Van Cleef & Arpels knows how to win a woman’s heart. The high jeweller and luxury watchmaker has a special talent for creating timepieces that women love to wear.
“Our Poetic Complications start with stories, concepts and projects that are very often feminine and almost always narrative,” says Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “We then try to use the complications of fine watchmaking to serve these stories. While some of our fellow watchmakers start with the movement and functionality and then aesthetics, we do it the other way round.”
The exceptional timepiece is a new iteration of the maison’s Midnight Planetarium piece, reimagined for female connoisseurs and collectors. The original watch, unveiled four years ago, comes with a 44mm diameter case, while the women’s version adopts the classic Lady Arpels case, which stands at 38mm in diameter.
The stars are aligned for the timepiece, which adopts an unconventional watch design. The dial depicts the sun and some of the planets, including Mercury, Venus and Earth – and its natural satellite, the moon – which all move at speeds reflecting the motions of the actual planets. Mercury orbits the sun on the dial in 88 days; Venus does it in 224 days; Earth takes 365 days; and the moon rotates round Earth in 29.5 days.
“We don’t simply shrink men’s watches to create women’s watches,” says Bos. “It’s a completely new movement compared to the men’s version.”
Major changes in the design and complication have been made for the women’s watch compared to the men’s version, created in collaboration with Christiaan Van der Klaauw, who designed the mechanical module exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels.
“Every piece is like a different adventure with a different team and collaborators; it’s very exciting,” Bos says. “Each time we learn from those projects and one project leads to another.”
The original 24-hour time system is swapped for a 12-hour system for the women’s watch; and while the men’s version also features Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the women’s version has removed these three planets in favour of the moon.
“We wanted to keep the same size of the planets so they will be substantial enough even on a smaller dial – and thus, the fewer planets,” Bos says. “We wanted to develop it with an additional complication, so you have the rotation of the planets around the sun and the moon around the earth, which is also a rotation faster than the others. It [is] also more playful as you can really see it move on a daily basis.”
The decorative watch truly is art for your wrist. Its blue aventurine dial depicts a beautiful scene of the star-studded sky. There are clever coloured stone combinations for each of the orbs: the sun is rendered in pink gold, Mercury in pink mother-of-pearl, Venus in green enamel, Earth in turquoise, and the moon in diamond. The romantic shooting star showing the time is sculpted in rhodium-plated gold.
Hidden from first glance – visible only through the crystal sapphire glass on the caseback – is an oscillating weight depicting the moon rendered in a turquoise circle, and a diamond studded crescent – achieved using the serti neige technique.
The timepiece, available in a 38mm diameter white gold case set with diamonds, boasts a 40-hour power reserve.
The Midnight Zodiac Lumineux is another series referencing astronomical wonders that was unveiled at this year’s SIHH. The watch features a light-on-demand module that illuminates the stars on the dial. Twelve pieces featuring the 12 signs of the Western Zodiac have been created for the series.
The technology behind the 2016 Midnight Nuit Lumineusehas been adapted to illuminate the Zodiac dials. The exclusively designed module features a ceramic blade which generates electrical energy to supply the LEDs on the dial. Crafted in white gold, the self-winding 42mm diameter watch comes with a 40-hour power reserve.
Van Cleef & Arpels also demonstrates its high jewellery know-how in a series of unique timepieces. The Myosotis watch, for example, features an explosion of colours. The 12mm diameter dial encrusted with white gold features round blue sapphires, while its bracelet – rendered in white, yellow and pink gold – features multi-coloured sapphires in blue, yellow and pink to mimic a bouquet of wild flowers.
Another unique piece is the Chrysanthème Secret watch. A 10mm-diameter dial is concealed by a pink gold cover embellished with diamonds and pink sapphires. The flower is depicted in high jewellery form with precious stones set to create a subtle gradation of colours.