‘Beautiful, Forgotten Watches’ Are Getting Second Lives

Mr. Harleman finds the timepieces online and during visits to watch fairs, dealers and collectors, many in the United States and Germany. They tend to favor brands such as Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Rolex and Cellini, as those brands have designs they consider refined and simple. Ms. Bodiratnangkura then adds an embellished bezel, creates a new bracelet or reworks an existing one, or she turns the watch into a ring.

Detailing always plays an important role. She might, for example, draw a pattern directly onto a watch case, and then send it to her atelier in Bangkok where her seven goldsmiths, who also work on her jewelry collections, would engrave the design onto the timepiece.

The jewelers work mostly by hand, using the traditional lost wax method to create any new pieces, like a bezel.

The results are one-of-a-kind pieces. The Dover Street Market in London carried her second collection and is planning on introducing the new one this year.

“We have worked with Patcharavipa for many years now, selling her fine and high jewelry collections,” Mimi Hoppen, the store’s director of jewelry, wrote in an email, “and so when she mentioned the development of this very special collection of watches, we, of course, wanted to showcase them at DSM.” Ms. Hoppen reported that everything sold quickly: four watches, with prices ranging from 20,000 pounds to 36,000 pounds (or about $24,000 to $43,200), and three watch rings, from £18,000 to £28,000 (or $21,600 to $33,600).

Mr. Harleman, who met Ms. Bodiratnangkura while he was a retail assistant at the Dover Street Market, knew some stylists and sent them photos of the watches. As a result, Rihanna bought three: a Cellini, a Rolex King Midas and a Rolex Queen Midas. A 2022 photograph of the pregnant singer wearing the customized 1970 Rolex King Midas went viral, “and the rest,” as Ms. Bodiratnangkura said, “is history.”

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