The models in the Poetic Complications collection are a far cry from the traditional complications enriching (generally masculine) timepieces with various horological and technical functions. They often feature “only” a retrograde hours and minutes display, but enlivened with animated figures or dainty creatures. These Van Cleef & Arpels creations tell a story – for such is their function – that is more attuned to emotions rather than focused on the precise measurement of time. The technical prowess behind the complication is well hidden and entirely dedicated to aesthetics and poetry. The latter naturally arises from the animated expression of the passing hours and from the beauty of the dials on which both the figurines and their surroundings are exalted by artistic crafts – a domain in which the venerable Maison on the Place Vendôme cultivates time-honoured expertise.
While the collection was officially launched in 2006 for the Van Cleef & Arpels centenary celebrations, a model dating from 2004 and named Lady Arpels Féérie already featured the type of retrograde movement that would become the life and soul of the Poetic Complications. This manual-winding Jaeger-LeCoultre movement, combined with a retrograde module designed by watchmaker-developer Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, drives the magic wand and the fairy’s wing to tell the time.
The Quantième des Saisons (seasons calendar) is another Poetic Complications movement: it daily turns an enamelled or aventurine glass disc by barely one degree over a 365-day cycle, thereby gradually and successively revealing the various parts of the dial base. In 2009, the four “Les Jardins” models adorned in Grand Feu enamel and mother-of-pearl also featured this same seasons calendar movement.
Among the most beautiful Poetic Complications with a hand-type display of time are the creations named Une Journée à Paris (A day in Paris, 2009), and Bals de Légende (Legendary Balls, 2011). Presented in a Lady Arpels case set with round diamonds, the former mark off time by a stroll through the City of Light depicted in mother-of-pearl and onyx. The figurines pass by the city’s monuments, borne by a 24-hour rotating dial and driven by a self-winding Piaget 800P base movement equipped with a 24-hour ValFleurier model developed exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels with a 60-hour power reserve. The dials of the four Bal models are even more sophisticated, with their lower section crafted in mother-of-pearl marquetry.
If we were to single out just one model, it would doubtless be the Pont des Amoureux (Lover’s Bridge). Presented in 2010 and winner that same year of the Ladies’ Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, this Poetic Complication™ embodies the ultimate expression of horological romanticism. The accuracy of its timekeeper is of secondary importance, and it is instead the lovers’ steady progression towards each other until they meet at noon and midnight that gives meaning to the passing of time. A time that is sensed rather than accurately measured, since the girl moves faster as she approaches the tryst. She shows the hours with the tip of her umbrella while her beloved indicates the minutes, all thanks to the famous Jaeger-LeCoultre movement reworked by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. Arrayed in subtly nuanced shades of white, blue and black, the dial crafted in contre-jour enamel (white paint pigments against a black background) is straddled by an extremely graphic white gold bridge.
Poetic Complications Le pont des Amoureux. The girl shows the hours with the tip of her umbrella while her beloved indicates the minutes, all thanks to the famous Jaeger-LeCoultre movement reworked by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht.
Among the other models with a retrograde animation are the Cinq Semaines en Ballon (2010), Ballerine Enchantée (2013) as well as the delightful Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Coccinelles et Oiseaux de Paradis (2015) models featuring a cloisonné enamel dial enlivened by insects and flowers, along with a sun and moon.
While Van Cleef & Arpels created its poetic collection in 2006 with the idea of treating women to mechanical watches endowed with complications, not all models within it are intended exclusively for ladies. The Midnight Poetic Wish unveiled in 2012 is the masculine counterpart of the Lady Arpels Poetic Watch. The technical side of things has been taken to the next level here, for while the watch still displays “only” the hours and minutes, it is also equipped with four automatons and chimes both the hours and five-minute intervals. Sculpture and engraving on gold and mother-of-pearl, miniature painting and gemsetting are all dedicated to a new depiction of Paris in a subtly rougher and less idealised mode.
Nor should we forget a model that is unlike any of the other Poetic Complications: the Midnight Planetarium (2014). Framed by a 44mm pink gold case, with or without gemsetting, the entire dial is devoted to displaying an aventurine blue sky on which six planets represented by different colour stones move around the sun in a scientifically accurate manner. This planetary choreography is orchestrated by an extremely sophisticated mechanical self-winding movement. So where is the poetry? It lies in the invitation extended to future owners of these watches to have their lucky day inscribed in the solar system, thereby giving them a chance to take part on their own personal scale in the grand cosmic ballet.