Van Cleef & Arpels is putting its Cadenas watch in the spotlight at Watches&Wonders. With the impressive billing of “A Jewel that Tells the Time”, Cadenas is a name well-known to followers of the maison. It was created in 1935, is associated with the duchess of Windsor, and has an iconic padlock-like attachment.
“Our history is a great source of inspiration,” says Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, “and Cadenas is indeed one of the signature designs of this heritage.
Unique, bold and avant-garde, its lines have not changed since the 1930s.“This year, we have decided to reintroduce this icon with slight changes on the clasp and dial. It will definitely be one of the highlights of Watches&Wonders 2015. We will also host a patrimonial exhibition to highlight the importance of the Cadenas in the maison’s history as well as the creative environment in which it was born.”
The design of Cadenas was avant-garde in 1935, and it is just as contemporary now, with its pure lines and jewellery ethos. The collection at Watches&Wonders has some changes from the original. In 1935, the Cadenas was worn like jewellery, with its time function as discreet as possible, in line with contemporary mores; the 2015 version has an enlarged dial and 12 hour markers. The construction of the clasp has been altered to make it more secure. And, most thrilling to jewellery lovers, there are also diamond versions.
There are nine models in the collection, all with quartz movements, and all instantly recognisable as a Cadenas. The original bracelet was in the form of a double snake chain, and it is still used, with the option of an alligator strap.
The Cadenas Sertie, in yellow or white gold with a mother-of-pearl dial, is distinctive for its misting of white diamonds in a serti neige, or snow setting, over the top of the case and the attachment of the alligator strap. The Bracelet Or version has the double snake chain bracelet.
Another new model is the Cadenas Pavée, in white or pink gold. Princess-cut diamonds and brilliant-cut diamonds adorn the white gold model, while pink sapphires and diamonds bejewel the pink gold version. For Bos and his team, there is a lot more going on at Van Cleef & Arpels. “For Watches&Wonders 2015, the maison wants to highlight Cadenas, but also present the uniqueness of the maison’s approach to métiers d’art – the choice and combination of crafts to tell stories.
“We will reveal for the first time two stories around the theme of ‘Enchanting Nature’: the Oiseaux Enchantés, with a combination of hard stone marquetry, and for the first time miniature feather art, as well as the Peau d’Ane dials. Inspired by the High Jewellery collection, these bejewelled dials display great volume and convey all the enchantment of the Peau d’Ane fairy tale.”
The craft skills of Van Cleef & Arpels are legendary and shown to perfection in nine models, four of which will be seen for the first time at Watches&Wonders.
The maison enlisted Nelly Saunier, a renowned artist who creates miniature marvels in feathers, to add detail to its Extraordinary Dials collection. Three limited editions of 22 timepieces in Oiseaux Enchantés Extraordinary Dials also highlight hard stone marquetry. The birds are interpreted in actual feathers which Saunier has prepared, shaped and positioned for a three-dimensional effect. The birds are depicted against landscapes of jade, turquoise or lapis lazuli, and the dial story is continued in bird engravings on the back of the 38mm case.
The Lady Arpels Cardinal Carmin, in yellow gold, contrasts crimson feathers with jade, variscite and blood jasper against a blue sky of larimar, with a diamond-set river flowing beneath. An indigo hummingbird is the subject of the Lady Arpels Colibri Indigo in pink gold. Lavender jade, lepidolite and variscite are the background for a diamond flower. In white gold, the Lady Arpels Martin-Pêcheur Azur is astudy in blue, with a kingfisher flying over a turquoise and lapis lazuli sea, with waves indicated by lines of diamonds.
Devotees know Van Cleef & Arpels has a collection of high jewellery based on the Charles Perrault fairy tale Peau d’Âne. It adds a unique watch with a marvellous gem-set dial, Lady Arpels Peau d’Âne Forêt Enchantée. It depicts the story’s princess finding refuge in the forest at night, with animals and a glowing cottage, a scene which took 150 hours to create and which combines sculpture and engraving on gold, miniature painting, and gem-setting on six levels. The forest is made of emeralds and tsavorite garnets, while spessartite garnets adorn robins, and diamonds and sapphires create a river. The lighted cottage window is a yellow sapphire.
Two watches have been added to the Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Poetic Complications range. Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Coccinelles has a ladybird and four-leaf clovers revealed by day through a disc of cloisonné enamel; at night delicate flowers are revealed. Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Oiseaux de Paradis shows a bird of paradise with flowers by day, and with a diamond moon by night. Both 38mm watches reveal the oscillating weight through awindow on the caseback, which is engraved with a miniature painting.
ÀCheval is a high-jewellery watch in white diamonds, with stones set in white gold and on the bracelet in platinum, in staggered rows and in relief. Attachments are in the shape of horseshoes in this 20mm, quartz-powered piece. The brand also offers its Charms Extraordinaire Langage des Fleurs, with the lucky charm at the wrist. This year, there is a floral motif with bouquets of flowers on the dial – buttercups, daffodils, crocuses, lilacs, wallflowers and forget-me-nots – each chosen for its symbolic meaning. The mother-of-pearl dials have miniature paintings. Three models in different sizes and in different coloured gold are presented in limited editions: Charms Extraordinaire Espérance, 25mm in yellow gold; Charms Extraordinaire Désir, 32mm in white gold; and Charms Extraordinaire Amour, 38mm in pink gold.
“As a high jeweller, we are a very feminine maison,” Bos says. “So it is natural for us to focus on feminine watches. However, we have introduced lately some unique creations for men such as the Pierre Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs, an elegant dual time with retrograde minutes, or the Midnight Planétarium, a poetic representation of the universe.”
Bos has no doubt that luxury watches are firmly entrenched in the upmarket consumer psyche. “Today, wearing a watch is a statement, as everyone can read the time on their smartphone. It is about a certain approach of how you spend and value your time and life. And this is not fashion – it is more of a lifestyle.”