Shhh! It's top secret

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2006, 12:00am

This year, Van Cleef & Arpels celebrates 100 years of glamour and excellence. With its unique combination of femininity and grace, the company whose name is entwined with the world of exceptional gems, continues to create sumptuous pieces of fine jewellery and watches, many with hidden secrets.

To mark its centenary, Van Cleef & Arpels has created an exceptional watch that required expertise in many different fields. Called the Lady Arpels Centenary, it represents the summit of glamour and watchmaking excellence. It has a round 36mm case in white gold, with central strap attachments designed by Pierre Arpels in 1949. The case and attachments are entirely set with brilliant-cut diamonds of the highest quality.

The magic and mystery of this watch lie in the top part of the dial which represents the four seasons. The dial comprises two sections; the lower part is natural white mother-of-pearl - a material often used by the company - representing clouds. The top of the dial is an enamelled disc that has been hand-painted by one of the last hand-enamellers in Geneva.

More than 50 hours are required for the painstaking work of painting on it an extraordinary garden scene with an evolving representation of autumn, spring, summer and winter. It is an ode to nature, one of the most predominant themes in the creative world of the firm. The scene also features the company's most celebrated themes, flowers and leaves, butterflies and dragonflies, and snow crystals.

The mechanical movement contains an exclusive complication developed for the company which rotates the seasons disc, almost imperceptibly, once a year.

The calendar is adjusted by a crown concealed on the back of the watch.

Van Cleef & Arpels has also introduced a new collection called Lady Arpels Dentelle. Inspired by the world of haute couture, these watches have dials with diamond lace, or 'dentelle' decoration, offset by a black lacquer background.

A special model called Secret Dentelle is a new version of the Secret watch, introduced last year, which is a high-fashion watch and a unique piece of jewellery that keeps time hidden like a secret.

It is fashioned from gold and decorated with brilliant-cut diamonds, and two raised sections are set with two rows of Princess-cut diamonds.

A close look at the right hand side of this objet reveals a hidden drawer containing a watch. A gentle pull on the handle pulls out the drawer to show the time.

One of the firm's most popular design themes is the lucky four-leaf clover. Created in the 1970s and called Alhambra, this flower design has inspired bracelets, necklaces, rings and earrings.

There are now two Alhambra watches, both faithful to the collections that inspired them. The new Alhambra watch on an 18-carat white or yellow gold bracelet has natural mother-of-pearl inlays.

A new man's watch has been created to commemorate the centenary - Monsieur Arpels. In 1949, Pierre Arpels, son of one of the company's founders, designed a watch with exceptionally pure geometric lines and it became an instant classic. This popular design provided the inspiration for the exclusive new Monsieur Arpels line of elegant timepieces for men that was introduced in 2004.

This year, one of the most interesting new models is called Monsieur Arpels Laterale. In keeping with the theme of secrecy, it enables the wearer to hide a secret up his sleeve. It has a lateral power reserve display only visible through an oblong window on the left edge of the pink gold or stainless steel case.