Watches & Wonders 2013

Pure Poetry

Collections chronicle the brand's history of haute watchmaking, with creations that marry time with mythical storytelling, writesElizabeth Turner

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 5:18pm

Watches&Wonders is an important acknowledgement of the Asian market, and with its strong customer focus, the fair is an opportunity for watchmakers to reach a broad audience.

Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, says as the event will focus on watchmaking and the heritage of watchmakers, it is an opportunity to introduce the Asian audience to the brand's values, history and creativity, and to connect with consumers who have a large appetite for information about the craft.

"Asia is without any doubt a very active market. What is interesting is also the qualitative aspect of it," Bos says.

"There are a lot of watch lovers in Asia who are truly experts, always seeking more knowledge on the stories, the métiers d'art and the movements," Bos says.

"Watches&Wonders finds a unique echo in our maison, as it means sharing our knowledge and establishing, or nourishing strong, long-lasting relationships with our clients and partners in Asia, two core values of the maison."

Since its founding in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has set the tone with timepieces characterised by a distinctive style, led by the founders' desire for watches that discover a fresh way of viewing time.

The watchmaker will direct much of the attention to its Poetry of Time concept and the collections it inspires. These collections chronicle the brand's history of haute watchmaking with creations that marry time with mythical storytelling. Complex complications play with the aesthetic passage of time, combining traditional artisanal crafts such as enamelling, engraving and lapidary. "The way our pieces come to life is unique, because the story and the creation always come first and challenge the techniques, be it the métiers d'art or the watchmaking expertise," Bos says.

"Each of our pieces tells a story about the maison, its positive vision of life … a story that enables you to see time going by through emotion and not just through metric values such as minutes and hours."

The Poetic Complications Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux epitomises this philosophy, and the watch has become iconic in the Van Cleef & Arpels catalogue since its launch three years ago.

A retrograde movement animates two lovers on the Pont des Arts bridge, crossing the River Seine in Paris, famous for the messages of love memorialised in thousands of padlocks.

On the dial, two lovers meet with a kiss at noon and midnight, with the woman counting the hours and the man counting the minutes until each rendezvous.

"It is a story that can touch everyone," Bos says. "We focus on telling stories about universal themes of inspiration of the maison, because we believe this is what clients are looking for: sincere, authentic stories and creations rooted in a rich heritage."

Van Cleef & Arpels will debut a new addition to the Poetic Complications series at Watches&Wonders, and it could appeal to Asian collectors with an interest in kites.

Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Cerf-Volant contains the same self-winding movement featured on the original Lady Arpels Jour Nuit, with a 24-hour rotating disc alternating the cycle of the sun and the moon. This story is also of a couple, etched on a white mother-of-pearl marquetry dial frozen in the act of kite-flying by day and star-gazing lovers at night.

The retrograde launches a changing scene of kites across the dial until nightfall, when a diamond-studded starlit sky appears. The dial was created using a combination of techniques, including engraving to create the characters.

Butterflies are a recurring theme in Van Cleef & Arpels creations, and the Lady Arpels Cerf-Volant Extraordinary Dials collection sees them metamorphose into kites. The Extraordinary Dials series highlights the maison's sophisticated artisanal craftsmanship giving way to three-dimensional landscapes.

Each dial can take months to complete using hand-crafted skills. This latest collection on show at the fair contains four designs limited to 22 pieces each, and display typical Van Cleef & Arpels savoir-faire and finely tuned attention to detail.

A collective ballet of kite motifs flutter across the dials and are brought to life using a technique employed by the maison for the first time. Miniature paintings are hand-sculpted onto mother of pearl under a magnifying glass, using successive coats of paint until the desired colour is achieved.

Nature is a constant source of inspiration to Van Cleef & Arpels and highlighted again in a couture masterpiece to debut exclusively under the Watches&Wonders spotlight.

The maison's expertise in haute joaillerie shimmers in the Pavot Mysterieux high-jewellery timepiece, in which the dial hides behind a ruby poppy.

The rubies are set using a mystery setting technique applied by Van Cleef & Arpels more than 80 years ago.

Gems are individually set into gold rails that remain invisible in a process requiring hundreds of hours of handwork.

Snow-set diamonds and baguette-cut diamonds dance around the poppy to form the leaves and bracelet. Time is revealed by the touch of a petal that opens the heart of the flower.

Like every Pavot creation, the main piece - in this case the poppy - can be detached from the bracelet and worn as a clip.

Iconic pieces inspired by Van Cleef & Arpels' Poetry of Time will also be on display at Watches&Wonders, and novelties unveiled at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, earlier this year.

Bos says its Poetry of Time concept appealed to the changing desires of consumers where watch lovers look for the story and craftsmanship behind timepieces.

"Van Cleef & Arpels will just keep on doing what has been done since 1906 - telling beautiful stories through stunning crafts," Bos says.


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