The crystal-clear allure of sapphire watches

Luxury watchmakers have embraced sapphire as the material of choice as they push the boundaries of artistic possibilities.

By Sony Thomas
Louis Vuitton

The use of sapphire crystal in watches dates back nearly a century. It is believed that the first watch to feature a sapphire crystal to cover its dial was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duoplan which came out in 1929. Over the subsequent decades, the material’s exceptional hardness, scratch-resistant properties, and optical clarity made it a favoured choice over acrylic and mineral crystal for protecting watch dials and helping maintain the pristine appearance of timepieces. Of late, as luxury watchmakers started embracing new materials to redefine the boundaries of artistic possibilities, sapphire has emerged as the material of choice for entire watch cases too. While a watch constructed entirely from sapphire might seem a relatively novel concept, it dates to the early 1980s when watchmaker Vincent Calabrese crafted one for Corum. Here is a look at three of the most notable luxury sapphire watches.

Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the L.U.C watch collection, Chopard introduced the L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire, a stunning timepiece with a fully transparent design. Crafted with sapphire gongs and a case, crown, and dial made from sapphire blocks, this watch embodies elegance and sophistication. The dial showcases the intricate movement, featuring engraved minute tracks and rhodium-plated hour markers. Powered by the COSC-certified L.U.C 08.01-L hand-wound movement, it boasts 533 components, a 60-hour power reserve, and bears the prestigious Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. The sapphire crystal caseback allows a glimpse of the remarkable craftsmanship within. Recently, Chopard also unveiled a version in blue sapphire. Limited to just five pieces, the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire is a true collector’s item.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon Sapphire

Part of the high-end range of timepieces from La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the latest version of the Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon comes in green and yellow sapphire cases. Crafted from single blocks of synthetic sapphire, the vibrant green and yellow editions showcase impressive execution and, along with the above Chopard, are among the first sapphire-cased timepieces to bear the Geneva Seal. The brand says crafting each case took 420 hours, including 100 hours of milling and 150 hours of polishing for the case middle, bezel, and glass. The caseback alone apparently required 110 hours to achieve complete transparency. Additionally, the transparent bridge with the famous logo took 20 hours to cut and an additional 40 hours for hand-finishing. Limited to 20 pieces each, the watch comes paired with an alligator strap.

Louis Vuitton

Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Yellow Neon SAXEM

Since the clear sapphire Big Bang, Hublot has released the watch in red, blue, yellow, and purple variants. Earlier this year, the brand pushed boundaries further with the introduction of the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Yellow Neon SAXEM. This strikingly bright timepiece features a translucent case made from SAXEM, an innovative alloy of aluminium oxide, thulium, holmium, and chromium, which shares the same base component as sapphire. This slightly altered variant of sapphire allowed Hublot to achieve the extraordinary neon yellow shade seen here. The case is polished to perfection, creating a striking contrast with the titanium bezel screws and crown. The watch is powered by the self-winding HUB6035 Manufacture calibre, which is fully skeletonised, showing off a tourbillon at 6 o’clock. Limited to 50 pieces, it comes with a neon yellow rubber strap and a titanium deployant buckle.

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