Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate: Flying butterflies premiere at SIHH 2017

Mother nature was the centre of attraction at SIHH 2017 with Van Cleef & Arpels latest introduction of women’s watches

Jan 17, 2017 | By Staff Writer

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate

It is a symphony of butterflies for jeweller and watchmaker Van Cleef & Arpels at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) 2017, especially in its stellar new Lady Arpels Papillon Automate. While a slew of brands presented watches that defy conventional expectations, Van Cleef & Arpels relegated time itself to the sidelines as it showcased its mechanical ingenuity. This latest Poetic Complication simply features a butterfly in motion, a feat accomplished by an outstandingly complicated mechanical calibre.

Now, Van Cleef & Arpels has leaned hard into automatons in the past (Lovers on the Bridge anyone?) but this one is just plain marvellous. In my own notes for this watch, that’s the word I used. With the help of the watchmakers at Valfleurier – the Richemont group’s top development people – the brand has used the usual tricks of the minute repeater to bring a mechanical butterfly on the dial to life. From a centrifugal force regulator to the pusher-activated motion of the butterfly, there really is a lot of chiming watch-derived mechanics.

For our money, this is the best watch of Day One at SIHH 2017, be it for gents or ladies; technically complicated or beautiful like a jewel. If you are technically inclined, just figuring out how this timepiece goes will be pure pleasure. If beauty inspires you, the dial is really a sculpture – an homage to both the natural forces that brought the diamonds to bear here and the extraordinary craftsmanship that brought the vision to life. We shall certainly have more to say on this later.


Case: 40mm white gold, diamonds in serti-neige style setting

Dial: Multi-level, featuring miniature painting, an automaton and champlevé, paillonné, plique-à-jour and curved plique-à-jour enamelling

Movement: Automatic with four patents pending

Functions: Hours, minutes, animated butterfly automata

Numbered edition

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