Maestro Maison: Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils a Visual Symphony at Watches & Wonders 2023
Fanciful fairies, fluted dials, and time that hides in the most elegant place make for three remarkable novelties unveiled this year in Geneva.
There likely is no booth in the Palexpo convention center (the home of Watches & Wonders) that is more photographed than the one occupied by the French luxury brand Van Cleef & Arpels.
To even call it “booth” feels borderline crass. It is, if anything, an experience, one which takes the visitor on a journey that aims to please the majority of the senses and spark so much more than joy.
The Symphony Begins
As one peeks in from the outside, the space resembles a fairy tale forest laden with elaborate “trees” of green and blue glass beads. The best way to describe it would probably be Oz-like: fantastical and beautiful yet containing secrets only those lucky enough to go behind the curtain will get to see. But it is behind this curtain that the real magic happens.
It is here where time – to be cliche – stands still and where the creativity and artwork of the brand’s creations dance slowly but purposefully in perfect harmony, very much like a symphony. And if you know anything about symphonies, you know, usually, there are at least three distinct “parts” that take the listener on an emotional journey. And in the music world, these “parts,” funnily enough, are called “movements.”
Once viewed in the context of symphonic structure, it is easy to see what Van Cleef & Arpels was thinking with three of its Watches & Wonders 2023 releases.
Allegro Movement: The Ludo Secret Watch
The first movement of a symphony usually has a fast tempo to get the heart racing. And as with a symphony, the latest Ludo Secret watches in 18K rose gold and mother-of-pearl with either white diamonds (featured here) or pink sapphires do exactly that.
The dial (and thus the time) is – as the watch’s name suggests – kept a secret, only to be revealed when the wearer pushes together each side of the watch’s gem-set “belt buckles.” As a result, the Ludo Secret watch can get easily mistaken for just a piece of jewelry (although, let’s face it, nothing Van Cleef & Arpels creates could be considered “just a piece of jewelry”).
The bracelet’s brick-road appearance (there’s that Oz reference again!) is intricate, yet its feel is comfortably flexible. Of course, the finishing is also masterful, with the high-polished rose gold looking and feeling like silk.
Available now, the Ludo Secret watch featuring white diamonds retails for $154,000, while the pink sapphire version sells for $143,000.
Adagio Movement: The Perlée Collection
Van Cleef & Arpels entered its second movement with five new pieces in its Perlée collection. By marrying “gentle curves with subtle details” (to use the brand’s own words), we have no doubt these new members of the collection bring us to the Adagio (soft/slow) stage of VCA’s visual symphony.
Four of the five novelties released at Watches & Wonders 2023 have cases measuring 23mm in diameter; however, the fifth (featured here) has a 30mm case.
Each case is bordered with a double row of polished in either 18K rose or 18K white gold beads (the word “perlée” refers to “pearls,” after all). Meanwhile, the dials for the most recent additions to this collection are decorated with pavé-set diamonds or fluted guilloché in either 18K rose gold or mother-of-pearl.
Available now, there are five versions of the new Perlée. First, the 23mm version with an 18K rose gold case and mother-of-pearl dial on a mink gray alligator strap sells for $8,500. Second, the 23mm version with an 18K rose gold case and dial on a red alligator strap costs $9,800.
Third, the 23mm version with an 18K rose gold case and mother-of-pearl dial on an 18K rose gold bracelet sells for $29,800. Fourth, the 23mm version with an 18K white gold case and pave-set diamond dial on a blue alligator strap costs $33,400.
Finally, the fifth version features a 30mm 18K case, mother-of-pearl dial, and burgundy alligator strap and costs $11,400.
Minuet Movement: The Lady Féerie Or Rose
A symphony’s third movement, often considered its “playful” part, consists of the minuet. A minuet is a dance with French roots, so associating it with the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Féerie Or Rose is more than appropriate (and we think it’s downright groovy).
Adding to the Poetic Complication collection’s already highly respected Lady Féerie family, the Lady Féerie Or Rose offers the same self-winding mechanism, jumping hours, and retrograde minute display as its predecessors, but this newest piece offers an overall aesthetic that feels quite different.
First, the playful fairy’s gossamer wings are rendered using translucent pink plique-à-jour enamel and opaque pink enamel and traced with white diamonds. Next, the fairy’s face is a single white diamond surrounded by miniature pink sapphires, and her wand points to the minutes while the setting sun represents the passing of the hours.
And if that weren’t enough to be considered the most beautiful of dances, the oscillating weight, visible through the caseback, is engraved with the night sky and a full moon sprinkled with stars. The rose gold timepiece measures 33mm in diameter and is accompanied by a beautifully deep plum-colored strap.
Final Movement: The End (For Now)
While Van Cleef & Arpel’s visual symphony may be over for the time being, fans of the brand eagerly await its next. The brand managed to turn our eyes to ears with its novelties this year, and we are grateful for this maestro of a maison.
For more information about the brand’s Watches & Wonders novelties, visit the Van Cleef & Arpels website.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)