Ordinary to Extraordinary: Van Cleef & Arpels’ Creativity Soars

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Known for its whimsical designs and well-practiced savoir-faire, Van Cleef & Arpels creates the extraordinary dials collection that combines fine watchmaking with a masterful jeweler’s eye. Here, various decorative techniques, such as enameling, engraving and miniature painting, are employed to render each watch dial a singular—and yes, extraordinary—work of art. The Midnight Nuit Boréale and Midnight Nuit Australe look to the heavens for inspiration, rendering depictions of constellations and figures from Greek mythology.

Extraordinary Enameling

Each timepiece uses grisaille enameling, a technique revived by Van Cleef & Arpels for use in its Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux timepiece introduced a few years ago. Developed in Limoges, France, in the sixteenth century, grisaille uses just two shades of enamel to create a dramatic play of light and shadow. For the first firing of the dial, the background is coated with a very dark layer of enamel and polished to perfect smoothness. Then, using a brush or fine needle, the design is drawn using a finely ground white powdered enamel known as “Blanc de Limoges.” During the course of successive firings—about thirty in all—fine gradations emerge that create what appears to be an ethereal glow. The multiple steps involved add up to about seventy hours of work for each dial.

The Midnight Nuit Boréale focuses on the Northern Hemisphere. The depicted dragon alludes to the fearsome beast that watches over the Golden Fleece, while the swan refers to Zeus’ disguise in his plan to seduce Leda. The female figure represents Cassiopeia, imprisoned on her throne. Lastly, legend has it that the Great Bear and the Little Bear evoke the nymph Callisto, transformed by Hera and her son Arcas.

Midnight Nuit Australe

In tribute to the Southern hemisphere, the Midnight Nuit Australe pays homage to the observations of scientists and explorers from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. While the Swordfish and Toucan constellations are inspired by the depictions of the Flemish astronomer and cartographer Petrus Plancius, the Telescope and Argo constellations refer to the work of the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille

Each 42mm white or pink gold watch is part of a limited edition of twenty-two pieces. To complement the enamel dials, the watch crowns are set with enamel cabochons.