’ Only 1200 of them @ £1450.00 per device…

The aluminum frame is created from aircraft aluminum to build a strong/stiff yet light body, it is filtered glass bead blasted, and then hard anodized coated to produce a rock hard ceramic coating with twice the thickness of traditional anodizing for the toughest of uses. The buttons are sapphire crystal and stainless steel, and the front screen and camera window are sapphire crystal.