The 300-carat Chanel lion, Muhammad Ali tribute timepiece and other finds from DJWE

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Panna Munyal rounds up some of the most stunning jewels and watches, and other interesting goings-on from this year’s Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE).

Tag Heuer unveils Middle East edition of Muhammad Ali timepiece

Set up to resemble a closed-in boxing ring, complete with a punching bag, the Tag Heuer stall at DJWE showcased the limited-edition Muhammad Ali Middle East timepiece. The Carrera Calibre 5 watch in stainless steel has Arabic numerals on the dial, while the case-back is engraved with an image of Ali in boxing gloves, along with his signature. Each of the 750 pieces is numbered. “Around the Arab world, we feel a special connection to Muhammad Ali. He understood our values and was one of the first sportsmen to visit the region, as early as the 1970s,” says Nasr Al Majed of the family-owned Al Majed Group, which collaborated with Tag to bring the timepiece to the show. Tag’s chief executive, Jean-Claude Biver, first met Ali in 2012 and the two men and their families kept in touch. After Ali’s demise last year, Biver and Ali’s wife decided to create this tribute timepiece. In keeping with the brand’s philosophy of creating accessible luxury Swiss watches, the timepiece is priced from Dh11,000.

Chanel showcases Collier Constellation du Lion archive piece

The year 1932 was a special one for Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel — it was when she presented Chanel's first high-jewellery collection, Bijoux de Diamants. In 2012, the brand created its 1932 collection, made up of bracelets, brooches, pendants and headpieces. The Collier Constellation du Lion necklace, which was displayed at DJWE, was the highlight of the 1932 collection — so special that it was kept aside as a not-for-sale archive piece in Chanel's Paris museum that is a treasure trove of pieces that Chanel wants to keep for itself. The necklace is crafted from 18K white and yellow gold, and set with 159 baguette-cut diamonds, weighing 34.6 carats; 878 brilliant-cut diamonds weighing 10 carats; and 32 round-cut yellow diamonds weighing 5.9 carats. These take the form of stars and comets surrounding a 32.9-carat cushion-cut yellow diamond, and a 307-carat golden rutilated quartz carved into the shape of a lion.

Jewels from private collections

While the lion was kept within the Chanel lair, a central exhibition displaying jewels from some of the Middle East’s most prestigious private collections dominated the circular entrance foyer of the DJWE venue in Doha’s West Bay area. This 12-inch Collier Cords necklace is a 1950s design by Van Cleef & Arpels and belonged to Princess Soraya of Iran, an avid collector of one-of-a-kind pieces by Bulgari, Harry Winston and Van Cleef. The Cords necklace is constructed from yellow gold and diamonds, its tassels serving as a point of inspiration for evening bags popular in the 1960s, which had diamond clasps and handles featuring the twisted-cord motif. Also part of this exhibit was a gold pocket watch, with an enamelled coat-of-arms on the case-back, which was gifted to Egyptian king Fuad I in 1929 by the Swiss Colony in Egypt.

Portraits from Studio Harcourt

As visitors waited for a snack from the Garden Café restaurant, courtesy of the Shangri-La Doha chefs, interest couldn't help be piqued by people darting in and out of a blacked-out side room — make-up bags, photography apparatus and sealed envelopes in tow. The room turned out to be a base set up at DJWE by Studio Harcourt Paris, a photography atelier started by the Lacroix brothers in 1934, which is known for its high-profile clients and black-and-white portraits. Back in the day, having at least one Harcourt portrait of oneself was something of a must for French high society. More recently, the studio has conducted photo shoots of some of popular culture's most famous faces, from Salvador Dalí and Karl Lagerfeld to Halle Berry, Michael Schumacher and Amitabh Bachchan, reportedly charging €2,000 (Dh7,700) a pop. It's a thrilling experience, being made up in an antechamber before being led to the main studio, stark with ink-black walls and white boards. That's until the strobe lights come on, and the click-happy photographer sweet-talks you into posing this way and that. The result is your own, free Studio Harcourt portrait, sealed and stamped with its distinctive H logo. When you're in Paris next, take two hours out to visit the studio on 6 rue de Lota.

