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Van Cleef & Arpels -  Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Van Cleef & Arpels Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Time doesn’t always have to be on your wrist

Standing just about 44cm tall (approximately 17 inches), the all-new table-top Fontaine aux Oiseaux automaton sculpture by Van Cleef & Arpels will most likely melt your heart. Aside from depicting an idyllic scene, the automaton clock is a deft blend of centuries-old watchmaking crafts, from watchmaking to animation, engraving, gem setting, lacquering, plique-d-jour enamel work and more. 

 Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Automaton Bird Fountain © Van Cleef & Arpels

A unique piece, the fountain emulates a pond, with two stunning automaton birds (made in gold and meticulously set with gemstones) sitting on the edge of the fountain. However, thanks to an on-demand animation and a retrograde time display, the birds are sometimes opposite one another, and other times sitting side by side, perched over a pond complete with lily pads and dragonfly. As if all of this is not enough, the master artisans at Van Cleef & Arpels even added beautiful sound effects with bellows and beechwood.

The time indication for the clock happens at the base of the automaton, where, on the side of the base, a gold feather moves along a time scale marking off 12 hours. At the end of its journey, it returns to the starting point and begins the count of the next 12 hours. 

 Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Automaton Bird Fountain © Van Cleef & Arpels

The automaton portion of the clock is activated on demand (up to five times in a row) and that activation sets the entire scene in motion. The water in the basin, made of 50 slices of chalcedony and rock crystal starts to ripple on the “surface” and a water lily crafted in lacquered gold slowly starts to bloom. Nearby, a white gold dragonfly set with diamonds, sapphire and mother of pearl, along with plique-a-jour enamel rises into the air, wings aflutter. 

But the true magic happens with the birds on the edge of the basin. Both the male and female birds raise their heads, flap their wings a bit and slowly move closer together along the edge. At the same time, chirping and beak sounds come to life. Once the story has played out, the birds return to their starting point, the water lily closes and the dragonfly lands. 

 Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Automaton Bird Fountain © Van Cleef & Arpels

Complementing this fairy-tale like scene is the incredible craftsmanship inherent in its making. The mechanical clock with retrograde hours and minutes offers 8 days of power reserve. The movement is housed inside a base made of white and yellow gold, vegetal lacquer, hen eggshell marquetry, ebony and glass. It is also set with purple sapphires, emeralds, tsavorites, diamonds and goat leather. Similarly, the birds are magnificently set with gemstones. The male boasts multi-colored sapphires, emeralds, tsavorites, diamonds and lapis lazuli, while the female shimmers in sapphires, mandarin garnets, amethysts, diamonds and turquoise.

 Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Automaton Bird Fountain © Van Cleef & Arpels

The entire clock is the result of an intensive collaborative effort, with the brand working with top artists in Switzerland and France and giving each full credit for his or her work. In total, the object of art was more than 25,500 hours in the making, with 4,300 of them being in the Van Cleef & Arpels workshops. 

 Van Cleef & Arpels Unveils Spectacular Automaton Bird Fountain

Automaton Bird Fountain © Van Cleef & Arpels

 

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