In BLOOM
L'OFFICIEL Malaysia|November 2021
Wander the gardens of Van Cleef & Arpels to experience a poetic vision of time through its spectacular array of Flora secret watches.
TAN SIOK HOON

They say necessity is the mother of invention and the idea of secret watches was spawned when the social mores at the turn of the 20th century had deemed it inappropriate for a woman to check time in public let alone wear a wristwatch. How times have changed yet Van Cleef & Arpels has not stopped embracing the inventive piece it created in the 1920s—reinterpreting it time and again with unparalleled creativity.

In the ensuing decade of the 1930s as wristwatches were morphing into quintessential feminine accessories, the Maison capitalised upon this to transform them into precious objects to be worn as jewellery by way of the secret watch. As the name suggests, secret watches are created with a skilfully hidden dial that allows the wearer to tell time and experience the passage of hours in the most discreet fashion.

A requisite then and a novelty now, the secret watches that have emerged from the ateliers of Van Cleef & Arpels are defined by the convergence of its beloved tradition of mystery and wonder with haute joallerie savoir faire. Paying homage to the Maison’s fascination with nature’s metamorphoses, its secret watches are often riffs on flora, a recurrent theme in its design annals. Appearing to be bathed in sunlight, the petals of gem-studded flowers and leaves conceal an elegant dial which is revealed in a charming game of hide-and-seek.

Indeed, the heritage of secrète watches runs deep at Van Cleef & Arpels with a treasure trove of archive pieces ranging from its signature Ludo and Cadenas bracelet designs from the 1930s and 1940s to serpent-style silhouettes hailing from 1940 and 1953, along with a Renoncule (Buttercup) floral iteration from 1945 and a secret watch ring from 1944.

LE JARDIN VAN CLEEF & ARPELS

At SIHH 2018, an invitation to visit Le Jardin Van Cleef & Arpels was issued, leading to a rediscovery of the passage of hours through the lens of awe-inspiring flora. Amid the eight floral High Jewelry creations are five sparkling secret watches—instilled with the rhythm, freshness and perpetual evolution of nature, one of the Maison’s go-to inspirations since 1906. Taking the spotlight, a jewel-encrusted flower is posited at the core of each secret watch: Dandelion, Chrysanthème, Marguerite, Primerose and Cosmos—the first two being unique pieces.

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