Romantism & Haute Horlogerie in the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux
Dancers, fairies, flowers, and butterflies describe the Van Cleef & Arpels quintessence. Although very clued in astronomical notions, romantic pieces like the Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux are the most heart-warming watches. Just before the 8th of March, let’s have a look at two charming watches dedicated to encounters of two lovers: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Jour watch Ref. VCARO8TZ00 and Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Nuit watch Ref. VCARO8TY00.
April in Paris
I cannot imagine a love story without a fast-paced heartbeat in anticipation of meeting the dear one. The thrill of the first sight, the hasty step towards the other, the touch of hands, the kiss…
When the background of the love story is a bridge in Paris, I am personally sold on the story. A long-time listener of Lady Day (Billie Holiday), I never understood the April in Paris song until my first visit to Paris. And it was a mid-April…
April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees
April in Paris, this is a feeling
No one can ever reprise
I never knew the charm of spring
Never met it face to face
I never knew my heart could sing
Never missed a warm embrace
Till April in Paris, whom can I run to?
What have you done to my heart?
This is the setting of the scene in which this love story unfolds: two lovers destined to meet at noon and midnight on a bridge over the Seine, in the city of love and light – Paris. The sweetest thing – this eternal love story is a watch…
Although Van Cleef & Arpels is better known for its Haute Joaillerie expertise, the brand is an important player in the field of high complications and automatons. Their watches are dedicated to a fine clientele of connoisseurs. The Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux timepieces combine a multitude of artisanal techniques with automaton complications in a practical automatic watch executed at the highest standards.
Romantic by day
The first watch presented is the 18K rose gold Ref. VCARO8TZ00. The superb Van Cleef & Arpels case comes in 38mm, a balanced dimension for a wide range of wrist sizes, especially considering the technical intricacy involved.
Those familiar with the brand’s watches will recognize the particular case and lugs construction present in the majority of VC&A timepieces. I will dare say that the Pierre Arpels Collection is one of the most elegant black dress pieces out there, because of this central lug system. For the Pont des Amoureux, the diamonds set on both ends of the lugs create angles that highlight the piece on the wrist. Each of the lugs also features a diamond in prong setting that completes the angled 18K rose gold bezel filled with round diamonds in the same setting style.
The crown is present on the right side, in the classic 3 o’clock position. Its shape enhances the grip and handling and, as expected, the crown features a round diamond. The position between 7 and 8 o’clock is occupied by a droplet-shaped push button that activates the automaton. I have to admit I was surprised by how easy it is to set and wind the watch, by the exceptional haptic feedback, and overall behavior. The left side of the caseband also boasts the Van Cleef & Arpels engravings.
The beauty of the case and the sparkle of the diamonds pale in comparison with the scenery portrayed on the dial: two lovers meet in the middle of a bridge to share a kiss.
The dial background is a colored grisaille enamel depicting the classic Parisian rooftops in pastel shades of blue, lilac and pink – colors that inspired my Paris-in-springtime feeling. An arched bridge is illustrated in the foreground, using rhodium plated 18K white gold and 18K rose gold sculpted bridge railings.
The encounter of the two lovers happens every twelve hours. This is a poetic and romantic interpretation of the retrograde time display. The lady – a familiar silhouette from the VC&A jewelry portraying ballerinas – represents the hour indications. The young gentleman represents the minutes. He is concealing a flower as a surprise for his sweetheart. Like any impatient young lover, he comes to the middle of the bridge each hour, only to meet her at noon and at midnight.
And how can two lovers meet after an eternity (he counted it twelve times…) without a kiss? And not just a frugal one but the real deal – a three-minute-long kiss. I don’t know about you, but this is a fantastic way to get together with your significant one after an always-too-long time apart.
The wearer of the watch can be generous to the two lovers and allow them to meet briefly at any time of day with the touch of a button. Activating the automaton from the push button allows the couple to share a ten-second kiss at any desired moment. Afterwards, they will resume the initial (correct time telling) position.
The after-kiss moment is represented in a romantic illustration on the back of the watch: another viewpoint of the bridge reveals the ballerina-style girl having received the rose and preparing a big hug for her lover.
Romantic by night
The Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Nuit watch Ref. VCARO8TY00 presents the same spectacle but on another bridge, at night. The lovers also meet every twelve hours (at noon and midnight), only this time the Moon governs the main scene. The grisaille enamel dial uses darker shades in this case.
The scene on the caseback reflects the newly introduced scenery, although the action is the same as in the previously presented watch. This watch is manufactured in rhodium-plated 18K white gold.
Notes on the grisaille enamel
The dedicated team of enamellers at VC&A uses an old artisanal method to overlay translucent colors over a monotone base paint. By using multiple firings and superimposed layers an almost three-dimensional effect is obtained. This technique was developed in France in the 16th century and implies extraordinary skill sets. A deviation in temperature or firing times can lead to cracks in the enamel, rendering the piece unusable. The enameling work for each Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux dial requires up to 40 hours, with each dial fired up to ten times to achieve the astounding result.
Haute Horlogerie signed ValFleurier and Agenhor
The Pont des Amoureux is powered by the ValFleurier Q020 self-winding mechanical movement. Although ValFleurier is an integrated manufacture producing and finishing tens of thousands of movements per year for Richemont-owned brands, the Q020 is superbly modified by Agenhor. The retrograde and on-demand animation module was developed exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, founder of Agenhor.
ValFleurier Q020 offers a power reserve of 36 hours. Although this is a relatively short operating time, the micro-rotor assures that the watch will run without problems for as long as you wear it. Using the automaton by demand does not deplete the caliber’s power reserve since the action is powered by the user pushing the button.
The world’s only watch with kissing automatons
The Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux is not only a romantic wristwatch but also an extraordinary demonstration of various crafts: goldsmithing, gem setting, enameling and movement decoration. Although the watch can be enjoyed by anyone willing to spend a minimum of 120,000 Swiss francs, it definitely deserves a keen eye. Recognizing the value of the artisanal work and the ingenuity behind these pieces is now a rare skill.
While Lady Arpels might be considered a ladiesʼ collection, I have to admit that I enjoy these watches on the wrist without hesitation. They are light enough not to reveal the present mechanical complication. The precious metals can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you consider the watches with a gem-set bracelet (that also almost doubles the initial price) and require time to adjust. For those familiar with metal bracelets and heavy materials, the Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux will be a genuine pleasure on the wrist.
Easy to set and wind, with a superb automaton on demand, the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux is one of the most spectacular wristwatches out there and the world’s only watch with a kissing automaton.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Technical Specifications
- Self-winding mechanical movement (Valfleurier Q020),
- Equipped with a retrograde module and on-demand animation developed exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels,
- 36-hour power reserve
- Dimension: 38 mm
- Water Resistance: 3 ATM
- Diamond: 122 stones, 2.82 carats
- Material: shiny alligator, square scale (purple / navy blue) self interchangeable
- Buckle Type: Ardillon buckle
Price starting at $123,000