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SIHH 2015 - Van Cleef & Arpels - interview

SIHH 2015 Van Cleef & Arpels - interview

Jean Bienaymé, Marketing and Communication Director, Van Cleef & Arpels, shares some details of the new models being launched in 2015.

The Poetic Complication of the year 2015 is not a complication as such, but instead a jewellery model. So is it complicated?
It is both complicated and poetic. Our watchmaking story continues its smooth, uninterrupted flow. We are presenting two poetic complications featuring animations built around 24-hour movements. In previous years, we had very much focused on movements with the Heure d’Ici and Heure d’Ailleurs and the Midnight Planetarium. This year, we are telling new stories on the theme of enchanted nature, with a Coccinnelle (ladybird) and a Oiseau du Paradis (bird of paradise). Alongside these complications, we have themed the SIHH 2015 around a kind of return to our roots in Haute Joaillerie. We are a company of gemsetters, polishers, lapidaries and jewellers. We wanted to show what a Maison such as Van Cleef & Arpels can bring to the world of watchmaking. Not in terms of adding to the horological content with regard to the movement, but rather a jeweller’s vision.

Van Cleef & Arpels - Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Coccinelles

And yet you have rolled out mechanical innovations in recent years?
Yes, but they were always based on a story. The mechanism is never the starting point. The Pont des Amoureux is the story of two lovers, while the Planétarium speaks of the universe. The mechanical elements serve to give life to these stories, not to demonstrate technical prowess. What interests us is simplicity, practicality. The Heure d’Ici and Heure d’Ailleurs watch is indeed as simple to read as its movement is complicated to make. The same goes for jewellery. When you see our Carpe Koï model, it seems straightforward enough, and yet it is underpinned by highly complex jewellery techniques. This year, we are presenting jewellery that tells the time, quite simply.

Which models in particular?
Two unique creations from our Haute Joaillerie collections. The Carpe Koï belongs to the Palais de la Chance collection, while the Abstraction bracelets are part of the Bals de Légende collections. One is driven by a quartz movement and the other by the world’s smallest movement, the Jaeger 101. We are also offering a chance to rediscover the Cadenas watch. Our archives harbour some extremely powerful designs, such as the Zip and the Alhambra. In watchmaking, we have the Cadenas or padlock design which dates back to 1935. We tried to modify it but basically found there was nothing to change, apart from offering a larger display and a more practical clasp design. We have worked on gemsetting, such as by integrating the snow-setting technique we already use on jewellery. 

Van Cleef & Arpels Carpe Koï

The Cadenas has a really tiny dial…
Yes, but that’s a deliberate choice. One of the things jewellers particularly cherish is secrecy. Time is hidden and the watch expresses certain codes. With the Cadenas, time can be read off only by the woman wearing it.

Van Cleef & Arpels Cadenas Pavée

Up until now, the most striking aspect of your artistic craft dials has been their strong, almost abstract, styling. This year you have stepped the level of details up another notch. Why so?
For our Charms Extraordinaire Langage des Fleurs, the idea was to actually feel the breeze ruffling the petals and instil an especially light touch. To achieve this, we used painting and enamelling techniques that enabled us to achieve greater precision in the design of the flowers, simply to make them more easily recognisable.


“Above and beyond jewellery and watchmaking, Van Cleef & Arpels is about telling stories”


Flowers are a very wide world. How do you help customers to recognise them and understand their message?
This is a language that dates back to the 18th century. It was in those days fairly unusual to say “I love you” to a woman in such a direct way. The language of flowers served to express feelings. It was invented by a florist, Madame Prévost, who composed messages through combinations of flowers. We have reformed three of them: Espérance (hope), the smallest one, is made of buttercups, a chickweed flower and a daffodil. The second Désir model with its lilac strap expresses desire through lilacs and crocuses. The largest is the Amour interpretation, graced with forget-me-nots, wallflowers and cyclamens. We have borrowed these images from the floral paintings by Madame Prévost. She had published a glossary codifying the messages.  

Van Cleef & Arpels - Charms Extraordinaire Espérance

 You’ve now started engraving your watch cases?
We love prolonging the stories told on our dials, and since last year, we have been engraving the casebacks with a design picking up the theme of the watch. It is even echoed on the oscillating weights, which are visible through a special window cut-out on the back. For example, we have a ladybird on the Coccinelle 24 Heures model. It is our way of telling stories. We are also presenting this watch in boutique displays with cloverleaf-shaped earrings, because this motif appears on the dial. Simple as that.

So this was not a marketing decision?
It’s definitely not about marketing. In the same way as our engraved design, it's a creative choice. Van Cleef & Arpels is a Maison where creative design is at the core of everything we do.


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