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21 Ultimate Gifts: Dial Up the Romance

James D. Malcolmson

THE GIFT
His and her one-of-a-kind Van Cleef & Arpels watches designed to tell the story of a couple’s romance.
A long weekend for two in Paris and Geneva, including first-class airfare, accommodations, and dining arrangements.
Private tours of Van Cleef & Arpels’ ateliers in Paris and watchmaking facilities in Geneva, and a consultation with the company’s designers and watchmaking specialists.
A custom-made display cabinet for the two timepieces.
$925,000

The Parisian jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels created its own category of watchmaking five years ago, when it began combining decorative arts with functional mechanics. The watches in this class, called "poetic complications," are intended more to serve the wearer’s fantasy than to tell him or her the time. They feature dials displaying elaborate imagery rendered in enamel, micro painting, marquetry, engraving, and a host of other disciplines.

Van Cleef & Arpels’ poetic complications also can be fantastically innovative. Consider, for example, this year’s Le Pont des Amoureux. Instead of standard hands that move clockwise around the dial, the timepiece has double retrograde hands that depict two lovers walking toward each other on a bridge, drawing closer together until noon and midnight, when they meet in the center of the bridge. The buildings in the background were created using contre-jour enameling, and the bridge is made from sculpted gold.

"One of the uniquely defining traits of Van Cleef & Arpels is our provenance as artistic storytellers," says Louis de Meckenheim, the head of timepiece development at Van Cleef & Arpels. "The idea started simply with two custom creations but grew steadily into a relationship-building experience where we will translate special moments in a couple’s life into the world of Van Cleef & Arpels."

For this gift, Van Cleef & Arpels is offering one Robb Report reader and the object of his or her affection the opportunity to commission a pair of watches that translate their special moments into custom-designed images and movements on the dials.

This romantic endeavor will begin, naturally, in Paris. The couple will fly first-class for a weekend in the city, where they will visit Van Cleef & Arpels’ boutique and jewelry ateliers and consult with its designers and watchmakers. The couple will tell them their love story, discussing the images they would like depicted on their timepieces, and Van Cleef & Arpels’ designers will advise on the techniques and materials with which to render those images.

Then the couple will fly first-class to Geneva, Switzerland, for a day of private tours of the Van Cleef & Arpels watchmaking facilities—where their watches will be assembled. The tour will include a visit to Stern Créations, the workshop where artisans work in enamel painting, engraving, marquetry, and a number of other crafts.

While the gift recipients are in Paris and Geneva, Van Cleef & Arpels will arrange accommodations, dining reservations, and entertainment according to the couple’s preferences.

About two weeks after their Euro­pean visit, the couple will receive detailed renderings of the watches for their approval. Once they sign off on the drawings, work on the watches will begin. For her, Van Cleef & Arpels will create a poetic complication in a 38 mm white-gold case using the movement of the Le Pont des Amou­reux or any other movement deemed appropriate to tell their story. The scene that the lovers pass before and the métier d’art in which it is rendered will be determined during the couple’s meeting with the designers in Paris. His timepiece will be a 42 mm midnight platinum tourbillon with a sapphire case back. It too will have a customized scene on the dial. Both pieces will be labeled "Piece Unique," and Van Cleef & Arpels will create a special love logo for the dial. The jeweler also will construct a display cabinet that complements the watches.

In addition, Van Cleef & Arpels will set up a private website so that the gift recipients can follow the development of their designs and the construction of their watches. As for the watches’ delivery date, that will come about nine months after conception.

 

Van Cleef & Arpels, Marisa Neira, 646.485.1656, marisa.neira@vancleef.com, www.vancleef-arpels.com

The gift is available to one Robb Report reader. Delivery will take approximately nine months following the initial consultation.

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