Harry Winston was known as "Jeweler to the Stars." He designed the crown jewels for modern royalty: celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Movie stars continue to wear Winston gems to Hollywood galas [source: Harry Winston].
Harry Winston grew up in the jewelry business, working in his father's store as a boy. He opened Harry Winston, Inc. in New York in 1932, when he was 36. Gaining a reputation as an innovator in jewelry design, he specialized in elegant settings for large precious stones. In 1949, he acquired the Hope Diamond, the dark-blue, walnut-sized diamond that once belonged to Louis XIV. He donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958. Though Winston died in 1978, his company has grown, operating stores around the world [source: aJeweler].
Harry Winston, Inc. began making fine watches in 1989. The firm is one of the few jewelry companies whose watches are prized by collectors of timepieces. Most collectible watches are made by specialty watchmakers, like Rolex, Breitling and Patek Philippe. In 2007, Winston opened a new, state-of-the-art watchmaking workshop in Geneva [source: Harry Winston].
Harry Winston, Inc. first introduced the Opus series of watches in 2001. The company announced that it would choose a watch designer each year to produce a limited-edition masterpiece. The idea was to focus on a single craftsman's work. Each design in the series would be completely new. These conceptually daring, technically complex mechanical watches appealed to connoisseurs and collectors. Each year, hundreds of watchmakers submit designs to Winston, hoping theirs is chosen.
The first of the series, Opus One, was an elegant, two-time-zone watch by designer Francois Paul Journe. Winston offered it in three limited editions of only six watches each. Opus Three was the work of Vianny Halter, a watchmaker renowned for "retro-future" designs [source: Morais]. Six portholes in the face show the hours, minutes and date.
Denis Giguet, who created the Opus Eleven, is a Swiss designer who was trained as an engineer. A fascination with his grandfather's antique pocket watch inspired him to become a horologist [source: Mulraney]. As head of production at Harry Winston, Inc., he worked on earlier Opus watches. He then left to found his own watch company, called Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps. An ease of telling the time and extreme ingenuity in the movement are typical features of Giguet watches and are apparent in the Opus Eleven.