TAG Heuer, the Swiss watchmaker whose initials are an acronym for Techniques d’Avant Garde, lived up to the promise embedded in its name last month, when it introduced the Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph, a one-of-a-kind timepiece featuring 11.7 carats of lab-grown diamonds, at Watches and Wonders Geneva.
“At TAG Heuer, we’ve always had carbon cases, carbon dials—we’ve always played with carbon,” Edouard Mignon, the brand’s chief innovation officer, told JCK in Geneva. “A diamond is the ultimate form of carbon. We knew we could do a diamond with these technologies. It was a natural step.
“When we started to explore it, we felt we could do something that was yet to be invented,” Mignon added. “That’s when we started to think about the possibilities of diamonds as a material.”
Intent on using lab-grown gems to pioneer a new aesthetic approach to watch design, the brand relied on chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technology to create diamonds with never-before-seen shapes that would have been financially prohibitive to fashion from natural stones.
Mignon emphasized the diamonds that decorate the 44 mm black anodized aluminum case of the watch, all featuring elongated custom-cut shapes, as well as the unique crown at 3 o’clock, which was executed entirely in a 2.5 carat lab-grown diamond created in collaboration with Capsoul, a diamond design startup based in Israel.
“We had a lot of discussions with designers, and when you free their mind, you’re able to come up with these amazing creations,” Mignon said.
Take the dial of the watch, formed from a single plate of polycrystalline diamonds. “It looks like many diamonds on the dial, but actually it’s one single plate of a 3.9 carat diamond,” Mignon said. “Once again, it’s CVD technology, something that doesn’t exist in nature.”
The carbon innovation extended beyond the design of the timepiece into the Nanograph movement, which is equipped with a carbon hairspring developed by the TAG Heuer Institute using CVD technology.
“We really played with the material, and that’s one of the liberties that lab-grown diamonds allow,” Mignon said.
The two-years-in-the-making timepiece required a network of specialists to produce. Priced at 350,000 Swiss francs ($376,000), the watch is the most expensive TAG Heuer timepiece ever commercialized. Mignon said the brand expects to produce three or four Plasma watches this year.
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