The story goes that Harry Winston’s career (he was born in 1896) began when he was twelve. He already had some experience with precious stones, because his father had a small jewellery store in New York. One day he scanned a tray of junk jewellery in a pawn shop with the label “Take your pick – 25 cents,” and bought a ring with a green stone. He had in fact found a 2-carat emerald, and sold it two days later for $800.
In 1916, Harry founded his own “Premier Diamond Company,” with the objective of buying Edwardian and Victorian jewellery and resetting the stones to suit the modern market. In 1932, he set up Harry Winston Inc., and by 1935, he was able to purchase a gem such as the 726-carat Jonker, a rough diamond cleaved to produce twelve individual stones. Not surprisingly, he acquired the nickname “King of Diamonds.” His success was in part due to his approach to jewellery design, in which the emphasis was on the individual gemstones, according to which the metal setting was shaped, rather than vice versa. In addition, he had an unerring instinct for marketing, and he was the first jeweller to lend his pieces to film stars, starting with Jennifer Jones in 1944. He himself became part of movie history in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” a 1953 musical that includes the phrase “Talk to me, Harry Winston! Tell me all about it!” At that stage, his collection of historic jewellery was enormous, second only to that owned by the British royal family. Harry Winston died in New York in 1978, at the age of 82.
The company launched its first collection of watches in 1989, and in 2001 it introduced the Opus Series, in which a limited-edition watch was created every year in partnership with a famous watchmaker, such as F.P. Journe (Opus 1), Vianney Halter (Opus 3), Christophe Claret (Opus 4), Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey (Opus 6), Jean-Marc Wiederrecht & Eric Giroud (Opus 9), and Emmanuel Bouchet (Opus 12).
In 2004, Harry Winston introduced a watch made in Zalium, the brand’s proprietary zirconium-based alloy, lighter and harder than titanium. In 2007, the brand opened their manufacture in Geneva, and two years later, they launched Histoire de Tourbillon, a collection dedicated to this complication. Harry Winston watches nearly always include a motif on the bezel, based on three rectangles, a reference to the façade of the brand’s boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York, which opened in 1960. In addition, Harry’s favourite diamond cut, the emerald-cut (an extended octagonal shape), is also part of the brand identity, surrounding the HW initials in the official logo and often appearing in the shape of the watches themselves, as well as in the shapes of display cases and store windows. Other recurrent Harry Winston watch features are the multi-level dials in the Opus and Project Z collections, and in the Ocean Dual Time, and a particular shade of blue based on the deep blue hue of the Hope Diamond that Winston bought in 1949 and then gave to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
The Swatch Group bought Harry Winston in 2013, using the money that Tiffany & Co. was ordered to pay to Swatch Group following a dispute that went to arbitration.
8, chemin du Tourbillon C.P. 159
CH-1228 Plan-Les-Ouates, Switzerland
Tel. +41 22 716 29 00
Nayla Hayek, CEO & President