Tiffany & Co. appeal is more than mere diamonds

Spectacular jewellery enticingly wrapped in eggshell-blue boxes is what most people associate with New York's world-famous Tiffany & Co.

Less well-known is that Tiffany was established 179 years ago as a retailer of accessories to men, and a decade later began constructing watches. It is only in relatively recent times that it made its name for rings, necklaces and earrings of striking beauty.

It was poignant to reflect on this as Nicola Andreatta, Tiffany & Co.'s vice president and general manager of Swiss watches, arrived in Australia recently with the Tiffany Timepiece archival collection that went on display in Sydney and Melbourne in late June. The exhibition draws attention to Tiffany's lesser-known heritage.

Andreatta hails from a family of watchmakers, and has brought watches back to Tiffany & Co.'s fore since his appointment in 2013. Born to an Italian watchmaker father in Como and a Swiss mother, he still lives in Como, commuting daily across the border to Lugano in Switzerland for work.

Swiss please

The difference with Tiffany & Co.'s 2016 watches is their production in Swiss headquarters – bridging an American design sensibility and European watch expertise.

"An American watch has simple lines; readability and a very open dial; and is comfortable," he explains. "Tiffany & Co. has always been making watches but now our watch experts are in Switzerland, with the watches 100 per cent Swiss made."

The significant visiting collection included the watch worn by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the 1945 Yalta conference in Crimea, when he met with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin to discuss Europe's post-war organisation.

Its patina and solemnity are undeniable, but it also encapsulates the quintessential design for an American watch and served as the initial inspiration for the current Tiffany watch collection, CT60, named for the company's founder Charles Lewis Tiffany.

Another highlight of the travelling collection is a women's diamond wristwatch with diamond crystal cuvette and dial framed by baguette diamonds with a diamond leaf patterned bracelet from the 1930s.

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Design references

Andreatta, who formerly ran his own watch brand N.O.A. (his initials), immersed himself in the Tiffany & Co. archives from the start of his tenure, studying examples from more than 400 pieces that have been acquired at auction and that will serve as design references for new releases from time to time.

A natural entrepreneur, Andreatta was wearing the king of the current collection – the CT60 Annual Calendar – for his interview with 51698009.

Fascinated as a child with how things were made and having constructed his first watch at 14, he was initially dissuaded from following his father into the "crazy" horological world. Andreatta Sr had wanted his son to pursue finance.

"[I agree that] this industry is a crazy world. It is a very complicated process to manufacture a timepiece. From design to the store, there's always something that can happen," he said. "[But] I like it because it is tangible; finance is less so. The philosophical aspect of time is very interesting to me."

Separate entity

The Swiss watch entity is run separately from the jewellery side of Tiffany & Co. and there has been a distinct effort to make sure the customer does not merely view the watches as those made by jewellers, although cocktail watches will naturally make an appearance.

The trip marked Andreatta's first to our shores and he admits to learning about some of our style leanings for the first time:

"I have discovered Australian and American men share a synergy in the types of watch design they enjoy. I didn't expect that, I suppose I imagined Australian men might look more to English references."