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Van Cleef & Arpels  - Ludo Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels unveils new Ludo pieces.

Louis Arpels, the youngest of the founding brothers behind Van Cleef & Arpels, was undoubtedly a key player at the storied jeweller, but it was his wife who really captured the public’s attention. Throughout the 1950s, Hélène Arpels – born Hélène Ostrowska in Monte Carlo – was a firm fixture on best dressed lists, a style icon of her day who was a house muse as much as wife and model. She famously wore jewellery in bold, natty style, placing diamond brooches atop her shoes or slipping bracelets over long black gloves. Her personal adage, after all, was “diamonds go with everything” – no surprise that Louis was known to run the firm’s prototypes by his wife, first and foremost.


Ludo Secret Watch © Van Cleef & Arpels

The ever-stylish couple – and the iconic collection in their legacy – are now again in the spotlight.  This month Van Cleef & Arpels unveils new Ludo pieces, a collection first created in 1934 and christened from Louis’s nickname. Ludo was an ode to couture, and specifically the belt, which lent its fluid, elegant lines to a supple bracelet set in an articulated hexagonal “honeycomb” motif, secured with a bejewelled clasp. Abstract and art deco, Ludo still captures the imagination decades on: in 2006, a collection of Hélène Arpels’s personal jewels crossed the block at Christie’s New York, and featured an original Ludo Hexagone bracelet. Wide-set and crafted in platinum, each link was punctuated with the signature star-style diamond, which together culminated in a fabulous rectangular plaque flanked by rows of baguette and round diamonds, and topped with a matching two-tiered frame of stones. The piece hammered down for $251,200, over five times its estimate.


Ludo Secret Watch © Van Cleef & Arpels

The new Ludo collection features three bracelets – exquisitely designed around rubies, sapphires and diamonds – but the real head turners are the secret watches, which truly complete this iconic line. “Secret watches have been part of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations since its beginning,” says CEO and president Nicolas Bos. “At first, for cultural and social reasons, it was not elegant for a lady to obviously check the time, and the maison had to deploy its creativity and know-how to imagine jewels that tell the time in a discreet manner…Decades after decades, secret watches became signature to the maison.”


Ludo Secret Watch © Van Cleef & Arpels

The Ludo secret watches come in a rose motif that, with their mix of precious and hard stones, offer an alluring interplay of colours, materials and textures. A centre cabochon blooms with petals of pear, round and navette shaped stones, which come in three colourways: coral and rubies; chrysoprase, emeralds and sapphires; and lapis lazuli and blue and pink sapphires. A subtle slide of the hard stone reveals a mother-of-pearl dial, haloed in tiny diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels as ever is the versatility maestro, and the dial can be detached and replaced with a gem-set mesh buckle, transforming the watch into a secondary jewel, as the dial can be hung as a pendant necklace or worn as clips. Hélène Arpels pinned Ludo clips to her lapels, a look that à la 2020, will seriously up your game in waist-up dressing.


Ludo Secret Watch © Van Cleef & Arpels

Finally, there are also two sumptuous one-off secret watches. Inspired by a Ludo Hexagone Macarons secret watch from 1941, the new two versions – in white gold with sapphires, or red gold and rubies – place a gorgeous mystery-set, rectangular secret watch atop the supple bracelet, which is then top-and-tailed by a burst of diamonds loops. Precious, playful, mysterious and unmistakably Van Cleef, Hélène Arpels would definitely approve.


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