Marquetry materials that are equally refreshing alternatives to wood.

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Rather than use feather marquetry (a technique favoured by Harry Winston and Piaget) to add texture to a bird motif, Cartier instead turned to flower marquetry – a watchmaking first. In making the Ballon Bleu de Cartier Floral-Marquetry Parrot Watch, petals are first dyed, then stuck onto a piece of wood that is later cut into the desired shape. The grey and black plumage around the emerald eye is a result of miniature painting, while the beak is crafted from onyx.
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Yes, Hermes is known for its leather bags and saddles, but it can also work with leather in much smaller dimensions. Full-grain calfskin has to be trimmed down to about 0.5mm thick before being cut to fit a watch dial. The Arceau Cavales, available in red or blue and limited to six pieces each, features abstract silhouettes of several horse heads.
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Silicon has once again found an unexpected use in fine watchmaking. The first watchmaker to use silicon parts is now also the first to use the element for decorative art. The ever-audacious Ulysse Nardin has just released two Freak X models featuring dial designs which, according to the brand, resemble “a bevy of interacting laser beams”, an effect achieved with silicon marquetry.

Unlike wood, which is used in traditional marquetry – where small pieces of inlaid material fit together to create designs – silicon is trickier to handle because of its fragility. If the pieces are not precisely matched, even the slightest overlap will cause their edges to chip. So, for the craftsmen to assemble some 120 individual segments by hand for each dial is a laudable feat.

There are two versions available: one in blue with a gold “X” and the other in a purplish-blue with a silver “X”. These are cased in blue and black PVD titanium respectively. Aside from the fancy new faces, this reference remains a standard Freak X, powered by the UN-230 movement, which houses a lightweight silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights and stabilising micro-blades.