Apart from using diamonds, luxury watch maisons delight in other surprises, as craftsmanship and seductive timepiece designs take centre stage. The crowds gasped at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) Genève when Cartier unveiled its latest haute horlogerie pieces, in particular the Cartier Révélation d’Une Panthère, where the panther’s face – 650 minuscule round brilliant-cut diamonds – dissolves with a tilt of the dial. Tilt it again and the panther’s face reappears. How did Cartier do it? While the secret remains safe, it is a nod to the skill and ingenuity of the artisans at the brand’s Maison des Métiers d’Art in the valley of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. It was there the technique was developed for the first incarnation of the Révélation d’Une Panthère; gold bead granulation was used for the panther’s disappearing act. Gold bead granulation is an ancient technique that first appeared in the third millennium BC; Cartier introduced it for its watches in 2013, with the help of experts from the Louvre Museum. The earliest example of this technique in its timepieces is found in the Panthère’s face, constructed from gold beads melded onto a gold dial. How Cartier’s films depict its British and Russian royal ties Cartier opened its Maison des Métiers d’Art in 2014, as did other luxury brands, including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Graff, Jaquet Droz, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe, as an investment to meet growing demand for highly crafted timepieces. Its creations are a masterclass in ancient crafts, showcasing skills in enamelling, filigree, wood, floral, straw marquetry and gem-setting. Its timepieces may have a practical purpose: to tell the time, but they are also rare pieces of art, and clients are drawn by their scarcity and the time spent creating these marvels in the ateliers. Preserving these skills for future generations is one of the maison’s chief goals. Jaeger-LeCoultre established an in-house department at its headquarters in Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux to conserve the skills of miniature enamel painting – one miniature enamel painting can take more than 80 hours – guillochage, enamelling, engraving and gem-setting, as illustrated on the dazzling Rendez-Vous Red watch. Skilled miniature painting features in the Rendez-Vous Celestial high jewellery watch, with an image of the heavens and constellations on the dial. Certain skills have been lost forever, while others take a lifetime to perfect. Just seven people are involved in the engraving, chamfering and guilloche decoration the maison produces – each engraver has a signature style instantly recognised by his peers. In their own area of creativity, artisans design and make pieces, and are encouraged to experiment and venture out for cultural days to take in exhibitions and explore artists of the moment. Chanel draws inspiration from the savoir faire of its couture ateliers for the haute horlogerie, incorporating embroidery, lacework, feather marquetry and other skills. Chanel has invested heavily in safeguarding the Métier d’Arts crafts in its Patrimoine division, which includes the famous couture embroiderers Lesage and Montex, and the feather expert Lemarié. These ateliers (19 in all, including milliner, glove-maker and goldsmith) will come together in a new state-of-the-art building opening on the outskirts of Paris in 2020. Why big brands love this Malaysian fashion influencer A beautiful palette of their techniques is translated into watch craftsmanship, with embroidery, feather marquetry, grand feu enamel, engraving and sculpted gold used in some of the Mademoiselle Privé collection in recent years. The glamorous Sautoir Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel (pendant timepiece), unveiled this year, was inspired by the coromandel screens in Mademoiselle Chanel’s Rue Cambon flat. It features carved gold and mother-of-pearl birds delicately set with diamonds. Chanel also calls on outside expertise, bringing in renowned Swiss enamel artist Anita Porchet, who has worked with Patek Philippe, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin, to interpret in enamel the fabric famously associated with the couture house: tweed. Porchet recreated the fabric in various colours of grand feu enamel for the dials of the limited-edition Boy. Friend Tweed Art watches were launched at Baselworld this year. Graff brought its engraving and miniature painting know-how to the dials of its watches. Some of the most incredible designs recently presented are the GyroGraff China Great Wall of China and the GyroGraff China Temple of Heaven. Both pieces showcase Chinese miniature scenery expressed as detailed paintings on the dial. The moonphase features a hand-engraved three-dimensional orb, while the bezel and various details on the dial are given a touch of sparkle by way of diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels’ new bejewelled interpretation of its romance-inspired collection of timepieces combines artistic crafts with the house’s meticulous take on gem-setting. The Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Watch gets a new bejewelled bracelet, while in the Charms Extraordinaire collection, dials are beautifully decorated in miniature paintings and intricate enamel designs. Van Cleef & Arpels lets ‘the lovers’ kiss at any time At Christian Dior, the Grand Bal watches similarly sit at the cusp between haute couture, haute joaillerie and haute horlogerie. The designs, inspired by the dreamy ball gowns and embellishments (bows and ruffles) of couture, are exquisitely set with gems and feature hard stone dials and oscillating weights decorated with feather marquetry reminiscent of a swirling ball gown. The selection, cutting and application of the feathers on the weight takes over six hours; then, they may be embellished with diamonds. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .