Prepare to be mesmerised by Van Cleef & Arpels' latest collection of stunning timepieces, unveiled at the 2023 Watches and Wonders salon. Embracing the Maison’s vision of watchmaking, Poetry of Time, the new variants blend the art of jewellery-making with the precision of horology.
From the meticulously chosen gems of the Perlée and Alhambra collections to the unrivalled expertise evident in the Ludo Secret and À Cheval High Jewelry watches, Van Cleef & Arpels' intricate craftsmanship is on full display at this year’s edition of Watches and Wonders, being held in Geneva. The Lady Féerie watch's harmonious palette adds to its visual appeal while three Extraordinary Objects further strengthen the brand's reputation for creating exceptional works of art. GMT India takes a closer look at these spellbinding creations.
Golden Beads Galore: The Perlée Collection
Fluid curves and intricate detailing characterise the five exquisite models of the Perlée collection — all with a round shape bordered by a double row of golden beads in mirror-polished rose gold or diamond-paved white gold.
Out of the five, three dials are adorned with mother-of-pearl, one in pavé-set diamonds and two in guilloché rose gold. The watches feature a Swiss quartz movement. Four of the five models have 23 mm cases while the case of the fifth variant has a 30 mm diameter.
Each watch has an interchangeable alligator strap and an option to choose a second strap from the collection. Additionally, a jewellery bracelet, made of articulated golden beads, echoing the beaded contour of the case, is offered, ensuring comfort and style. The diamonds on these creations are of the highest quality while the mother-of-pearl has undergone strict selection procedures, conducted by expert gemologists, so that its delicate iridescence can be enhanced.
Secret Watches Meet Colourful Pendants and Rare Gemstones
Continuing the Golden Beads’ enigma, Van Cleef & Arpels' latest collection also showcases six charming jewellery secret watches, adorned with precious or ornamental stones, complementing the signature golden beads. These curved and colourful pendants, inspired by 17th century European pocket watches, can be worn on a long necklace. Three watches feature coloured precious gems. The Perlée collection also introduces three rare materials, each chosen for its quality, harmonious nuances and polished surface. Chalcedony, rose quartz and sodalite are set in white, rose and yellow gold respectively.
Time for Good Fortune: The Alhambra Collection
Jacques Arpels, nephew of Estelle Arpels, one of Van Cleef & Arpels' co-founders, firmly believed in the power of luck. The Alhambra collection is armed with this belief; its latest addition, Sweet Alhambra jewellery watch, showcased at Watches and Wonders 2023, is a stunning embodiment of this philosophy.
The Sweet Alhambra timepiece features a four-lobe shape (larger than that of the previous version), emblematic of the collection, on the dial, surrounded by alternating gold and ornamental stone motifs. The warm tones of carnelian, a cherished material of the Maison for its bright colour, are paired with the gentle tones of rose gold, creating a harmonious set. Lapidaries (individuals who cut, polish, set or deal in gemstones) have carefully selected and paired the carnelian motifs, polishing them to perfection. The rose gold is guilloché, creating a radiant effect as light plays in the subtle relief of a sunburst.
The carnelian and guilloché gold motifs are meticulously cut, polished, paired and set in a beaded mount. Skilled jewellers fold prongs and rework golden contours before the final polishing stage, accentuating the ensemble's beauty. No less than fifteen steps are necessary to produce an iconic Alhambra piece.
Inventive and Discreet: The Ludo Secret Collection
The Ludo Secret collection from Van Cleef & Arpels continues the Maison's tradition of concealing the dial and allowing the wearer to discreetly tell time. These inventive watches celebrate the timeless elegance of the Ludo bracelet, named after one of the Maison's founding members.
Ludo Secret Watch in Brick Pattern Meshwork
The collection features a new watch size and two-material combinations: rose gold with diamonds or pink sapphires, expertly paired by the Maison's gemologists. The watches' brick-pattern meshwork, resembling a belt, is carefully assembled by hand for optimal flexibility. With a simultaneous press of two motifs, the guilloché white mother-of-pearl dial is revealed, continuing the tradition of secret watches.
Ludo Secret Watch in Hexagon Meshwork
The Maison has also unveiled a unique creation, inspired by the 1941 Ludo Hexagone Macaron secret watch. In the new Ludo secret watch, the dial is hidden behind emerald-adorned motifs, using the delicate Mystery Set technique. The bracelet is composed of yellow gold hexagons with star-set emeralds. The signature Mystery Set requires high precision and skill. This technique makes use of golden rails to hold up precious gems, carefully paired for colour and cut, lending the surface a velvety brilliance.
Magic and Mastery: The À Cheval Collection
Van Cleef & Arpels' high jewellery watches embody high craftsmanship, as seen in the new À Cheval collection, showcased at Watches and Wonders 2023. This collection is all about the enchanting beauty of diamonds and coloured gems through flexible mountings, highlighting each stone's splendour. Two watches join the collection in fresh, vibrant hues: the first features a diamond-paved dial and a blue sapphire bracelet while the second displays varying tones of pink sapphires.
The gemstones take centre stage in the À Cheval High Jewelry collection, wherein platinum only accentuates them. A gem-setting technique in staggered rows creates a captivating interplay of volume and sparkle, giving the impression of gems held in place, as if by magic. Van Cleef & Arpels' commitment to excellence is evident in its strict selection standards, grading diamonds D to F for colour and IF to VVS for clarity, and carefully curating coloured gemstones for a harmonious ensemble.
Enchanted Hours: The Lady Féerie or Rose Watch
Since the 1940s, Van Cleef & Arpels has celebrated fairies through their exquisite creations. The Maison's latest offering at the Watches and Wonders 2023, the Lady Féerie watch, has been reimagined with a palette of delicate pinks. This Poetic Complication timepiece combines the artistry of watchmaking with traditional crafts, all contained within a petite 33 mm case.
A dreamy tableau unfolds, with a fairy using her wand to mark the passing of time against the backdrop of a soft, dusk-y light. Perched serenely on a cloud of iridescent mother-of-pearl, the fairy is resplendent in a gown, adorned with diamonds, pink sapphires and miniature paintings on gold. Her wings are dusted with a powdery gradient, the effect achieved by combining translucent pink plique-à-jour enamel with opaque pink enamel. This is further adorned with meticulously set diamonds that produce impressive interplay of light and transparency.
The fairy's diamond-covered face is mounted on to the watch and she elegantly indicates the minutes with her wand. Meanwhile, a window, made of mother-of-pearl, displays the setting sun, from pearly white to deep plum, with a delicate gold and an intense fuchsia. On the watch's underside, an oscillating weight reveals a breathtaking night sky motif featuring a full moon and a constellation of stars skillfully engraved. The sapphire glass enclosing this intricate design is further adorned with enamelled clouds, creating a subtle shimmer.
The Lady Féerie or the Rose watch has a self-winding mechanism, jumping hours and retrograde minutes. The curved sapphire glass of the watch adds to the elegance, not only accommodating the three-dimensional fairy but also optimising the entry of light, which contributes to the watch's overall profile.
Van Cleef & Arpels is also known for its exquisite Extraordinary Objects and automatons that use precious materials and mechanical movements to create enchanting moments.
This year, the Planétarium collection pays tribute to the universe with Poetic Astronomy, showcasing a new 50 cm high Planétarium automaton that displays the sun and moving planets.
The Maison has also presented two Nature-inspired automata: Floraison du Nénuphar and Éveil du Cyclamen, which showcase the opening of a flower and a butterfly takeoff, both with specially composed music. The objects are adorned with precious materials, such as white gold, diamonds, turquoise and enamel. The bases are made of marble, shattuckite, green aventurine and purple jade, with airbrushed lacquer and a rotating ring that tells the hours.
Indeed, the collections showcased by Van Cleef & Arpels at the Watches and Wonders 2023 are a sight to behold. Impeccable craftsmanship, rare skills and motion unite to enchant the passing hours.