Over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels has been inspired by the ethereal quality of butterflies and fairies as illustrated by its Poetry Of Time artistry.
At the 2017 edition of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, this mesmerising theme crystallised in the Maison's Lady Arpels Papillon Automate watch from the Enchanting Nature™ line, with a 40 mm white gold case and diamonds in serti-neige setting.
Fitted with an ultra-sophisticated automaton module, the watch’s dial depicts a lush pastoral landscape where the passage of time unfolds to the spontaneous flutter of a butterfly’s wings synced to the movements of the watch’s wearer. The scene—beautifully rendered in relief with a multi-layered background using a myriad of traditional crafts and decorative techniques from the maison’s Meyrin watchmaking workshops—can also be triggered on demand at the push of a button.
Another Poetic Complications timepiece from the maison’s treasure trove is the Lady Nuit des Papillons watch—illustrated by a spectrum of shades evolving across the day to evoke time’s fleeting nature. A more diminutive 33 mm case with a rotating dial in white gold sets the scene in dark to light blue with the chromatic sparkle of diamonds and sapphires.
Meanwhile, Lady Arpels Papillon Extraordinaire watch, from the Extraordinary Dials family, is yet another rendition of Van Cleef & Arpels’ butterfly emblem and motif, this time, enlivened by a springtime palette of shimmering hues as natures awakes. The 38mm white gold case boasts an engraved white mother-of-pearl dial decorated with techniques including gemstone sculpture and marquetry, enamelling, and stone setting with stones such as lapis lazuli and diamonds.
The final Poetic Complications timepiece here hails from maison’s most cherished traditions of precious ballerina and fairy clips—its first feminine figures created in the early 1940s. Here, on the Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantée watch, a sculpted white gold ballerina, embellished with diamonds, white gold tutu and champlevé enamel, holds court on a guilloché purple enamel dial which sits atop a 40 mm white gold case.
Eliciting joyous splendour, the dancer transforms into a delicate butterfly, soaring gracefully with two openwork wings as the frills of her tutu arise.
Like a guardian of the maison’s poetic view of life, filled with dreams and emotions, this creation epitomises the art of watchmaking with an inventive and fantastical tableau, as the other three timepieces also reflect. They not only juxtapose technical innovation and masterful craftsmanship, but invite us to imagine, wonder and celebrate—certainly what we all need more of right now.