The 4 Ps of Dior’s VIII Grand Bal4 min read . Updated: 28 Nov 2014, 08:52 AM IST
Everything you need to know about one of the most exciting collections in the high-end women's wristwatch market
P1, Proposition: (Dior’s drive to make a watch that was mechanical yet feminine.)
The mechanical watchmaking industry has always had a disproportionate focus on the male consumer. Designs, mechanisms, products and innovations have always tended to cater to a masculine consumer and a muscular lifestyle. There were many reasons, not least of which the feeling that there weren’t enough differentiators in the women’s watch segment. Women somehow did not care for mechanical attributes or material characteristics. So you could play with gold and diamonds and jewels. Then what?
But product diversification and subtle differentiation lay at the heart of the watch industry’s product design and pricing equations. This perceived lack of sophistication led to two somewhat unfortunate trends in terms of women’s watches. Firstly, most mainstream watch brands turned out unimaginative women’s watches.
At the same time, brands that were traditionally attuned to feminine nuance—fashion houses and couturiers—didn’t see the point of paying attention to watches. They lent out brands and logos to licensees who made timepieces that were sometimes underwhelming, and often appalling. And many of these licensed products sat on shelves in high-end brand boutiques looking very much like the neglected step-children.
And now suddenly, all this has started to change. Partly due to a stagnation in the men’s market, partly due to pioneering work by brands such as Chanel and Dior and, partly due to, hello, the fact that many women do actually care for their timepieces, the industry has started to respond.
Laurence Nicolas, chief of Dior Timepieces and Jewelry, told Mint Indulge a few years ago that the brand was no longer taking anything about their watches for granted. “Every watch we make," she told us, “has to be good enough to be a part of the broader Dior universe."
Dior was one of many brands that entirely rebuilt its watch business. The brand also realized that it needed a flagship collection. A pillar of a product that combined everything that was new and exciting about women’s watches: materials, mechanics, and a versatile, contemporary design.
The result of Dior’s pursuit for such a product was the VIII Grand Bal collection.
That concept, according to the brand, is a tribute to numerous elements of the Dior brand heritage.
Firstly, there is the Roman numeral VIII that is a hat-tip to both the date of founding of the house of Christian Dior—8th October 1946—and the name of the first Christian Dior collection: ‘En Huit’. (Which itself was named after the brand’s original address in Paris’s 8th arrondissement.)
Then there is the design of the Dior VIII that is inspired, the brand claims, by the classic Dior ‘Bar’ tailored jacket. The idea, Nicolas once told us, is to reduce contemporary feminine watch trends into its simplest form. And then build it up again using ideas form the world of couture.
Which brings us, very nicely, to the Grand Bal.
The idea is simple but also smart. Why? Because it combines both—a great, feminine aesthetic idea and an unabashedly mechanical aspect.
The big idea is to move the rotor of the watch’s mechanical movement to the front of the watch. Usually this element is secreted away in the back, behind a caseback.
Dior’s jewellers then transformed the rotor into wonderful, mobile little works of art from precious stones, feathers, mother of pearl and other materials.
Integrate this rotor with a similarly adorned case and face…and, et voila! You get a watch that is both mechanically sound and screams couture.
The timepiece we feature here is one of the more substantial members of the Grand Bal family: the 36mm Reine Des Neiges piece. Or the ‘Snow Queen’.
Available in a limited edition of, you guessed it, eight pieces, the Reine Des Neiges has a white gold case set with diamonds through different techniques. The horns are paved in the snow-set style, the bezel with baguette-cut diamonds and the rim is set with brilliant diamonds. Oh, and the dial and bracelet is set with diamonds too. This is the Snow Queen, after all.
But what is really interesting from a watch-making perspective is the oscillating weight in the front. The weight, crafted from gold, opal, diamonds, sapphires and mother of pearl, powers a Dior Inversé 11.5" calibre created in association with movement makers Soprod. The rotor equips the watch with an entirely respectable 42-hour power reserve. And if you must take the watch to the swimming pool, don’t worry. The piece is water resistant up to 50 metres.
Each of the eight watches took more than 16 days of just stone-setting. Each bracelet alone takes 10 days of work. The Reine Des Neiges is, in many ways, the embodiment of what many watchmakers are trying to do today with feminine luxury watches—an indulgent marriage of stone, style and system.
The Reine Des Neiges is available only in Dior boutiques. In India, Dior has two boutiques—in New Delhi’s Emporio mall and in Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel. The Grand Bal range begins at ₹ 11.37 lakh.