Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm

Carl Eady reviews a stunning version of the Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm, endowed with an exquisite mother-of-pearl dial and diamond-set case.

Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm


The late Harry Winston was renowned the world over as ‘The King of Diamonds’. Throughout his long and prosperous life, he owned and traded some of the most famous gemstones on the planet, including the Jonker and Hope diamonds. His name has become inextricably linked with the Hollywood glitterati since a moment of marketing genius led him to loan diamonds to Jennifer Jones on the night she won Best Actress at the Academy Awards in 1944. To this day, glamorous Hollywood celebrities, eager to complete their award ceremony haute couture ensembles, seek one of the brand’s diamond-encrusted creations. It wasn’t until 1989, some 11 years after Harry Winston’s death, that the brand’s first watch collection was unveiled. Since then its watchmaking prowess has gone from strength to glittering strength.

In 2001, the ‘Opus’ series of watches was unveiled, masterminded by the then CEO of Harry Winston Rare Timepieces, Max Büsser. FP Journe created the inaugural collection, a stunning and mechanically exceptional collection of timepieces. Esteemed independent watchmakers such as Felix Baumgartner, Vianney Halter, the firm Greubel Forsey and Andreas Strehler have since contributed to the Opus project, further enhancing the brand’s horological credentials.

The Swatch Group acquired Harry Winston in 2013 and under the Swiss giant’s ownership, it continues to release some of the most luxurious watches on the market. Its collections have included the conservative ‘Emerald’, the elegant ‘Premier’ and ‘Avenue’, right through to the incredibly technical ‘Histoire de Tourbillon’ and ’Project Z’. All have played their part in establishing Harry Winston Timepieces as one of the jewels in the Swatch Group crown.

In 2017, in keeping with the nautical theme of the collection, Harry Winston released a stunning edition of the Ocean Biretrograde endowed with a mother of pearl dial and enlivened with a total of 367 brilliant-cut diamonds.

Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm


The dial configuration will prove familiar to Harry Winston devotees. It comprises of an off-centre hour and minutes subdial flanked by twin retrograde, semi-circular displays for the seconds and days of the week. Each hand is coated with Super-LumiNova to maximise legibility, although I suspect the timepiece will spend most of its life basking in the limelight. The perimeter of the hour and minute display features highly polished white gold indexes, separated by clusters of brilliant-cut diamonds. This dazzling effect is replicated on the arcing tracks of the retrograde functions, delivering an agreeable equilibrium and symmetry. Accentuating the oceanic theme, the mother-of-pearl on each retrograde display has been decorated with a delicate guilloché wave pattern, a small detail perhaps, but one that reinforces the nautical theme.

Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm

A triangular diamond-set indicator is positioned in the lower portion of the dial, drawing the eye to the date at 6 o’clock. This circular aperture is surrounded by yet more diamonds, while the date is shown through a magnified porthole. The sophisticated use of depth and volume conveys a mastery of perspective which will delight the most discerning watch connoisseurs.


Compared to many of the Swiss brands within Swatch Group, Harry Winston is relatively young. However, a sense of nostalgia pervades each case within The Ocean Collection. A bold crown, sporting the ‘HW’ initials, is protected by two broad shoulders in a respectful nod to the grand arches of the Harry Winston salon on New York’s 5th Avenue. The perimeter of the 18k white gold case and tapered lugs are adorned with brilliant-cut white diamonds. Even the recesses within the lugs and Biretrograde pushers are filled with diamonds.

Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm

Measuring 42mm in diameter, the case is not designed for modest wrists, especially given its sparkling starry additions. By keeping the depth to a mere 10.6mm, however, the watch wears exceptionally well and can easily slip under a shirt cuff for those moments that require a befitting level of modesty.

On the reverse, fine circular brushing on the case surround is punctuated by the Harry Winston name, logo and gold hallmarks. The underside of the lugs features linear brushwork, completing the case decoration. A sapphire caseback provides views of the movement.


There is a danger with such a spectacularly bejewelled watch, particularly from a brand that is synonymous with glamour, that the horological value may be overlooked. However, the Caliber HW3305 is a highly credible swiss movement, rich in virtue.

The automatic calibre comprises of 312 parts including 35 jewels. Its intricate decoration is exceptional, with a multitude of finishing techniques on display.  The skeletonised white gold rotor is engraved with the Harry Winston moniker, while the bridges are embellished with circular graining, Côtes de Genève decoration and expert bevelling.

The Caliber HW3305 incorporates the latest silicon technology. Over the last decade, several luxury brands have embraced silicon, owing to its array of attributes. This state of the art glass-like material is corrosion-resistant, anti-magnetic, shock-resistant and less prone to deformation. However, perhaps the most notable benefit of using silicon, certainly from an owner’s perspective, is it extends service intervals.

The power reserve is 65 hours and the balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz).


The Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm is complemented with a deep ocean blue alligator leather band, beautifully cushioned and exquisitely stitched with blue thread. It sits in tasteful concert with the opalescent white mother of pearl dial.

Another luxurious indulgence is the 18k white gold folding clasp which is fastened with a white gold ardillon buckle, set with a further 44 dazzling diamonds.

Closing thoughts

Over the years, Harry Winston and Swatch Group have invested very wisely in building the brand’s horological credentials. The Swiss marque’s Ocean Collection pairs sophisticated movements with contemporary, sporty cases, attracting numerous fans and plaudits alike.

In this instance, the mother-of-pearl dial seems most apt for a nautically themed timepiece. Furthermore, it significantly enhances the watch’s legibility. With some 367 brilliant-cut diamonds on display, the Ocean Retrograde may not suit those of a bashful nature, but will undoubtedly appeal to well-heeled individuals with a self-assured flamboyance. These latter individuals can delight in the combination of an expertly finished movement, an ocean-inspired mother-of-pearl dial and a diamond-set case, all expertly executed by one of the industry’s most glamorous marques.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Harry Winston Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 42mm
  • Reference: OCEABI42WW002
  • Case: 18k white gold set with 196 brilliant-cut diamonds; diameter 42.2mm; Height 10.6mm; water resistance 10ATM (100 metres); sapphire crystals to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; retrograde seconds; day; date
  • Movement: Caliber HW3055; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 35 jewels; power reserve 65 hours
  • Strap: Hand-sewn blue alligator leather with 18k white gold fold-over clasp and 18k white gold buckle set with 44 brilliant-cut diamonds
  • Price: Price on application

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