EMOTION IN TIME
Known for its poetic complications, Van Cleef & Arpels offers a much grander form in its first Extraordinary Object this year.
While the notion of poetry and magic has long been the mainstay in Van Cleef & Arpels’ offerings in horology and jewellery, this year saw the maison’s artistic sense flourish on a bigger format.
“We wanted to have the possibility to tell a story on a greater scale, for viewers to see it in all the dimensions,” says Jean Bienayme, the maison’s international marketing and communication director.
The result is Van Cleef & Arpels’ first Extraordinary Object, the Automate Fee Ondine, which is – in its purest distillation – a table clock. However, years of patience and the intensive expertise of automaton maker Fancois Junod has posited a fairy-like fantasia on top of the horological component. “Francois is like a kind of Gepetto and his office is like Gepetto’s workshop,” Bienayme says of the collaboration with the renowned talent, which began with first drawings eight years ago and finally yielded this remarkable piece. For the record, Junod proclaimed this to be the most challenging of all his projects ever accomplished. Enriched by the gem-setters, enamellers and other artistic crafts from Van Cleef & Arpels’ atelier, the completed art piece is a truly one- of- a-kind execution of a delicate fairy figure awakening from sleep in synchrony with a butterfly rising from a blossoming lily. The entire animation sequence occurs across 50 breathtaking seconds, which Bienayme describes as
Automate Fee Ondine is – in its purest distillation – a table clock.
“discovering the enchanting nature and emotion within the passage of time”.
“Our way of illustrating the concept of time is not just in taking the metric value,” Bienayme says. “At the end of the day, it should be creating something really worth our time.” In that light, the extraordinary craft in Automate Fee Ondine is allied to eye- catching high jewellery work. On the top of this piece, one finds engraved and enamelled silver strips merged with white gold, pink gold, diamonds and pink sapphires. The fairy figure is translucent with plique-a-jour enamel and sparkles with diamonds, sapphires and milky aquamarine on white gold, while the butterfly is similarly bedecked, with the addition of Australian white opal. A base of ebony veneer houses the manual-wound mechanical automaton movement capable of discharging five cycles of the animation when fully wound.
As to the why of this object’s existence, Bienayme responds with a smile: “Crucially, it is to invent something new. This is inherent within us since the beginning of the maison when we invented the mysterious setting and then the zip necklace, both of which were very difficult techniques to master. Our journey is always about looking for new magic.”
The fairy figure is translucent with plique-a-jour enamel.
A series of intricate, hidden movements enable the jewelled fairy automaton to sit up on the lily pad.
Every element of this unique piece was carefully handcrafted, with each displaying a different decorative technique.