Vintage jewellery display

Birds have always featured heavily in Boucheron’s high-jewellery collections, from swan bracelets and peacock medallions to cockatoo pendants and owl rings. This brooch from 1907 is one of the first examples of the French jeweller’s fascination with our feathered friends, and was part of a vintage-jewellery exhibit at DJWE. The piece takes the shape of two chased-gold eagle heads with olivine eyes, holding a hexagonal peridot in their beaks. The yellow-gold setting is brought out by round- and rose-cut diamonds, and a black pear-shaped pendant. Other pieces that were part of the vintage-jewellery showcase included: a Van Cleef & Arpels Feather brooch; the Piaget Kanthara bracelet-watch crafted from 217 diamond baguettes; a yellow-gold square ladies wristwatch from Omega; and a lipstick holder in pierced pink gold from Boucheron.

Collectibles from Lebanese jeweller André Marcha

Gemstones need not be restricted to wearable jewellery. The Beirut-based workshops of André Marcha have been producing "art jewellery" for more than 50 years — life-size collectibles that can lend sparkle and stature to your space, and that made for one of the most dazzling stands at DJWE. The creations range from éventail fans with jewel-encrusted ridges and pashminas with gemstone tassels, to much-loved regional motifs such as Arabian horses and the falcon pictured here. Crafted from 7,710 white, black and brown diamonds with a total weight of 229.30 carats, the bird has sapphire cabochons for eyes and is perched atop an iron pyrite rock. Pieces can take up to five months to create and can be customised using precious stones of your preference.

Expert advice on building luxury collections

Jewellery stalls and statement watches aside, the exhibition also hosted two representatives from the ArtCurial auction house, to guide enthusiasts looking to build their collections, or collectors looking to expand theirs. Watch expert Geoffroy Ader says: "We are here to help people become familiar with the process of auctions, and to help them identify vintage and other important watches that should go into their collections. This depends not only on one's budget, but also on their personality, and long-term investment and bequeathing plans." Ader was also on hand to provide free and confidential valuations of pre-owned pieces that visitors wore or brought in. Headquartered at the Hotel Marcel Dessault on Paris's Champs-Elysees, ArtCurial has a designated meeting space for luxury lovers, art enthusiasts and watch collectors. Some of the timepieces to come under the hammer at ArtCurial auctions include: a 1956 Panerai Radiomir Egiziano for 121,500 euros (Dh476,000); a 1980 Rolex Comex (pictured) for 139,400 euros (Dh546,000); and a 2003 Patek Philippe Grand Complication Celestial for 179,684 euros (Dh704,000. The next ArtCurial Important Watches auction will be held in July in Monte-Carlo. Besides watches, the auction house also has specialists in the fields of automobiles, yachts, art, comic strips, books and interior design.

Watchmaking workshop by Objectif Horlogerie

Visitors had a chance to witness the inner workings of a hand-wound Swiss mechanical movement under the watchful eyes of experts from the Paris-based Objectif Horlogerie. The Paris-based watchmaker brought its mobile First Time workshop to DJWE. Each participant was assigned a workstation with the requisite tools of the trade: the barrel, gears, pallet lever, escapement, spring, magnifying headband, and a Petri dish to store the truly tiny cogs and screws. After a short talk on the history of time-telling began the painstaking process of disassembling the various parts of the movement, before cleaning and lubricating them, and then working out where each was meant to go back. Depending on its size and purpose, each cog has pre-assigned tools for unscrewing, lifting and refitting, a process that results in a satisfying click if performed correctly. The magnifying glass reveals that what we think is a tiny drop of lubricating oil (up to Dh2,000 for a vial), can actually suffice all three of our contraptions. It's a process so exacting that I find my chin grazing the surface of the workbench. And finally, when put back together, a feeling of elation sweeps the room as the heart of the watch beats again.

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