Romancing The Stone: Van Cleef & Arpels Continues Its Love Affair With New Poetic Timepieces
Love is in the air, and on the wrist, with the new feminine watches in the Pont des Amoureux and Charms collections.
Van Cleef & Arpels was formed in 1906 as a result of love, so it's natural that the brand imbues a romantic theme in their timepieces and jewelry. When Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a precious stones dealer, married Alfred Van Cleef, a son of a stone-cutter, it was a match made in jewelry heaven. They set up business in Paris’ Place Vendôme and have been there ever since. It’s no coincidence that Van Cleef’s first recorded piece of jewelry was a heart-shaped diamond necklace.
Van Cleef is known for its poetry and romance and expresses these two sentiments in its timepieces to great effect. They’ve created many movements over the years with so-called 'poetic' complications, ranging from watches that depict the four seasons with a dial that makes a full rotation in a year, to watches that replicate the movement of the planets. A clear favorite among the poetic complications is the Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux timepieces.
The Pont des Amoureux Collection
The Pont des Amoureux (bridge of lovers) watches display two lovers slowly advancing towards each other over a 12-hour period under the cloak of darkness. At exactly 12 noon and again at midnight, the couple meet at the middle of the bridge, steal a kiss, then quickly retreat. How does this work? The time display is retrograde, both in hours and minutes. The man, holding a single rose behind his back, moves along the minute display, while the woman measures the hours in a slow progression to the bridge’s peak.
The New Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Jour Watch
What’s new this year is a rose gold watch with a daytime (jour) scene on the dial. While in previous versions the lovers met twice a day against an evening backdrop, they now kiss in broad daylight. The watch's dial is exquisitely decorated with vibrant pastels and the lovers are carved of rose gold.
But that’s not all - the watch is equipped with a pusher that activates the kiss at any time of the day or night. The new nighttime watch also has this complication, and both versions come with two interchangeable straps (an interchangeable diamond bracelet is also available). “As finishing touches, a star of gold flakes twinkles in the sky on the nocturnal version,” according to the brand, while “two graceful swallows - depicted in miniature painting - fly over the city in the daytime one.”
The new watches measure 38 mm across and feature self-winding mechanical movements with retrograde minutes and hours. The on-demand animation module added this year in both the white gold and rose gold pieces was developed exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels. The movement has a full 36 hours of power reserve, but it doesn’t stop there. The back of the watch is also highly decorated, serving to emphasize the femininity and romantic nature of this collection. Carved gold depicting the bridge scene from a different angle decorates the off-center rotor. The new individually numbered watches with alligator straps are priced at $119,000. Adding a fully diamond set 18 gold bracelet version costs $198,000.
New Extraordinary Dials Charms Extraordinaire Watches
Not to be outdone these superstar watches, the new Charms series has a dial appeal all its own. Part of the Extraordinary Dials collection, the new pieces feature champlevé enamel and miniature painting on their dials. The watches come in three sizes - 25mm, 32mm, and 38mm, all individually numbered.
Pictured in this article is the Charms Romance Parisienne Rencontre watch in 18 karat rose gold. The lovers are pictured on the Pont des Arts above the Seine river that winds its way through Paris. The watch's dial is decorated with richly-colored champlevé enamel and miniature painting. The dial “is illuminated by a spessartite garnet sun,” according to the brand, and “on the bezel, a gradation of pink sapphires highlights the gentleness of the scene.”
Good Luck Charm
What’s the charm all about? It brings the wearer good luck, Van Cleef says. Besides imparting good fortune, the charm also rotates around the watch’s case in either direction, allowing the owner to set it to any time of the day that's lucky for her, or an important time to remember. It's also a fun thing to fidget with during a prolonged office meeting. The Parisienne Rencontre’s charm is crafted of rose gold with pink sapphires and diamonds.
The watch comes with two interchangeable straps - one white and one fuschia alligator. They’re easy to change out with a pin buckle on the back of the strap. A quartz movement powers the Parisienne Rencontre, and each watch is individually numbered. The mini-sized watch pictured here is priced at $53,000.
A Charmed Life
“A blend of inventiveness and fantasy, the Maison’s creations interpret the measurement of time as an invitation to imagine, wonder and revel in happiness,” the brand says. There’s nothing wrong with that.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)