Luxury Watches: Franck Muller might be the master of complications. But when it comes to watches, Backes & Strauss are the kings of bling.
That's because Backes & Strauss is the oldest diamond company in the world, founded in 1789, the same year as the French Revolution.
Vartkess Knadjian bought Backes & Strauss in 2003 and, being a watch collector himself, decided to launch a line of timepieces.
To build credibility as a watchmaker would have taken years, Knadjian recalled on a recent visit to Toronto. But we had been supplying diamonds to Franck Muller, who is an horological genius, and we had this wonderful relationship. So we had this idea of fusing the two crafts, each focusing on our strengths and creating the ultimate diamond jewelery watch.
Where other watch houses simply add diamonds as an afterthought, diamonds are fundamental to Backes & Strauss watch designs.
Most of the diamonds used, even the tiniest ones, are ideal cut, a perfectly symmetrical cut that results in all the light entering the stone being reflected internally and dispersed out the top. Devised in 1919, the ideal cut is rarely used because so much of a diamond's weight must be sacrificed in the process, make the ideal cut less than ideal for the bottom line.
On the Prince Regent style the dial is completely encrusted with stones, each of which is tapered with grooves on the sides so that each diamond can lock into the one next to it. This way no gold is visible on the dial - hence the name, invisibly set.
Another watchmaker would not take this type of challenge on, Knadjian says. Most watch companies are afraid of diamonds. We are not. And it's understandable. It's not their business. For them, the easiest thing is to put diamonds around the watchcase and say we have a diamond watch.
Cases are carved out of solid gold and numerals are faceted and individually polished, than set, so they stand up in relief from the dial.
The laborious process of crafting Backes & Strauss watches mean only 750 are expected to come to market in 2008. And there are special editions in the works, including a lime and white diamond checkerboard dial that Knadjian has been collecting stones for for two years.
Backes & Strauss watches are available at Asprey and Theo Fennell in London, Asprey in New York and Beverly Hills. See BackesandStrauss.com for a complete list of retailers.
By Bernadette Morra