Sometimes, a fruit tree can take on a two-year cycle, cropping heavily one year and lightly the next. Perhaps the same is true for some watch brands. After the exceptional Midnight Planétarium last year, this year Van Cleef & Arpels focused on Cadenas, the bracelet with a small quartz watch, a few one-off high jewellery pieces, and a few Poetic Complication watches with revolving dial.
The one-off pieces were spectacular. The Carp Koï watch bracelet is in yellow gold set with 8,000 stones, diamonds, spessartite garnets, yellow sapphires, Paraíba-like tourmalines and black spinels, with a small quartz movement. The watch dial in the mouth is revealed by a light pressure somewhere on the fish’s head. Only one will be made – a lot of Van Cleef & Arpels’ business is about making one-off pieces, the sort of things that eventually end up in auction rooms making even more than the purchase price and showing that this sort of jewellery can be an investment as well as a pleasure.
A similar piece was the Abstraction watch and separable bracelet, in three parts that are held together magnetically and that continue the Van Cleef & Arpels tradition of transformable jewellery pieces. The first has a rare 12.03 carat diamond at the centre, the second a portrait-cut diamond under which there is a dial powered by a small quartz movement, and the third has an 11-carat emerald-cut diamond. These large stones are surrounded by smaller diamonds bordered with black spinels. The piece was inspired by the Abstraction ring, part of the Bals de Legende collection recalling a ball thrown by Truman Capote in 1966, the Black and White Ball. Again, just one will be made. Like Paganini, Van Cleef & Arpels “does not repeat,” and so customers who would like another Abstraction watch or Carp Koï can only commission something similar.
The Poetic Complication watches launched at SIHH this year have a very simple complication, a rotating pictorial dial with a period of 24 hours, so that the watch always looks different. There are two scenes, one with a ladybird (Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Coccinelle), and one with a bird of paradise (Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Oiseau de Paradis). They are numbered but not limited, with a 38 mm dial.
The most numerous part of the new SIHH watches for 2015 is the Enchanted Nature series, Charms watches which have a bangle attached to the case. They are made in three versions, small (25 mm), medium (32 mm) and large (38 mm), and they are have designs on three subjects linked to the language of flowers. For example, Espérance features buttercups (which means beauty), daffodils (true love’s desire) and chickweed (meeting) and so the overall feel is that of the first meeting. Then there is Désir (lilac for young love, crocus for happiness), and Amour (wallflower for beauty, forget-me-not whose name explains its meaning, and cyclamen for fidelity). Each has charms of corresponding colour; the dials are set with gems and painted in enamel on sculpted mother-of-pearl. These are numbered but not limited editions.
And what of the marvellous complications for which Midnight Planétarium whetted our appetites in 2014? According to the grapevine, there are some great things coming, but we have to wait until next year at least. This year Van Cleef & Arpels seemed to want to underline their status as a fine jewellery maison. Here are a few more photos of their stone-studded creations.