Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Jeweller with a long history

Van Cleef & Arpels treats watch-making like gem carving; beauty gets top priority. Last year, the brand used special craftsmanship, such as enamel protraction and gem setting, on several tourbillon timepieces, infusing the traditional complicated function with a poetic element that impressed a lot of people.

Van Cleef & Arpels originated from a legendary marriage. In 1896, two jeweller families from Holland were united by the marriage of their children, Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. Ten years later, the two families co-founded Van Cleef & Arpels, the first jewellers to take up residence in the Place Vendome. Since then, the brand has opened boutiques all over the world.

As a jewellery brand that is favoured by royalty and celebrities, Van Cleef & Arpels uses its exclusive "Mystery Setting" in the development of its timepieces. This unique gem setting technique allows the gems to sit closely without visible metal claws, resulting in a perfect finish. Although the technique is time-consuming, the "Mystery Setting" has become the secret behind the brand's perfect performance.

In the professional watch-making area, Van Cleef & Arpels takes advantage of its natural gem-setting mastery, which when combined with the watch-making, results in jewellery that shows time.

With its Tourbillon collection, Van Cleef & Arpels pays tribute to the most prestigious of watchmaking complications by combining it with dials that are unique in terms of quality of materials and complexity of the techniques used by the master dial makers. The whole collection emphasizes the design of dial through different elements. The most eye-catching are Midnight Hanging Garden and Midnight Caresse d'Eole.

Midnight Hanging Garden is inspired by a 1925 minaudire (small vanity case). The antique Garden of Babylon are illustrated on the dial by a millefiori floral design, enhanced by exceptional multi-coloured enamel and diamond set floral motif. In the Midnight Caresse d'Eole, a Caresse d'Eole fairy is adorned in diamonds and unfolds her wings to accompany the tourbillon movement amidst deep and translucent colours.

The two watches have a platinum case with the 42mm dial meter, and tourbillon movement developed on the base of a Piaget movement.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Complex simplicity

Combining grand complications such as tourbillon, perpetual calendar and the minute repeater with an understated look, Patek Philippe's Ref. 5207 is another wonderful timepiece elaborating the regal style of this brand.

In 2002, Patek Philippe launched the impressive 5002 Sky Moon Tourbillon, which had 12 functions. Annual production was limited to just two pieces. The watch continues to be celebrated today. After six years, Patek Philippe launches 5207, equipped with three mainstream complications, demonstrating the brand's unique understanding of complex functions.

The main feature of Ref. 5207 is the subtle assembly of three mainstream grand complications: tourbillon, perpetual calendar and minute repeater. In the Ref. 5207, the host movement is the coveted calibre R TO 27 PS, which, together with the instantaneous perpetual calendar, becomes the calibre R TO 27 PS QI movement. The movement has received COSC certifications issued by Switzerland's official chronometer testing agency, rare for a movement with so many complicated functions.

According to the brand tradition, the 69-part, 0.3gm tourbillon of the Ref. 5207 is set at the back of the case. So, the owner can only appreciate the rotation through the sapphire-crystal back.

The minute repeater is always considered one of the outstanding features of Patek Philippe; those who have heard the sound of the Ref. 3939 will never doubt this point. Ref. 5207 uses the best steel alloy, the result of many years of research, and optimized the shape and connection of the gongs in cooperation with the internationally respected Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. In addition, Philippe Stern, the president of Patek Philippe, would repeatedly listen to the sound of each of these rare watches to decide whether it is ready for delivery or must return to the workshops for acoustic tweaking.

The topical instantaneous perpetual calendar is displayed by aperture types with discs and uses the newly developed calendar mechanism to solve the problem of energy consumption. It took five years to develop the mechanism, which instantaneously and simultaneously switch the day, date, month, and leap-year aperture displays at midnight. The heart of the invention is a mechanism composed of levers and programme cams for which two patent applications have been filed.

Although the Ref. 5207 has many grand complications, its appearance is simple. The 41mm case is made of platinum and features a discreetly set Top Wesselton diamond between the lugs at 6 o'clock. Meanwhile, the shiny brown alligator strap also provides a balanced beauty.

Despite its many indications, the Honey Gold-hued 18K gold dial is highly organised and unpretentious. The apertures in mirror-polished frames show the day, date, and month along an arc between 10 and 12 o'clock. The date display with its mirror-polished white-gold frame is particularly prominent. The seconds subdial at 6 o'clock has an aperture for the moon-phase display, a poetic yet highly precise indication that deviates from the true lunation by only one day in 122 years. To its left is a small aperture for the day/night indication. The aperture on the opposite side shows the leap-year cycle with Roman numerals I to IV.

The Ref. 5207 is among Patek Philippe's most complicated wristwatches; only very few of these watches will be crafted each year. Because of its limited availability, the Ref. 5207 is sold exclusively in the Patek Philippe Geneva Salons during the introductory phase at present.

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