With a Soirée Themed to the Most Romantic Bridge in Paris, Van Cleef & Arpels Launched Poetic New Luxury Watches That Kiss
Six new styles were introduced to the French jewelry house’s charming Poetic Complications collection.
Jewelers tell great stories. And when Van Cleef & Arpels is the storyteller, chances are, it is a great love story.
For the Place Vendôme jeweler, Paris and its cobbled streets, zinc rooftops, and lit-up bridges have long provided the basic elements of a romantic narrative that was revived last week when Van Cleef & Arpels launched new versions of a jewelry watch known as Lady Arpels Le Pont des Amoureux (or the “Bridge of Lovers”).
The evening organised by Van Cleef & Arpels was more about reviving an old flame than igniting a new passion, given that the timepiece has been part of Van Cleef & Arpels’s “poetic complications” collection for women for about a decade. The timepieces are called “complications” because they feature a function that allows them to do more than just tell the time. In the case of Le Pont, a retrograde module in the movement allows a scene on the dial to come to life: it shows a couple meeting on a bridge, with the girl marking the hours and the boy, the minutes. They slide toward one another for precisely 12 hours before leaning into a kiss, which happens with perfect regularity at noon or midnight, all the while set against a backdrop of silvery Parisian rooftops. When it was first launched in 2010, the model was widely acknowledged for its poetry and technicity, winning the top prize in the “Ladies’ Watch” category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
“This evening is a celebration of romance, of love stories, and of the history of Paris,” announced Nicolas Bos, chief executive and creative director of Van Cleef & Arpels, at the start of a gala soirée organized to present six new versions of Le Pont des Amoureux.
Before dinner, some 200 guests were invited to join in on a sunset cruise along the Seine that also took them under some of the city’s most breathtaking bridges. There are, in all, 37 bridges that connect the opposite banks of the Seine. Some of their fascinating stories were relayed to the guests, including those that have inspired artists like Pissarro and Renoir, or the filmmaker Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris.
“Le Pont des Arts, also known as ‘Bridge of Lovers,’ is said to be the most romantic bridge in Paris,” a spokesperson for Van Cleef & Arpels explained. The famous bridge connects the Louvre Museum on the right bank to the Quai de Conti, just opposite. It is a pedestrian walkway on which couples hang padlocks, “locking in” their love on the wrought-iron guardrails before throwing the keys into the river. The practice is now disallowed by the City of Paris.
After disembarking at the foot of the Henri IV bridge, black-tie-clad guests were whisked away to the arenas of the “Garde Républicaine,” the prestigious cavalry regiment that is a part of the French National Guard. One of its horse-training arenas had been transformed to look like the décor inside the dial of the Pont des Amoureux, a charming setting for a three-course sit-down dinner prepared by the Michelin-starred chef, Eric Frechon.
Still, Le Pont des Amoureux is much more than a tribute to the poetry of love. It is a showcase for the know-how of Van Cleef & Arpels, first in goldsmithing and gem-setting, but also in all of the métiers d’art crafts that have a hand in making the delicate dials in colored grisaille enamel, each of which is sculpted in gold and set in a diamond-studded case, some with details in miniature painting. “Grisaille enamel was developed in France starting in the 16th century,” explained Van Cleef & Arpels, in the product’s technical sheet. “Here, we have applied ‘colored’ grisaille enamel for the first time, using pink and blue enamels against a white background, which takes 30-40 hours of work and requires firing each dial 10 times.”
This year, an option is available for a gem-set bracelet on each of the six, numbered editions, which consist of a daytime version in rose gold, a nightfall version in white gold, and a different version for each of the four seasons. All the dials are distinctly different: each features a different bridge, and the lovers are dressed according to the season.
Technically speaking, this year’s models also showcase an unprecedented innovation: the couple on the dial will now kiss at any hour of the day or night, instead of just twice a day. A new “on demand” module triggered at the push of a button has been developed to lessen the “wait” time in between kisses.
“For us, watchmaking is defined as the art and technique of telling time, but we bring to it our own sense of poetry and magic,” Bos said.
For Van Cleef & Arpels, this was the first major product launch since the jeweler opted out of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva last year. For decades, the Richemont-owned house had been a pillar of the watch-industry trade show, which was founded in 1991. Last January, it bowed out of the SIHH, announcing that, going forward, it would present its novelties independently and on its own timetable.
“I had always dreamed of making a speech in front of the Arc de Triomphe,” Bos said in his closing statement at the launch, as he stood before an image of the solemn Parisian monument usually reserved, in real life, for speeches by heads of state. But on that night, the Arc de Triomphe became more than an element of décor, but a symbol of Van Cleef & Arpels’s Parisian heritage, and of the jeweler writing its own story.
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