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Alion­shead stud­ded with blue sap­phires, orange-red gar­nets, yel­low enamel and golden foil sits proudly on the dial of one watch (pic­tured), while a bull, ren­dered in green enamel, white gold, di­a­monds and blue sap­phire, looks on from an­other. A third time­piece de­picts the tail of a scor­pion in di­a­monds, sil­vered foil and purple enamel, while a fourth shows twin fig­ures en­shrouded in cloaks made of white gold, opaque blue enamel and more di­a­monds.

Hav­ing in­tro­duced its Mid­night Zo­diac Lu­mineux watches for men at the Salon In­ter­na­tional de la Haute Hor­logerie watch fair in Geneva ear­lier this year, Van Cleef & Ar­pels has cre­ated a new set of Lady Ar­pels Zo­diac Lu­mineux mod­els. The time­pieces, which are part of the mai­son’s Po­etic Astron­omy line, pay homage to the 12 star signs, with a watch de­signed for each. The four el­e­ments are de­picted in vary­ing hues of stones and enamel: green for earth, orange for fire, and blue and vi­o­let for the air and water signs.

In ad­di­tion to the trade­mark mo­tifs, the 38-milime­tre di­als etch out the con­stel­la­tion as­so­ci­ated with the signs of the Zo­diac, ren­dered in translu­cent blue enamel beads. The self-wind­ing me­chan­i­cal time­pieces are af­fixed with a shim­mer­ing blue al­li­ga­tor strap and a white gold pin buckle set with di­a­monds. The men’s watches, on the other hand, come with a 42mm dial, black al­li­ga­tor bracelet and a fold­ing buckle in white gold. While the women’s watches stand out for their di­a­monds and coloured gem­stones, the ram, crab, fish, archer and other mo­tifs in the men’s it­er­a­tions are kept sim­ple with a sil­ver enamel trac­ing.

Both sets of watches fea­ture mid­night blue di­als that are meant to bring to mind the depths of the cos­mos, a theme that the mai­son has ex­plored in var­i­ous col­lec­tions, no­tably the Mid­night Plané­tar­ium watch, which cap­tures the move­ments of the plan­ets in real time. In fact, the astro­log­i­cal theme has been a key one for Van Cleef & Ar­pels since the 1950s.

Also com­mon to the watches is the light-onde­mand mod­ule, first de­vel­oped for the Mid­night Nuit Lu­mineuse watch in 2016. This re­sults in a unique il­lu­mi­nat­ing ef­fect, which has its ori­gins in piezo­elec­tric­ity. The phe­nom­e­non refers to the ca­pac­ity of cer­tain ma­te­ri­als to ac­cu­mu­late an elec­tric charge when sub­jected to me­chan­i­cal con­straints.

De­vel­oped ex­clu­sively for Van Cleef & Ar­pels, the mod­ule in­cor­po­rates a piezo­ce­ramic blade, the vi­bra­tion of which – un­der the ef­fect of the watch’s move­ment – en­ables elec­tri­cal en­ergy to be gen­er­ated me­chan­i­cally. This is then used to power LED lights, which back­light the “con­stel­la­tions” at the press of a but­ton for up to three sec­onds, to give a fleet­ing im­pres­sion of twin­kling stars in the night sky.

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