From Patek Philippe to Cartier, here’s a closer look at Princess Diana’s watch collection.
Arguably the most beloved royal ever, the late Princess Diana has remained one of the most significant style icons of our time, even 25 years after her tragic death. The originator of the “revenge dress” and keeper of a famously quirky sweater collection, she served the world everything from glamorous royalty to some pretty iconic ski ‘fits, never afraid to break the rules (even royal ones) with her daring personal style. That all said, the people’s princess knew a thing or two about accessorizing — so, it’s no wonder she also maintained an impressive collection of watches.
Her personal pieces — both casual classics and glitzy rarities alike — all held significant meaning with plenty of history behind them. During the early years of her engagement and marriage to the now King Charles III, she was most often spotted with a Philippe Patek-adorned wrist, a gift from her then-fiancée, later developing an affinity for Cartier Tanks as her marriage deteriorated. Even so, these weren’t the only timepieces the late princess collected. She also had a few other luxurious options (read: pieces absolutely dripping in precious gemstones) at her disposal — she was a princess, after all.
With the return of a juicy new season of The Crown, we’re finding ourselves once again completely enamored with Diana’s impeccable taste, so we’re taking a deep dive into her personal watch collection. Ahead, take a closer look at every piece and get to know the story behind each.
Princess Diana may have built her famed watch collection after she earned her royal title, but she was fond of wearing timepieces back when she was still Lady Diana Spencer. On February 24, 1981, she and Prince Charles announced they were engaged to be wed, accompanying the announcement with an engagement shoot outside Buckingham Palace. Diana accessorized her blue skirt suit and massive sapphire engagement ring with an unidentified watch with a circular face and squared bezel she wore frequently leading up to her wedding.
The people’s princess was known for her impeccable style (particularly, a pretty impressive sweater collection) even before she officially became a royal. Here, she effortlessly paired a pink alpaca-adorned sweater with beige trousers, knee-high socks, rain boots — and, of course, her favorite watch — for a casual photoshoot around Balmoral Castle two months before her wedding.
In 1983, Diana was seen wearing not one, but two watches to Charles’ Windsor polo match: a gold Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 3618, which he gifted to her for her 20th birthday, just weeks before their wedding, and his own gold Patek Philippe Disco Volante Ref. 3445 [similar model] with a brown leather strap. It’s been said she wore his watch to bring him luck during his match, which, despite knowing the ultimate fate of their marriage, is actually quite sweet.
During the early years of her marriage to Prince Charles, Princess Di was often spotted wearing her gold Patek Philippe Calatrava for casual and formal affairs alike. Above, she paired it with a beige printed coat dress and suede beret while visiting the seaside town of Barmouth in November 1982.
While attending the London premiere of Octopussy in June 1983, Diana sported a dainty, diamond-encrusted Vacheron Constantin model 4481, which has quite a history behind it. It was passed to her as a wedding gift from the late Queen Elizabeth II, who had first received it as her own wedding gift from the Swiss Federal Republic in 1947.
Diana often brought her gold Calatrava with her on tours abroad. Above, she wore it to complete a polka dot ensemble (another one of her sartorial signatures) while visiting the Canadian city of Kamloops in 1986.
The late ‘80s saw the beginning of the end for the then-Prince and Princess of Wales — and the beginning of Diana’s Cartier era. She owned two but often wore her classic Tank Louis with a yellow gold case and black alligator strap, a gift from her father Earl Edward John Spencer.
Despite her crumbling marriage (and a newfound love for Cartier), Diana was still occasionally spotted wearing her gold Patek before and after officially separating from the now King in 1992. In July 1991, she brought it back for Prince William’s first Wimbledon appearance.
In addition to her Tank Louis, Diana also owned another Cartier: a yellow gold Tank Française, which she often wore to more formal occasions, like a White House breakfast with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. The watch was originally given to Prince William after her death, yet was later passed on to Prince Harry — who has since gifted it to his wife, Megan Markle.
Diana may be most known for her Pateks and Cartiers, but she also received a diamond-and-sapphire-encrusted Asprey timepiece for her wedding to Prince Charles. A gift from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the watch was part of a full suite of jewelry, complete with a matching necklace, bracelet, earrings, and ring (casual!), later converting and even combining some of the pieces.
On a trip to Bosnia in August 1997, Diana wore her beloved Tank Louis as she met with victims of landmines, a cause she was extremely passionate about. Sadly, this was her last tour abroad before her life was tragically cut short just a few weeks later.
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