My fine jewelry and luxury watch worlds collided with the introduction of this extraordinary timepiece at SIHH 2017. Never had I been as equally impressed with craftsmanship and engineering as I was when I slipped this watch on my wrist.
SIHH 2017: What the lady wants… the watchmaker makes!
Why choose between aesthetics, poetry and mechanics? Ladies' wrists will rejoice! The SIHH unveils stunning mechanical models for women.
By Yannick Nardin
Ladies have long asserted their rights in the fine watchmaking industry. Truth be told, they have been somewhat neglected by watchmakers. It's a legitimate desire: why be restricted to pieces remarkable for their gem-setting and quartz movements for no good reason? Brands are becoming increasingly attentive to these feminine expressions of watchmaking and are unveiling some especially fine creations for 2017. The Lady Arpels Automate by Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget's Altiplano Double Jeu Lace Gold and Urwerk's UR-106 Flower Power feature prominently among our favourite discoveries.
A fluttering butterfly automaton
A trembling of wings and time-telling at once becomes poetry. A different kind of time-measurement is at work at Van Cleef & Arpels with the Lady Arpels Automate, upon which a butterfly appears to alight for a delicate moment. Its newest model combines skilled craftsmanship, fine jewellery and mechanics. This precious creation sparkles with a plethora of gems – diamonds, and blue, mauve or purple sapphires. The piece also serves as a showcase for skills such as sculpting in mother-of pearl and the application of plique-à-jour enamel to the butterfly's translucent wings. Against a backdrop of vegetation executed in champlevé enamel, lush grasses stand proud from the dial in a technique rarely seen in watchmaking, plique-à-jour courbe.
Meanwhile nestled within the automatic movement, the butterfly is animated by an automaton module. The insect beats its wings at irregular intervals powered by a trigger wheel with unevenly spaced teeth. Depending on the available power reserve, the butterfly beats its wings one to four times in what is a perfectly poetical display of the time remaining. When the watch is worn on the wrist, the wearer's arm movements increase the fluttering of its wings due to the power transmitted by the oscillating mass. And last but not least, the automaton may be activated on demand by a mere press of the pushpiece.
Piaget's Altiplano Double Jeu Lace Gold is an interpretation of the "secret" watch and one that demands craftsmanship skills of tremendous finesse. The dial is concealed by a gold double-case lid that has undergone the painstaking openwork known as dentellière sur or. Captivated by the beauty of the finest lace in the world, such as that seen in Portugal, Sara Bran sculpts fine sheets of her chosen material or gemstones to a fine filigree lacework finish. In the case of the Altiplano Double Jeu Lace Gold, Piaget has adorned these precious "threads" with twelve marquise-cut diamonds. A delicate touch of the pushpiece lifts the lid. The gold skeletonwork instantly reflects a play of light and casts a lacy shadow onto the white dial of the Altiplano. The Altiplano Double Jeu Lace Gold is powered by an extra-flat mechanical movement with manual winding from the Piaget manufacture, namely the 430 P, just 2.1 mm in thickness.
Urwerk's UR-106 Flower Power is a variation on the UR-106, the brand's first model for ladies unveiled in 2015. This latest model naturally features the brand's hallmark time-telling display, with satellite hour indication, as well as minute circle, the whole set against a feminine backdrop of floral magnificence. The dial is animated by three hour discs, accompanied by three gem-set blossoms. A lotus flower serves as the pivotal point for the hour satellite complication set with 30 diamonds. Nestled within its heart is a watchmaking screw of great mechanical utility.
The minutes are read off at the bottom of the dial along a railtrack marked out by the hour numbers. Green indices and numerals recall the colourful sepals of the lotus. But no doubt the most traditional aspect of this piece is to be seen at the bottom of the dial: a silver moon phase with labyrinth engraving against a lapis-lazuli ground. A successful anniversary creation for Urwerk, which is celebrating the 20th year of its independence this year.
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