A slim round case, its contour barely interrupted by a single crown. No lugs but two central attachments to the strap. A beautifully clean, deceptively simple dial. The Pierre Arpels collection is nothing if not the epitome of discretion and refinement, traits it shares with its namesake and creator. When in 1949 Pierre Arpels, nephew of Estelle Arpels, imagined a watch, he offered it to a select circle of close friends and family only. It wasn’t until 1967 that the Pierre Arpels watch officially joined the Van Cleef & Arpels collection.
Inspired by travel
Still with the same refinement and sober aesthetic, the Pierre Arpels watch is now the star of a collection whose variations share the same acute sense of elegance. The latest to date is the Pierre Arpels Heure d’ici & Heure d’ailleurs, presented in 2014 and another fitting tribute to its creator. Pierre Arpels was a man of exquisite taste with a flair for business, and it was business that took him all over the world as a representative of the family firm. This included twenty-four visits to Teheran over a period of six months in 1966, during which Pierre hand-selected the stones that would constitute the coronation jewels of Farah Pahlavi. Because the priceless gems could not be removed from the National Treasury, the Empress’s crown and necklace were made in situ, in the basement of the Iranian Central Bank. Around this same period, Pierre, with brother Claude, also travelled frequently to India in search of the finest precious stones.
Two time zones at a glance
And so the idea of extending the Pierre Arpels collection with a watch inspired by travel came naturally. Van Cleef & Arpels insisted that the dual-time display be easy to read but also unobtrusive, in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the collection. This was achieved thanks to two jumping hours combined with retrograde minutes for an impressively legible result. Local time (l’heure d’ici, literally “time here”) is read in an aperture at 11 o’clock. A second aperture, diagonally opposite at 5 o’clock, displays the second time zone (l’heure d’ailleurs, “time elsewhere”). These two indications simultaneously jump thanks to a “sector” that synchronises the two hour discs with the retrograde minute hand which, having climbed to 60 minutes, snaps back to its initial position.
Van Cleef & Arpels turned to Agenhor (Atelier Genevois d’Horlogerie) to devise this automatic movement. One of the biggest challenges, aside from developing the simultaneous complication, was to create a calibre that would fit inside the slim Pierre Arpels case. Agenhor resolved this with a bidirectional micro-rotor in platinum, with a lacquered blue decoration. It peeks through the sapphire back, which affords a view of the entire movement, the snailing on the bridges and the Van Cleef & Arpels hallmark. A fine example of the expertise that echoes the signature aesthetics “front of house”, with a lacquered dial whose central piqué motif suggests a gentleman’s dress shirt as well as the lozenge in the Van Cleef & Arpels hallmark. Both “here” and “elsewhere”, elegance and refinement prevail. Pierre Arpels would approve.
Pierre Arpels Heure d’ici & Heure d’ailleurs
Case: white gold
Movement: mechanical automatic, developed by Agenhor for Van Cleef & Arpels
Functions: double jumping hours, retrograde minutes
Dial: white lacquer with piqué motif
Strap: black alligator