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Van Cleef & Arpels - One Year, One Watch

Van Cleef & Arpels One Year, One Watch

2010 : Pont des amoureux*

For Her

The thing that will be most remembered about this year is another novelty: in the US, for the first time ever, women outnumbered men overall in the workforce. Not only were there more women in companies, but they also held more management positions – to the point that some journalists were talking in terms of ‘the End of Men’. It was also in 2010 that Michelle Obama was named the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine. She announced her famous ‘Let’s Move’ campaign in February.

In the second quarter, Ursula Burns was named Chairman of Xerox, having become the first woman of African-American descent to be appointed CEO of a Fortune 500 company a few months earlier. Barack Obama enlisted her for the US President’s Export Council at the same time. Meanwhile another woman, Kazuyo Sejima, won the Pritzker prize (the architectural equivalent of a Nobel). She was then appointed director of the Architecture sector for the 2010 Venice Biennale. And in February, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne inaugurated one of her buildings: the Rolex Learning Center. At the Venice Film Festival, opener Black Swan caught the attention of the critics – but it was Sofia Coppola who scooped the legendary Golden Lion, becoming the first American woman to win the award.

One Year, One Watch

Pont des Amoureux © Van Cleef & Arpels

On the technology front, there were two noteworthy innovations: Apple created yet another computer revolution by launching its iPad; and Instagram was born. Research also suggests that it was in 2010 that fourth-wave feminism began, driven by the emergence of the new forms of communication offered by social media. From this it follows that the 2010 watch had to be feminine, capable of telling a story, feature a design worthy of a Pritzker prize, and have a strong character – just like the women who made their mark on this year. One watch fits the bill perfectly: the Van Cleef & Arpels Pont des Amoureux (‘Lovers’ Bridge’).

Why Van Cleef & Arpels?

Founded in 1896, the firm has always stood for the good taste and refinement of French jewellery. With premises on the legendary Place Vendôme in Paris since 1906, it won its first award at the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. Since then, its reputation has gone from strength to strength. Famous clients include Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Iranian Empress Farah Pahlavi, with the maison making the crown for her Coronation ceremony. Then too, there was the 22-carat bracelet worn by Julia Roberts to the 2001 Oscars. What’s more, Susanne Bier was wearing a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace when she received the 2011 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, which went to Revenge, released in 2010 – the same year in which the Pont des Amoureux watch was released.

One Year, One Watch

Pont des Amoureux © Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels le pont des amoureux – The ‘kissy kissy’ watch

This Van Cleef & Arpels is more than just a watch. With this daring feat, the Place Vendôme firm sought to escape the confines of set styles for women’s watches, in a combination of poetry and watchmaking complications: a masterwork produced by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht himself. What gives this watch its charm is the story it tells: the story of two lovers at either end of a bridge, gradually moving towards each other. At midnight, they kiss – and then chastely return, each to their own side, before the story begins all over again. The Van Cleef & Arpels is powered by a retrograde movement, housed in a diamond-studded white gold case. Its dark dial, graced with alternating blue and black shades, is the work of a master enameller, using the historic grisaille enamel technique. When it first came out, the Pont des Amoureux was available on a leather strap or a diamond-paved gold bracelet.

The Take from The Devil’s Advocate

Not even Paris, Love, and Poetry combined can turn Mephistopheles’ sneer into a smile. Admittedly, this Van Cleef & Arpels changed the face of ladies’ watches; although it could have been even more original if it had been given a different bracelet clasp; the one it has is too ‘ordinary’ for this watch. I’d also have preferred to see styling on the case and lugs echoing the Bridge theme. But aside from that, I suppose we can grudgingly let ourselves be carried away by the magic of this encounter, and hope that those lovebirds will one day be able to be together rather longer than the very brief kiss they exchange at midnight.

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.

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