Van Cleef & Arpels marks its return to Watches & Wonders with extraordinary new timepieces and a dazzlingly complex automation
Few luxury brands have been able to capture the beauty of nature and the passage of time quite like Van Cleef & Arpels, whose watchmaking expertise and jewellery savoir-faire have led to the creation of the artful Poetic Complications collection as well as some of the world’s most eye-catching and exquisite objects. Now, to mark its return to the Watches & Wonders fair, the maison is revealing its latest inspired novelties, including two Lady Arpels Heures Florales watches and the Fontaine aux Oiseaux automaton.
Each addition to the Poetic Complications collection is a feat of watchmaking combined with precious materials and traditional savoir-faire, and the Lady Arpels Heures Florales and Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier are no exception. Their three-dimensional dials offer a poetic rendition of the passage of time through the opening and closing of 12 corollas. Up to 166 elements bring the stunning scene to life, complete with articulated petals and fluttering butterflies as well as branches in sculpted gold and clouds in sculpted mother-of-pearl.
“The Heures Florales project was born out of the encounter between a very great botanist and a rather unusual watchmaker. The first of them, Carl von Linné – notably renowned for his classification of the animal and plant species – had a highly poetic idea: a garden that would be a clock. The second, Van Cleef & Arpels, is the distinctive watchmaker that took an interest in Linné’s marvellous watch concept, on the boundary of art and science,” says Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels.
The Fontaine aux Oiseaux automaton, which continues the brand’s long tradition of producing objects that create a sense of enchantment and surprise, portrays a male and female bird perched on a fountain with lily pads floating on the surface of the water. The unique automaton combines on-demand animation and a retrograde time display that when activated sees the water in the basin begin to ripple, followed by a water lily blooming as a dragonfly emerges and rises into the air, and then the birds sing out and move as in courtship until the animation is complete and everything returns to its original position.
This Extraordinary Object required over 25,300 hours to complete and the excellence of expert craftsmen ranging from automaton-makers to lapidaries, jewellers, stone setters, enamellers and cabinet-makers. The precious materials used to craft it, meanwhile, include ebony, steel, goat leather, vegetal lacquer, opaque enamel and an array of stones such as diamonds, amethysts, emeralds, coloured sapphires, and tsavorite and mandarin garnets.
“This kind of project pushes us to constantly expand the limits of our savoir-faire,” says Gregory Weinstock, director of Van Cleef & Arpels’ High Jewellery Workshops. “Its various technical challenges require a constant calling into question, and the acquisition of new skills. These experiences are enriching on both the technical and human levels, since they bring about numerous interactions between new fields of expertise. When the object comes to life, the pleasure and satisfaction are immense: nothing is more magical than nature in movement.”