You couldn’t exactly call them a popular theme in watches, but there have been several watches on a butterfly theme this year. Butterflies have all sorts of symbolic meanings, such as their short life which contrasts with the sense of eternity provided by a watch (Rabindranath Tagore , “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough”), the concept of transformation (Lao-tze, “What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly), and their beauty (Philip Pullman, “Butterflies are self-propelled flowers”). Here are five butterfly watches, three from this year and two from previous seasons.
1. Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate
This is an impressive achievement. Van Cleef & Arpels wanted to have a large butterfly flapping its wings realistically, and so they put all the movement on one side of the case to enable the butterfly to have as much of the thickness of the watch as possible. The butterfly flaps its wings occasionally, and the frequency and duration of the wing-flaps depends on how fast the oscillating weight is moving, and this depends on how active you are. So you could say that, in our age of wearable technology, this is the very first entirely mechanical activity tracker. Even if you just leave the watch on the table, it flaps its wings 19 times per hour, each time from one to four times. It’s this irregularity and spontaneity that makes it such an unusual watch. The engineering skill is matched by the beauty of craftsmanship, in which the scene of a pool with aquatic plants is recreated in gems, gold and enamel, including the plique-à-jour technique in which the enamel forms a curved three-dimensional surface in mid-air. Price about $290,000. Read more here.
2. Jaquet Droz Loving Butterfly Automaton
While the Van Cleef & Arpels butterfly expresses lightness and evanescence, Jaquet Droz’s animation is entirely in gold on the backdrop of a black or mother-of-pearl dial, and so the effect is either cold and opulent or cold and frosty. The designers found space in which the butterfly could flap its wings by means of an optical illusion, so that one wing flaps conventionally and the other moves backwards and forwards. The same sort of optical effect is used on the wheels of the chariot. The animation is started by pressing the pusher in the crown, and it continues at about 2.5 flaps per second for a period of about 2 minutes (or until the pusher is pressed again), after which you have to rewind the mainspring that powers the butterfly. Price 120,000 Swiss francs plus tax. Read more here.
3. Bovet 1822 Château de Môtiers 40 Papillon
The Château de Môtiers 40 Papillon by Bovet 1822 is a watch with a mother-of-pearl dial painted with a butterfly motif. The unusual feature is that it is painted with both conventional colour and luminescent paint, so that it takes on new life in the dark. Inside, the self-winding calibre 11BA15 runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hertz), and provides 42 hours power reserve, driving hour and minute hands. The Bovet 1822 Papillon watch costs $49,000. Read more here.
4. Omega De Ville Prestige Butterfly
The De Ville Prestige Butterfly, presented in 2014, has three dial designs, one in a silver or champagne metallic dial, and two with mother of pearl. All three have butterflies as the main decorative motif, and diamonds for indices and around the bezel. Cases are in white, red or yellow gold, in three sizes, 36.8, 32.7 mm and 27.4 mm. The straps are in white satin-brushed leather, or metal bracelets for the smaller sizes. The watches are powered by a quartz movement, or by the Omega 2500 co-axial escapement. Prices range from €2,700 for the 27.4 mm version in steel with quartz movement, to €28,400 for the 32.7 mm version in yellow gold, with gold bracelet and co-axial mechanical movement. Read more here.
5. Harry Winston Premier Precious Butterfly Automatic 36mm
The four watches above are a tribute to butterflies: Harry Winston puts real butterflies on the dial. The Premier Butterfly series is a development of Premier Feathers, except that instead of feathers, the wings of Chrysiridia Madagascariensis (in the photo below), or Adelpha Lara, or Agrias claudina lugens, are used as decorative materials. The version shown in the photo has a white gold case, a bezel set with 74 brilliant cut diamonds, black satin strap, and white gold buckle set with 17 diamonds. The name Harry Winston is set on the inside of the watchglass. Prices start at 42,000 Swiss francs. Read more here.