SIHH 2012 Tuesday, January 24th 2012
Equally exceptional, the two Poetic Wish timepieces are outstanding for both their movement and decoration. These striking watches repeat the hours and five-minute increments, while three automata bring time to life in a "poetic animation."
Lady Arpels Poetic Wish timepiece © Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels again lives up to its reputation as a watchmaker for whom time invariably coincides with beauty and pleasure. Over the past five years, with its Temps Poétique collection, the Parisian firm has given us timepieces which demonstrate a command of complications together with unparalleled mastery of the metiers d'art. After Lady Arpels Féerie with retrograde movement, unveiled in 2007, came Une Journée à Paris, followed by the much vaunted Pont des Amoureux in 2010. This year, Van Cleef & Arpels brought two new treasures to the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie: Lady Arpels Poetic Wish and Midnight Poetic Wish. Both raise the bar higher still, not least thanks to the expertise of Agenhor and its founder, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, for the movement, and Olivier Vaucher for the decoration. A horological revolution, in the words of Stanislas de Quercize, Chairman and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels.
Poetry in motion
The two Poetic Wish timepieces are brought to life by three automata which display time as a "poetic animation" while striking the hour and five-minute increments. Five patents have been filed for these repeater movements. The mechanism is triggered on demand by a crown at 2 o'clock. A figure appears from the left of the dial and moves slowly towards the centre to its position on the hour. A second automaton, this time a mother-of-pearl cloud, follows the same horizontal movement but in reverse. Once both have come to a stop, the bells of Notre-Dame Cathedral ring out to sound the hour. A kite - for the Lady Arpels Poetic Wish - and a shooting star - for the Midnight Poetic Wish - appear from behind the cloud. As they float away, the minutes are chimed on a different note. "Just time to make a wish before the three automata return to their initial position," says Van Cleef & Arpels.
Both watches are driven by a mechanical movement beating at 21,600 vibrations/hour and with a 60-hour power reserve. The gongs and hammers are accommodated in a "hole" in the centre of the movement. The Lady Arpels Poetic Wish is decorated with an Eiffel Tower in white gold, from where the figure of a young woman appears, and mother-of-pearl clouds against a changing sky that cast their shadow on the Seine, with Notre-Dame in the distance. The Midnight Poetic Wish shows a young man high in the cathedral's towers. Beneath him, the stained glass windows are ablaze in the evening light. On the horizon, the Eiffel Tower is lit by the moon. Sculpture and engraving on gold, miniature painting, sculpture on mother-of-pearl and stone-setting… these métiers d'art come together to transform timekeeping into a poem.
Homage to Pierre Arpels
In a similar vein, Van Cleef & Arpels pays tribute to legendary balls, to wit the Winter Palace Ball in Saint Petersburg in 1903, the Century Ball in Venice in 1951, the Black & White Ball in New York in 1966, and the Proust Ball in Ferrières in 1971. Each of these timepieces exhibits a 24-hour "Poetic Complication" which sets the passing of time to the rhythm of the figures that dance around the dial. The decoration bears the hallmark of enamel artist and miniature painter Dominique Baron. "The métiers d'art, which we also illustrate this year with our extraordinary dials, are a legacy from the past which today stand for innovation, daring, emotion and creativity," Stanislas de Quercize explains. "Van Cleef & Arpels has fully embraced this form of expression in its watchmaking."
Another of the watches which Van Cleef & Arpels presented this year is an interpretation of the Pierre Arpels watch, created for Pierre Arpels (1919-1980) in 1947 and launched in 1971 as the PA49. The defining line of this classic timepiece is unchanged, testified by the sober round case of the 2012 version which houses a Piaget 830 P movement. Clearly Van Cleef & Arpels is well armed for the coming twelve months. "Last year was a highly positive year for our company, which remained true to its vocation of creativity and sharing. We intend that our creations should bring meaning and values. We set out to convey a positive vision of a world where attention to detail is vital. Sharing comes with the founding of our jewellery school, which is open to everyone, and through exhibitions. A record 278,000 people saw the exhibition at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt last year. This year we are staging exhibitions at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art in May and at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris from September. We must defend these values. Think back to the auction, in December 2011, of Elizabeth Taylor's jewels. Eighty lots came under the hammer, of which 46 were by Van Cleef & Arpels. They realised USD 116 million (EUR 89 million / CHF 107.5 million) after pre-sale estimates of USD 20 million (EUR 15.5 million / CHF 18.5 million). There is every reason to believe that these values convey meaning." ■