There are many types of behaviour that used to be deemed by society to be “unbecoming of a lady”. If you were a Victorian woman, the mere flash of an ankle would be enough to cause an attack of the vapours among censorious older ladies; bad language was frowned upon and there are still even those who believe that drinking pints of beer isn’t something that the fairer sex should be indulging in. And there was even a period when looking at one’s watch in public wasn’t the done thing either.Despite wristwatches having originally been intended for female wrists, in the first half of the 20th century timepieces generally had to be concealed because it was considered incredibly improper for a woman to be seen wearing, let alone checking, a watch in public. Mildly ridiculous as this is, thanks to necessity and invention having a well-known maternal relationship, it led to the vogue for secret watches, which featured clever ways of disguising the dial beneath a bejewelled cover so the timepiece looked like a bracelet, or even, if a Maison was feeling particularly inventive, like a brooch, ring or pendant. These exercises in ingenuity are socially obsolete now, but that hasn’t stopped brands such as Graff from continuing to make them.
Since 2008, this British fine jewellery institute has been making watches that combine its haute joaillerie expertise with all the knowledge that comes from basing your horology arm in Switzerland. Given that the secret watch by its nature flirts with a line between being a timepiece and a bracelet, it isn’t surprising that it has been a staple of Graff’s collections. The brand has covered dials with butterflies, concealed them beneath carved emeralds and this year, at the Baselworld watch fair, it showed one of its most ambitious pieces to date.