Diamond-set watches are a significant category in fine watchmaking, but while they can be entrancing, they are not often intriguing. Tag Heuer’s new unique diamond timepiece, the Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph, is an exception. The “TAG” in Tag Heuer stands for Techniques d’Avant-Garde, and the company now presents what it calls Diamant d’Avant-Garde technology — combining the use of chemical vapour deposition (CVD) technology with lab-grown diamonds.
During a live presentation at the recent watch fair Watches & Wonders, Edouard Mignon, the chief innovation officer of Tag Heuer and LVMH Watches & Jewellery Division, shared why it was a logical leap for the brand: “Tag Heuer has quite a thing with carbon. In our history, we have explored many activities with carbon as a material, ranging from cases, dials and even mechanical components with our proprietary carbon nanotube hairspring. So after having explored these forms of carbon, we felt we could go even further with the ultimate form of carbon — diamonds.”
According to Mignon, using CVD to produce diamonds “atom by atom, layer by layer” allows for the creation of rough diamonds with very unusual forms. Rough diamonds in nature usually take the shape of a double pyramid, which contributes to limitations in the final form of a polished diamond: Aside from the desire to minimise the loss of carats during the cutting process, another reason for this is that diamonds have “a lot of internal tensions that disallow odd shapes”.
This is demonstrated most clearly by the watch’s 3.9-ct diamond dial plate. It’s not made of pavé diamonds, but rather, is a single diamond piece comprising polycrystalline diamonds — stones grown in a multitude of crystalline orientations. This allows the stones to catch light in an unusual, and pretty stunning, way. Black polycrystalline diamond plates accent the chronograph counters at 3 and 9 o’clock.
To bring the Carrera Plasma to life, Tag Heuer worked with a network of startups and specialists in this field, such as Lusix, Capsoul and Diamaze. Indeed, Capsoul, a company pioneering diamond design for the fashion industry, worked with Tag Heuer to create the watch’s 2.5-ct diamond crown.
There’s more glitz where that came from: Forty-eight lab-grown diamonds totalling 4.2 cts are set in the 44mm case, which is made of sandblasted black anodised aluminium. The white-gold hour stick indexes, too, are set with diamonds. Elsewhere, rhodium plating is used to complement all this shine: It is used on elements such as the central and chronograph hands, as well as the tachymeter scale of the black ceramic bezel.
Elaborating on the watch’s central themes, its Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph movement features a carbon hairspring that was produced using CVD technology — like the Diamant d’Avant-Garde precious stones — at the Tag Heuer Institute in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland.
Retailing at 350,000 Swiss francs (approximately S$510,600), only one piece of this intriguing diamond watch is currently available for sale. But as Tag Heuer CEO Frederic Arnault declared during the presentation, “We intend to produce a few (and to) keep it for years to come.”