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Crown Jewels

Crown Jewels

From Diamond-Encrusted Jewelry Watches To Rugged Steel Sport Models, British Monarchs Have Treasured Fine Timepieces For More Than A Century

When Patek Philippe hosted its 2015 biennial Grand Exhibition to celebrate its watchmaking heritage in London, the brand dedicated an entire room to its Royal Collection, consisting of more than 15 royal timepieces.

The exhibition space was designed to evoke the 1851 Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park in London. At that historic event, Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at the time, acquired a Patek Philippe open-face, key-winding, and hand-setting pendant watch and matching brooch. The yellow gold timepiece embellished with blue enameling and a flower with accents set with rose-cut diamonds was a highlight of the 2015 display.

While Queen Victoria may have been the first British monarch to possess a treasure from the esteemed brand, she was certainly not the last. The exhibition also showcased a Ref. 4975/1G with diamonds and a multistrand pearl bracelet that belongs to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who lent the extravagant jewelry watch so the public could admire it.

Queen Elizabeth’s appreciation of fine Swiss timepieces was cultivated from a young age. On the occasion of her wedding in 1947, the Swiss Federal Republic presented her with a diamond-set Vacheron Constantin model 4481 designed for her. In 1981, she passed it on to Princess Diana as a wedding gift when she married Prince Charles.

Prince Charles wore a Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph to the wedding of his son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Charles wore a Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph to the wedding of his son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

For her coronation in 1952, the queen wore a dainty diamond-set Jaeger-LeCoultre 101, which still lays claim to the smallest mechanical watch movement in the world. In celebration of her diamond jubilee in 2012, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented her with a new version of the timeless 101.

A casual candid photo of the queen in 1992 revealed an Art Deco-era Omega Ladymatic on her wrist, and more recently, she has been spotted wearing a classic gold Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars.

Her son Prince Charles appears to have inherited her taste for understated, elegant watches, such as the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph that he wore to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018.

On other occasions, he’s been spotted wearing a bolder two-tone Cartier Santos and a deco-style Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. It’s also likely that his collection includes a Hamilton RAF Pilot’s Chronograph that he would have received during his military training.

Queen Victoria’s pendant watch from Patek Philippe
Queen Victoria’s pendant watch from Patek Philippe

His sons, like their millennial peers, are drawn to rugged steel sport watches. Prince William favors his Omega Seamaster Professional Quartz 300M with a blue dial. The watch was a gift from his late mother, Princess Diana.

Prince Harry, having spent a decade in the Army, opts for brawny sport watches, such as a Rolex Explorer II and a Breitling Aerospace Advantage, a model exclusively available to Apache helicopter pilots who have completed combat missions. The special edition features a rendering of an Apache helicopter and the Army Air Corps wings on the dial.

In keeping with her trademark classic style, Kate Middleton’s go-to watch is a stainless-steel Cartier Ballon Bleu with a blue sapphire cabochon set in the crown, a complement to her 12-carat blue sapphire engagement ring that had once belonged to Prince William’s late mother.

Markle is also a Cartier fan, though her two-tone stainless steel and yellow gold Tank Française was reportedly a pre-royal-family reward to herself for the success of her television show Suits.

Overall, British royals express their personal sense of style with timeless classics with lasting value, and many of their favorites are even within reach of us mere commoners.

A one-of-a-kind piece from Patek Philippe, designed for the current queen of England.
A one-of-a-kind piece from Patek Philippe, designed for the current queen of England

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