LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Harry Winston's Ode to Excellence


Every year in Sicily Harry Winston salutes the fine art of filmmaking at the Taormina Film Festival, rewarding outstanding talents with equally outstanding timepieces.

In a town that once favored laurel wreaths, Harry Winston has taken the unique step of awarding winners at the Taormina Film Festival with watches to match their artistic achievements.

On the Italian island of Sicily, the town of Taormina has been snuggled at the base of the picturesque but active volcano Mount Etna since antiquity. As the home of the last Greek open-air theater, the resort town's connection to acting and entertainment was forged millennia ago and continues to this day in the form of the Taormina Film Festival, an annual celebration of excellence in the cinematic arts.

Uniqueness is in the air here, and there are few things more unique in our times than the relationship between the film festival and Harry Winston. As one of the festival's main sponsors, the world-famous Fifth Avenue jeweler and watch maker rewards excellence with its luxurious precision watches, giving honorees something that's not only highly prized and personal, but full of practical applications that go far beyond the realm of a decorative statuette or piece of cut crystal on a plinth. After all, how many people can carry their Oscar around with them at all times?

Glamour, excellence, and time – three words charged with meaning, and the three connecting threads uniting Taormina and Harry Winston.
Harry Winston is a byword for glamour, and nothing feeds dreams of glamour like the lure of the silver screen. So it's not surprising that Harry Winston's link to the movies is cemented by more than a half-century of symbiotic partnership, providing stars with the gems to sparkle with the allure of fame and fabulousness. Harry Winston – a jeweler with an enviable little black book of movie star names – first collaborated with the Oscars in 1943, when Jennifer Jones won the Best Actress award for 'The Song of Bernadette.' Since then, no high-caliber awards ceremony has been complete without at least one major star dripping in Harry Winston gems, from Gwyneth Paltrow tearfully receiving a Best Actress Oscar to Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank lighting up the red carpet with a phalanx of precious stone splendor. Of course, Harry Winston has enjoyed its fair share of moments on the silver screen, as well, not least in the celebrated – and oft-quoted – moment in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when Marilyn Monroe's diamond-loving but honest-intentioned character Lorelei Lee purrs, "Talk to me Harry Winston, tell me all about it."

This year's Taormina Film Festival ran from June 16-23, and as the Taormina Arte Award for Cinematic Excellence, seven watches were awarded over the course of most of those evenings. Among this year's recipients were directors André Téchiné, Terence Davies and Hanna Schygulla, and the actors Matt Dillon and Giancarlo Giannini.

The warm balmy evenings of June on this Mediterranean island give ample opportunity for quiet drinks on terraces lit by little more than flickering candles and starlight. Diamonds, of course, are at their most beautiful in candlelight, and Taormina provides the perfect occasion for exceptional evening sparkle, especially as each evening's winner is quietly feted on a private, press-free terrace before ascending to the Greek theater via a secret
staircase for the honoring ceremony.

Amid a sea of mermaid gowns and jewel-bedecked limbs, ears and necks, all eyes are focused on the meting out of the awards, Harry Winston's rose gold watches glowing warmly under the bright illumination of center stage.

Time, as they say, is a factor, and in this case that's not just appropriate in cinematic careers but in the rarefied world of watchmaking, too. While the Harry Winston name has long been associated with the world of celluloid and celebrity, the company only started making watches in 1989. The step into timepiece terrain was born from a genuine need to satiate the desires of faithful clients who already enjoyed the unique thrill of sporting Harry Winston gems and wanted to integrate that feeling onto their wrists in a form other than a bracelet. Though designed at the Harry Winston studio in New York, the timepieces are produced in Switzerland, according to the exacting standards of the best Swiss precision watch-making, which means that this isn't just brand extension but a series of valid, covetable and technically superior creations that conform to both the Harry Winston credo and the rigorous requirements of the most demanding watch connoisseurs.

This year at the 53rd Taormina Film Festival, men received an automatic Excenter on an alligator strap with an 18k rose gold buckle, and the women an ergonomically-shaped Avenue C set on black satin. The latter twinkles with hand-set diamonds against a natural white mother-of-pearl dial, but it's no less superior in the field of precision mechanics than the former, which was the first timepiece in the world with an automatic movement that integrated a bi-directional seconds display.
Each watch is inscribed on the back with the legend "Harry Winston Taormina FilmFest 2007," and although each recipient can choose to have the inscription extended afterwards to include their initials or name, the primary gesture is already a very intimate one, to be worn against the skin, almost as a secret insignia shielded from the public gaze. And in the worlds of screen and celebrity, isn't precious, private luxury the greatest luxury of them all?

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