Meghan Markle's Gold Cartier Watch Once Belonged to Princess Diana

"That's what makes pieces special, the connection you have to them," the duchess once said.

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Since moving back to California with Prince Harry in July, Meghan Markle has clearly embraced a much more casual way of dressing than she did when she was a working royal. But recently, the Los Angeles-born duchess has amped up her every day, laid-back style with an iconic piece of jewelry with a very special provenance. Eagle-eyed royal watchers have spotted Princess Diana's gold Cartier Tank Française watch on Meghan's wrist on several recent occasions, including during her virtual appearance at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit on Sept. 29.

While the watch is one of several pieces of Diana's jewelry believed to be given to the duchess by Harry, the luxury timepiece holds a special meaning for both of them.

markle markle wears princess diana's watch at fortune most powerful women summit
Fortune

Just before their first Christmas after the death of their mother in 1997, Prince William and Harry were taken to Diana's apartment at Kensington Palace to select which of her belongings they wanted to keep, before moving to Clarence House to live with Prince Charles. In the 2017 Amazon documentary The Diana Story, Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, revealed that, along with the other personal items both William and Harry kept, each wanted a piece of jewelry from their mother's collection.

Burrell recalled the then-15-year-old William chose first and asked for Diana's gold Cartier Tank watch, while Harry wanted his mother's engagement ring. According Burrell, when asked what he wanted as a memento, then-12-year-old Harry said, "I remember when I held mummy's hand when I was a small boy and that ring always hurt me because it was so big."

But in 2010, Harry selflessly swapped with William so that he could give the engagement ring to Kate Middleton when he proposed to her. Reportedly, Harry said to his brother, "Wouldn't it be fitting if she had mummy's ring? Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne of England." Today, Kate is rarely seen without the ring, a 12-carat sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds on a white gold band.

Now, it seems that Meghan has embraced wearing the other iconic piece of jewelry from Diana's collection that William chose on his and Harry's last trip to their mother's apartment 23 years ago. "Clearly, even though it was not what he originally selected as a special keepsake, Diana's watch is something that holds great significance for Harry," said a royal insider. "So to see Meghan wear his mother's watch must be very bittersweet."

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While Diana owned several different timepieces, the classic 18-carat yellow gold Cartier Tank Française was her favorite. The watch, which retails for $22,200 today, was a gift from her father, John, Earl Spencer, on her 21st birthday.

Ironically, Meghan already owned a Cartier Tank watch that she bought for herself to mark her own personal milestone. She told Hello in 2015 that she had "coveted" the luxury timepiece for awhile and bought the steel and gold version of the Cartier classic as a gift to herself when Suits was picked up for a third season. "I totally splurged," she said at the time. The future duchess even engraved the timepiece with this inscription: "To M.M. From M.M."

Fittingly, Meghan also told the magazine, "I plan to give it to my daughter one day. That's what makes pieces special, the connection you have to them." And for more on the connection between Meghan and her mother-in-law, check out Diana and Meghan Markle Made the Same Shocking Claim About the Royals.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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