The high life: Dolce & Gabbana's new Alta watches and jewels
by Peter Howarth
Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta range of watches and jewellery is the height of good taste, says Peter Howarth...
Some things just sound better in Italian. Alta Orologeria and Alta Gioielleria have a romantic ring and, in the case of Dolce & Gabbana, the romance and lyricism are utterly appropriate: the duo’s new venture in watchmaking and jewellery is all about rarity, craftsmanship and decorative expression.
“Alta” means “high” in the sense of elevated, an accurate description in more ways than one. A few years ago, the designers decided that they would buck the trend of most fashion companies, who diversified their business by trading down with cheaper diffusion lines: instead, they moved things up a gear and started to make exquisite, bespoke pieces, worthy of any high jewellery collection and employing the skills normally associated with haute couture.
They launched Alta Moda for women in 2012 and Alta Sartoria for men in 2014, and attracted a new clientele that liked the southern Italian aesthetic of the label but wanted it expressed in a more rarefied way. The realisation that this customer – global, successful, a connoisseur – is keen for more has led them to explore the very top end of watchmaking and jewellery.
Where the watches are concerned, the emphasis is on sophisticated metalworking in the tradition of Italian goldsmiths, combined with Swiss-made mechanical calibres designed for these pieces – with striking results.
Take the Qilin, for example, a wristwatch that has a self-winding movement (as do all the watches in this collection) and was designed to look like a miniature ornamental carriage clock on the wrist. Or the Monreale, named after the Sicilian town and inspired by Byzantine gold mosaics, which is a minute repeater with a flying tourbillon construction to resist gravitational pull.
In many ways, these watches function as pieces of jewellery, and indeed one piece in the Alta Gioielleria collection is an enamelled red rose bracelet that also houses a discreet timepiece in the centre of the flower, with a pavé dial of four rubies and 194 diamonds. Other jewellery pieces are also inspired by the natural world: a necklace of tomatoes (made from enamel by hand) is an evocation of the Mediterranean origins of the brand.
Collectors should also look out for a pair of earrings based on split-open enamelled gold figs, revealing a ruby pavé interior and featuring South Sea pearls embellished with coral roses from Sciacca, Sicily. These roses are genuinely rare as the reefs that produced them were farmed to extinction between 1875 and 1887.