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These Days, Watches Are for Almost Anywhere but the Wrist

Given the outsize effect that Taylor Swift suddenly seems to have on everything from the Super Bowl to the U.S. presidential campaign, it was no surprise that her Grammy appearance in a choker featuring a vintage Concord watch had media proclaiming the start of a trend.

But recently a growing number of celebrities, from Emma Chamberlain to Julia Fox, have been displaying their own unconventional approaches to telling time.

Rihanna, for example, had a white gold watch, blinged out with more than 70 carats of round and emerald-cut diamonds, clasped around her ankle when she appeared at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Las Vegas in November.

“She has a reputation for wearing fashion in a different way,” said Benjamin Arabov, chief executive of the New York City jeweler Jacob & Co., which made the $400,000 timepiece. “The F1 was her first appearance after her pregnancy, and she wanted to come out with a bang like she always does.”

“We’ve seen this world explode,” said Brynn Wallner, the founder of Dimepiece, a digital platform on all things horological, based in New York City. “And with more people getting into watches, more people are starting to experiment with wearing them.”

Eric Wind, founder of the luxury pre-owned watch retailer Wind Vintage in Palm Beach, Fla., echoed the idea. “People are looking for new ways to express themselves rather than just the same old uniform everyone’s wearing,” he said.

The trend does have a notable history. “Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, women wore their watches in all kinds of interesting and different ways,” Mr. Wind said. “There have been many cases, even when the watch first came out, of people putting watches on belt buckles, necklaces and brooches rather than just a traditional pocket or wristwatch.”

More recently, there was the party scene in the 1961 cult classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which, for a brief moment, shows a watch on the ankle of a female guest. Then there was Diana, Princess of Wales, who wore her Saudi Sapphire choker — an oval sapphire taken from a ring and a watch’s diamond bezel, mounted on midnight-blue velvet — as a headband at a 1986 dinner in Tokyo hosted by then-Emperor Hirohito.

“It’s interesting to see a surge of public figures experimenting with the trend as of late,” Mr. Wind added.

Rihanna’s foray into offbeat Jacob watches began early last year, when she wore an all-red 44-millimeter Brilliant Skeleton Northern Lights in stainless steel featuring more than 300 diamonds during her Super Bowl halftime performance.

It was followed by a choker that Jacob made from a 47-millimeter Brilliant Flying Tourbillon in white gold with more than 700 diamonds, which she wore in June sitting front row for Pharrell Williams’s debut show as men’s creative director at Louis Vuitton.

The F1 anklet began with a 17-millimeter Emerald Cut Diamonds wristwatch from the jeweler’s Boutique collection. The customization was “a difficult task to achieve,” Mr. Arabov said.

“We had to take the whole strap of one watch and attach it to the other watch in order for it to fit,” he said. “That’s how the look came about, and she absolutely loved it.”

Ms. Chamberlain also gave the watch accessory craze a stamp of approval when, in the December issue of W magazine, the social media star was photographed wearing a skeletonized Santos de Cartier wristwatch as a kind of hair tie. Ms. Chamberlain, who became a Cartier brand ambassador in 2022, also had wrapped a tiny yellow-gold Cartier Baignoire watch around her neck, like a choker, at the Miu Miu spring 2024 show in Paris.

“When you’re a brand ambassador, and you’re paid to exclusively wear one brand, and you’re a creative person, you can feel confined,” Ms. Wallner said. “And so how do you work within those parameters to make something your own, and to have a little fun with it? And to convey that maybe it’s not so serious as everybody else kind of wants it to be?

“When you are having fun with something, it ultimately has more impact than the brand could have imagined.”

Perhaps that was what Ms. Fox had in mind in September, during New York Fashion Week, when she arrived at a Pandora promotional event in an all-watch outfit by the London fashion label 1XBlue. It featured a bandeau top and matching leather miniskirt covered with a collection of wristwatches that the label said it had bought from the online marketplaces eBay and Vinted.

“She was totally on board with it,” said Briana Andalore, the stylist for Ms. Fox who had found the outfit. “The back panel of the dress was made out of a stretch, so it was really versatile for sizing.” (1XBlue now offers a custom version of the miniskirt online at $519.)

Ms. Wallner said that she hopes women will continue to play with how they wear watches. “It’s really fun that it’s so female-driven because we don’t see a lot of that in this space,” she said, noting that the traditional use of a watch isn’t all that important.

“If you’re wearing a watch as a choker, there’s no way you can tell the time. It’s silly, but who cares? It’s just a moment, so don’t take it too seriously.”

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