The couturier Christian Dior had a passion for many things, but none quite elicited his fascination as much as the elaborate costume balls of post-war Paris. He especially delighted in the creativity and opulence on show during these lavish events. "Parties like this are genuine works of art... They are desirable, necessary, and important if they revive a taste for and sense of authentic enjoyment," he mused in his memoirs. His enthusiasm for such occasions was what inspired Dior to launch the Grand Bal line of timepieces in 2011, wherein the elegance and decadence of ball gowns are reimagined in horological form.
The Grand Bal watches are made distinctive by Dior's self-winding 'Inversé 11 1/2 Calibre', with a power reserve of 42 hours. The movement is rare with its reversed mechanics, in which the oscillating weight is located on the dial side instead of the back, emulating the gentle sweep of a dress as it twirls to the beat of the musiic. And like the extravagance of ball gowns, over the years the Dior Grand Bal has been decorated with intricate embellishments from feathers and precious stones to the wings of butterflies and scarab beetles.
This year, the watch has been reinterpreted in three new variations - the Dior Grand Bal Opera, Dior Grand Bal Supernatural, and Dior Grand Bal Miss Dior. As the name suggests, the Dior Grand Bal Opera collection is inspired by the grandeur of classical opera, with reference to the magnificent and baroque architecture of Parisian theatres. The 10 different iterations feature fresh square-shaped cases, crafted in white, yellow, and pink gold, with dials bedecked in diamonds and mother-of-pearl. Elegant and refined, the collection is perfect for both the everyday and a night out at the opera.
Fantastic creatures from mythology are behind the Dior Grand Bal Supernatural, where precious and natural materials are united to create chimerical pieces. The collection is characterised by fiery opal dials and delicate feather marquetry in a vivid array of colour combinations, matched with black alligator straps and diamond-encrusted gold buckles. Each case-back is adorned with a butterfly wing, to complete the story where timekeepers become supernatural creatures.
Paying homage to Monsieur Dior's love of flowers, the Grand Bal Miss Dior celebrates the magic and beauty of the botanical world. Reflecting the savoir-faire of Dior, the watches bloom with 3D-effect petals, encircled by diamond haloes, and accented with engraved sunrays. The collection comes in three colours - blue to echo a garden at the end of winter, green to recall the vitality of spring, and red to convey the warmth of summer blossoms. Flowers may die, but these pieces will last (practically) forever.
The La D De Dior is the other iconic style that marks the French house's horological craftsmanship. Created by Dior Joaillerie's creative director in 2003, the La D De Dior was imagined by Victoire de Castellane for the woman who likes to raid her partner's wardrobe for pieces. A '70s-style men's wristwatch is refreshed with the Maison's signature ladylike aesthetic, where femininity meets masculinity in a classic design.
The La D De Dior Satine forms a bridge between haute couture and horology. Meant to mimic fluid satin ribbons, the art of passementerie is translated into watchmaking, resulting in a pliant and lustrous Milanese mesh strap. Powered by quartz movement, the Satine comes in 25mm and 36mm, featuring an exquisite mother-of-pearl or malachite dial ornamented with a yellow gold or diamond bezel and crown.
The design is also availalbe in smaller versions, the La Mini D De Dior Satine and La Mini D De Dior Satine Perlée, so named for the iridescent effect of gold threads interlaced with mesh.
Christian Dior was well-known for his highly superstitious nature, which serves as the inspiration for the Rose Celeste chapter of La D De Dior. Like the good luck charms of Monsieur Dior, the timepiece is centred on the two most symbolic celestial bodies - the sun and the moon. The embossed mother-of-pearl dial is illuminated by a golden sun with a peeking diamond eye and nine rays of light. Travel even further through the universe with this 25mm, quartz-powered piece, which has a case-back embellished with a polished moon and twinkling diamond stars.
Victoire de Castellane can always be counted on to bring a dose of playfulness to the serious business of watchmaking. A case in point would be the La Mini D De Dior Mosaïque, enlivened with bursts of bright colour. Not for the shy at heart, the Mosaïque pieces combine pastel pink, green, and yellow mother-of-pearl with vividly-hued, tapestry-esque textiles, and diamond-set bezels and crowns. Youthful and fun, but definitely not puerile.
Another tongue-in-cheek creation would be the Tête de Mort collection, which means 'skull and crossbones' in French. Not as morbid as it sounds, the collection actually honours the love of life. The watches reinterpret the Latin sayings of 'Memento Mori' or 'remember that you will die', and 'Carpe Diem' meaning 'seize the day', precepts that encourage us to live each moment to the full. The La Mini D De Dior Tête de Mort comes in two colours - pink for peace and violet for balance. Get lucky with the mauve version, which is graced with tsavorite garnets in the shape of a lucky clover, and feel like a queen with the pink version, adorned with a garnet crown to represent royalty.