Sure it has a white gold case and a bezel set with glittering diamonds, but bling is not what sets the Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons timepiece apart. One of the most technically progressive watches at SIHH, this timepiece from Van Cleef and Arpels is curiously missing traditional hands, instead it tells the time using three little butterflies and a bird.
The watch’s main dial is a painted mother-of-pearl beauty, on top of it are four fan-form dials each, the first features the minutes 30-45; the second 45-60; a third for hours 0-12; and the fourth for minutes 0-30. Three white gold clouds layered above the dial feature yellow, red and pink butterflies that move around the dial indicating the minutes while a blue swallow at the bottom indicates the hours.
Van Cleef and Arpels explains the movement with these words: “Beneath the apparent delicacy of the dial, the retrograde hour, variable speed minutes and animation on demand movement developed exclusively for the Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons watch is highly sophisticated. Virtuoso watchmaking expertise is applied to a ballet of butterflies moving at different speeds. In a one-hour cycle, they accelerate and then slow down again, thanks to an elliptical wheel inside the mechanism.”
A complex animation feature allows the birds to move every time the wearer presses the activation button on the left. After a 10 second flurry of movement, the butterfly “hands” return to indicate the correct time. The complex movement necessary for this feature is miles ahead of traditional quartz movements, Van Cleef and Arpels are clearly up to the challenge of creating newer and more interesting watches for true connoisseurs.
Since this new model is part of the permanent collection, there’s a chance that we’ll see more interesting variations of the movement. It’ll be interesting to see what a men’s version of this watch would look like.