Just a couple of months ago in Paris, French jewelry brand Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled its newest Poetic Complications watches for women at a lavish gala at the regally impressive Republican Guard in Paris. Van Cleef & Arpels, which creates Swiss watches in its Geneva Manufacture, has been inspired by the City of Love since the brand opened its first boutique in Place Vendome in 1906. As such, Paris was the perfect setting for the brand to celebrate its newest Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux watches – which are all about evoking emotions.
The first Pont des Amoureux (named for the arched pedestrian bridge that crosses the River Seine) watch was unveiled nearly 10 years ago as an automaton watch–with moving figures of a man and woman who met in the middle of the bridge at midnight for a single kiss. It was designed to send a message near and dear to the hearts of the Parisian-born brand: dreams and passion can come to life on the wrist.
That first Pont des Amoureux watch operated on a mechanical retrograde system wherein the lovers start at opposite outer edges of the bridge and slowly make their way to the center throughout the day, meeting for that kiss under the moonlight at midnight, after which they return to their respective sides.
Now Van Cleef & Arpels unveils not only a new day-time version of the watch, but also, and perhaps more importantly, an all new mechanical movement that allows the lovers to meet and kiss “on demand” at any time the wearer wishes. Part of the brand’s Poetic Complications collection, as well as residing in its Extraordinary Dials series, the newest Pont des Amoureux watches deftly bring together masterful technically advanced horology and incredible artistic prowess.
In the new on-demand Pont des Amoureux watches, the two individually carved automatons (the man and the woman) move toward one another in the daytime, with the lady moving forward to progressively mark the hours, and the man to mark the minutes (crossing his half of the bridge in 60 minutes). At both midday and midnight they are united. However, at any point that the wearer wants, she can recreate the beauty of the meeting (and the romantic kiss) with the push of the button at 4:00 on the shimmering gold case.
The Mechanics of Love
The making of this watch was a complex feat of mechanics, technology, and incredible artistic craftsmanship. The new on-demand module was the result of collaboration between Van Cleef & Arpels and one of the finest master watch minds in Switzerland, Agenhor, owned by the Wiederrecht family, who also worked on the original Pont des Amoureaux watch. The automaton module that was made exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels (and that is joined with a mechanical self-winding movement) was incredibly challenging to build and was three years in the making.
Challenges included finding enough space within the movement to fit the 339 individual components and allow for the lovers (in the on-demand mode) to move quickly up the bridge toward one another and then slow down as they meet before enjoying a proper kiss. They even have a moment to look at one another before kissing. What seems like a wonderful tryst for the lovers is really an intense dance of mechanics behind the scenes.
Naturally, with the new mechanics, Van Cleef & Arpels also had to offer a new “midnight” version for the lovers to meet on demand, but the white blanc de Limoges on dark background enamel dial of that watch is the same as the previous midnight and moonlight dial – one that has become beloved by collectors around the world.
The daytime dial, though, is all new and was also an incredible work of art that took the master artisans at Van Cleef & Arpels weeks to create. The beautiful dial is entirely hand-enameled in pastel hues of pink, purple, and blue hues that form the Parisian homes and clouds in the background as the lovers come to meet. The grisaille enamel technique used dates back to the 16th century, and each dial takes a minimum of 30 to 40 hours of painting and at least 10 firings. Often the artisan uses a single-hair brush to achieve the distinctive lines as well as the depth and dimensions. Similarly, the automated figures on every watch are hand-carved out of 18-karat gold, as is the silhouette of the bridge.
Each of the new Pont des Amoureaux watches is offered with either an interchangeable alligator strap (blue for the midnight version and purple for the day version), or with a stunning, totally diamond-set 18-karat gold five-row bracelet.
Love In All Seasons
As if this were not enough, the master watchmakers and artisans at Van Cleef & Arpels have also created a statement of love for any season. Four distinct high-jewelry versions depict the couple meeting with each change of season. In spring, verdant green leaves surround beautiful pink flowers. In summer, beautiful yellow butterflies are seen in the foreground. Fall brings autumnal hues of orange as the leaves change color, and winter is ice blue and white with snowflakes on the branches.
The bracelet of each of these diamond-adorned watches is set with gemstones that beautifully emulate the seasons, with purple and pink sapphire flowers on the spring version, yellow sapphires and garnets on the summer model, yellow sapphires and spessartites adorn the fall watch, and blue sapphires on the winter timepiece. Even the background of each watch, and the clothing the couple wears, changes with the seasons.
Each of the Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complication Pont des Amoureaux watches speak not only to love, but also to perfection in watchmaking. Each is crafted in the brand’s Geneva workshops where master artisans sit side-by-side with master watchmakers to create timepieces of elegance and rarity. The watches are limited in production simply by the sheer amount of time and work that goes into their making. The Day and Night versions retail for $123,000. The Four Seasons models, with bejeweled bracelets, retail for $358,000.