It was a beautiful Wednesday night in Paris, the City of Love, and Van Cleef & Arpels was celebrating the unveiling of its newest collection of timepieces inspired by, and dedicated to, love stories. Born in Paris, Van Cleef & Arpels is unabashed in its communication about romance, beauty and poetry. The brand’s collections, such as its Poetry of Time series, underscore its commitment to offering a glimpse of passion, courtship and fantasy on the wrist. Now, it does so with an incredible array of new women’s watches.
Easily the highlight of the collection is the new Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux line of automaton watches. First introduced to the world almost a decade ago in 2010, the original Pont des Amoureux watch was all about a rendezvous between lovers who meet on a bridge (the name translates as “lovers’ bridge”) for a kiss under the moonlight. The two figures, sculpted in gold, moved across the bridge toward one another then returned to their respective ends thanks to a complex retrograde movement. The watch not only stole hearts, it also entranced lovers of complicated watches.
On-demand mechanism by Agenhor
Now, the brand takes that magical kiss in the night to new heights – giving the lovers the opportunity to meet for kisses at any time of day or night, and in any season. The new Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Daytime watch is a follow-up to the first. As Van Cleef & Arpels tells it, passion still exists in the light of day, so having kissed at night the couple rush to the bridge for another embrace. However, this new watch has something even better to offer than a daytime kiss. It houses an all-new module that allows the couples to meet on demand, at any time the wearer wishes.
Working once again with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor (who teamed with Van Cleef & Arpels for the making of the retrograde module on the first Pont des Amoureux watch), a new module with the on-demand feature is fitted inside these latest Pont des Amoureux watches. Three years in development, difficulties included integrating the necessary technical elements into the space between the zones that indicate time (hours on the left and minutes on the right). More space was needed not only for the lovers to meet, but also for them to engage in a proper kiss. Additionally, the longer kiss also required more energy management.
Because the lovers can meet on demand, they must run faster up the bridge toward one another. However, they need to slow down when they get close, stopping for barely an instant before closing the gap and kissing. These animated functions, and the retrograde function of returning back to the ends of the bridge, required extra steps and module components. In fact, the module of the on-demand model consists of 339 components versus 172 parts in the original Pont des Amoureux watch. It is fitted to a self-winding mechanical base movement (Q20 by Valfleurier) that offers 36 hours of power reserve.
Four special season editions
The Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Daytime watch is created in a 38mm size in rose gold with a diamond-set bezel, crown and center lugs. The dial is magnificently colored using grisaille enamel in soft hues of pink, blue and lavender. The purple alligator strap is interchangeable. There is also an 18-karat rose gold version with a fully set five-row link bracelet. Each watch is a numbered edition and production will be limited by the sheer amount of time it takes to make each one. The strap version of the watch retails for about $123,000.
Naturally, Van Cleef & Arpels had to create a new night version of the Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux watch, also with the on-demand animation module. The dial of this night-time version, with a midnight and gray-toned background under the shining stars and the moon, remains the same as the original, created using grisaille enamel and sculpted white gold. The back of each of the watches features an inset of the lovers on the bridge. With the new module, the wearer can opt to wait for the lovers to meet (the woman moves forward progressively to mark the hours, while the man crosses his half of the bridge in 60 minutes), or can press the on-demand button to repeat at will.
Still, the addition of on-demand lovers and a daytime version was not enough for this fine jewelry and watch brand. Van Cleef & Arpels went a step further, unveiling four special-edition pieces that depict the lovers in each of the four seasons, in high-jeweled glory. Using hand-painting, grisaille enamel, engraving, and gem-setting to create a different look for each season, the masters at Van Cleef & Arpels have pulled out all the stops. The case, bezel and bracelet of each timepiece are magnificently set with diamonds and gemstones. Pink hues in spring, yellow in summer, orange in autumn and warm ice blue in winter. The seasons watches, created in numbered editions, retail for $358,000.
This newest series is joined by an evocative new Extraordinary Dial Charms watches, exquisite floral dials employing plique-a-jour transparent enamel, and the stunning high-jeweled Mythical Couples collection. We’ll bring you that story in our upcoming article revolving around our two days with Van Cleef & Arpels.