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Taylor Swift’s a global trendsetter – but when it comes to wearing watches as jewellery, I’m afraid the royals got there centuries before, writes JOSIE GOODBODY…


She’s the woman of the moment. 

So when Taylor Swift sashayed into the Grammies last Sunday night, it’s no wonder all eyes were upon her – and, in particular, upon a custom Lorraine Schwartz black diamond choker with an Art Deco style Concord watch at its centre.

Was this a new move by trendsetter Taylor?

Well not entirely. Another Queen of Pop, Rihanna, did something similar last year, wearing a baguette diamond-set Brilliant Flying Tourbillon by Jacob& Co on a alligator watch strap around her neck to a Louis Vuitton show.

But it’s real-life royalty who originally set the pace with timepieces for show.

Taylor Swift sashayed into the 66th Grammies in Los Angeles wearing a custom Lorraine Schwartz black diamond choker - and a Concord watch - around her neck

Taylor Swift sashayed into the 66th Grammies in Los Angeles wearing a custom Lorraine Schwartz black diamond choker – and a Concord watch – around her neck

Diana, Princess of Wales, enjoyed playing with royal jewels. This choker has a sapphire as aits centrepiece, but the diamonds come from a watch strap - part of the Saudi Suite of wedding presents given by the Saudi royal family

Diana, Princess of Wales, enjoyed playing with royal jewels. This choker has a sapphire as aits centrepiece, but the diamonds come from a watch strap – part of the Saudi Suite of wedding presents given by the Saudi royal family

Wedding gifts received by Prince Charles and Princess Diana from the Saudi royal family on display at St. James' Palace, London, 4th August 1981

Wedding gifts received by Prince Charles and Princess Diana from the Saudi royal family on display at St. James’ Palace, London, 4th August 1981

Queen Victoria, centre, with her husband Prince Albert and family at the opening of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851

Queen Victoria, centre, with her husband Prince Albert and family at the opening of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851

On her visit to the Great Exhibition, Queen Victoria had been particularly impressed by a timepiece with an innovative keyless winding and setting system by Patek Philippe. She purchased a powder-blue pendant watch decorated with rose-cut diamonds in a gold flower design. It was worn with a necklace

On her visit to the Great Exhibition, Queen Victoria had been particularly impressed by a timepiece with an innovative keyless winding and setting system by Patek Philippe. She purchased a powder-blue pendant watch decorated with rose-cut diamonds in a gold flower design. It was worn with a necklace

When watches first appeared in Italy in the late 1400s, they were actually designed as pieces of jewellery  – that also just happened to tell the time.

A couple of centuries later, watches were even worn in the hair. I’m in no doubt that  Queen Marie Antoinette would have had a number of timepieces tangled up in her huge ‘hairdo’s.

On an 1851 visit to the Great Exhibition, Queen Victoria was particularly impressed by an innovative keyless winding and setting system by Patek Philippe – still a famous name today.

She purchased a powder-blue pendant watch (to be attached to a necklace), it was decorated with rose-cut diamonds in a gold flower design.

Diana, Princess of Wales, prefigured Taylor and Rhianna with a watch worn as a choker, although in this case only parts of a watch.

Asprey took a wedding-present time piece (from the Saudi royals) and transformed it into a beautiful choker that Diana wore at a State Dinner in Melbourne in November 1985.

In this case it was the strap or bracelet of cabochon sapphires set in diamonds, that took centre stage. They replaced the watch itself with with large cabochon sapphire (taken from a ring they had made for the princess) – to remarkable effect.

In 1799, five years before she became Empress, Josephine ordered a montre à tact (tactful or tactile watch) from the then world’s most famous watchmaker, Breguet for her daughter Hortense de Beauhernais. 

 According to Christie’s, which last sold the watch in 2007, these watches were invented by Abraham Louis Breguet in an era when it was ‘unseemly to read the time in public’.

You only needed to touch the diamond dial to tell the time. This one was designed to be worn at the end of a chain around the neck, but could also be kept in a pocket.

The royal blue enamel case was made by Tavernier and on one side had a revolving white gold and diamond-set arrow which would point to the correct diamond ‘of the clock’ from twelve held within a gold frame around the outside of the case. 

The Empress clearly enjoyed giving watches to the women in her life. She gave her daughter-in-law, Princess Auguste of Bavaria, a pair of very elegant gold bangles from Imperial Jeweller Nitot, now Chaumet; one with a clock hidden under a plaque, and the other a calendar.

 Both decorated with diamonds and most useful when needing to keep up with the famously fastidious timekeeping Emperor!

On the reverse side was an ‘H’ set in diamonds, in 1806 a diamond crown was added above the H, to indicate her new role as Queen Consort of Holland. Inside the case was a tiny clock itself.  

Empress Josephine at the Coronation of Napoleon. She was a fan of jewelled timepieces

Empress Josephine at the Coronation of Napoleon. She was a fan of jewelled timepieces

The components of a rare and historical 18 carat gold, enamel and diamond-set hunter case 'petite souscription à tact' watch, made for Josephine Bonaparte, Empress of France, and given to her daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais

The components of a rare and historical 18 carat gold, enamel and diamond-set hunter case ‘petite souscription à tact’ watch, made for Josephine Bonaparte, Empress of France, and given to her daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais

Empress Josephine's daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais

Empress Josephine’s daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais

The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive at a gala dinner held at the National Gallery in Washington DC, 11th November 1985. She is wearing the  Vacheron et Constantin cocktail watch presented to her by the late Queen Elizabeth II

The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive at a gala dinner held at the National Gallery in Washington DC, 11th November 1985. She is wearing the  Vacheron et Constantin cocktail watch presented to her by the late Queen Elizabeth II

According the Jewellery Editor website, Elizabeth I is owned several jewelled timepieces including one made as an ‘armlet or shakell of golde, all over fairly garnishedd with rubys and dyamonds, haveing in the closing thereof a clocke.’

David Boettcher of Vintagewatchstraps.com writes about an unusual watch belonging to the Tudor Queen – set as a ring, it also had a sort of alarm: ‘a small prong gently scratched Her Majesty’s finger as the set time.’

Her namesake Elizabeth II didn’t resort to a tortuous timepiece to remind her of her appointments, but she did love watches – diamond bracelet watches no less.

The Vacheron Constantin 4481, given to her as a wedding present by the Swiss Federal Republic, was a diamond-set watch bracelet.

The 1947 Vacheron et Constantin cocktail watch, which had been a wedding gift to Princess Elizabeth - later Queen Elizabeth II -  by the Swiss Federal Council

The 1947 Vacheron et Constantin cocktail watch, which had been a wedding gift to Princess Elizabeth – later Queen Elizabeth II –  by the Swiss Federal Council

It was still forbidden by etiquette to look at one’s watch in public, so diamond bracelet watches – an impressive disguise for a discreet timepiece –  became very fashionable. 

The Queen later gave it to Princess Diana for her wedding in 1981, who wore it a few times, including to a film premiere in 1983.

So Taylor is hardly the first to wear a timepiece purely as a jewel. If anything, in fact, she is half a millennium late! 



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