Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales

The enchantment of ballet on the wrist

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Reading Time: 7 minutes

In its quest for excellence with a taste for beauty and harmony, Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn boundless inspiration from the world of dance over the decades. Today, the art of ballet imparts an aura of grace into three new watches reflecting the vision of Poetry of Time unique to the Maison. For the first time, Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales creations blend music and motion, bringing to life a veritable experience of sight and sound. True to the Van Cleef & Arpels tradition of excellence, each timepiece combines watchmaking expertise, mastery of fine crafts and jewellery savoir-faire to capture the full enchantment of music and dance.

Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales – At the crossroads of the arts

The bond between Van Cleef & Arpels and dance dates back to 1920s Paris. Louis Arpels, a fervent ballet lover, often took his nephew Claude to the Opéra Garnier, just a short walk from the Place Vendôme boutique. The Maison’s first ballerina clips were created in the early 1940s, soon becoming one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature designs. Their aerial attitudes and the beauty of their attire immediately charmed collectors. Featuring a gold or rose-cut diamond face complemented by a precious head ornament, dancers are depicted with point shoes and a tutu made of diamonds or coloured stones that seems to flow, echoing their movements.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Pierre Arpels, ballerina Suzanne Farrell and choreographer George Balanchine, circa 1976
BALANCHINE is a trademark of The George Balanchine Trust.

This kinship with the world of ballet deepened in the 1950s, when Claude Arpels made the acquaintance of famed choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet. Their shared passion for gems blossomed into an artistic bond that produced Balanchine’s ballet Jewels, first performed in New York in April 1967. Each act of the non-narrative triptych is linked to a particular gemstone and a particular composer: Gabriel Fauré for Emeralds, Igor Stravinsky for Rubies and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.

The magic of the stage with Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales

To reflect the full wonder of ballet, Van Cleef & Arpels recreated the three-dimensional tableau of an actual theater stage. A diamond-set upper dial, representing a sparkling chandelier and lavish curtains, illuminates the dial, awash in color thanks to the fine crafts dear to the Maison: sculpted, engraved and hand-painted draperies reveal ethereal ballerinas in miniature painting.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Realization of the ballerinas in miniature painting on the Rubis disk

Each piece features its own blend of stones and motifs, an allusion to the three movements of Jewels. The Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Émeraude watch displays green nuances, while the Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Rubis timepiece shines in elegant tones of red. The Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Diamant watch sparkles with intense white, blue and golden hues. On the upper crown of each creation, a precious stone reflects the color of the dial.

Hand engraving of the ballerina on the back of the case

The story continues on the back of the watch with an engraved bas-relief illustration portraying a ballerina dancing in front of the Van Cleef & Arpels 5th Avenue boutique in New York, where Claude Arpels hosted George Balanchine in 1966 for a private viewing of the Maison’s creations.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
View of the open disk

The poetry of motion and music

Enriching the Poetic Complications collection, each of these three creations evokes a chapter of Jewels, recreating the poetry of the costumes and music through a visual and musical animation. The dial comes to life and the melody rings out, transporting the eyes and ears into an enchanting world of ballet.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Hour display

The dial awakes on demand: the curtain opens to reveal five ballerinas draped in tutus and colours suggesting the different gemstones and traditions of dance that inspired George Balanchine. As this scene appears, the music starts to play.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Drapes of the Émeraude variant

Thanks to a veritable technical achievement, the melodies associated with the three acts resonate with the crystalline tones of a carillon and a music box. The innovative combination and harmonization of these two instruments treats the ear to themes by Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Realization of the ballerinas in miniature painting on the Rubis disk

The watch case amplifies the melody offered by the carillon and music box, transmitting it through a surface expertly paved with diamonds. To heighten the listening experience, each watch comes with a birchwood and walnut marquetry case, created in partnership with luthiers and acoustics experts, and enriched with an electronic amplifier.

Hand engraving of the ballerina on the back of the case
Engraving of the drapes on the disk of the Diamant variant

This project, conceived a decade ago, required seven years of development work for the manual-winding mechanical movement and the on-demand animation. Perpetuating a tradition dear to the Maison, the watches also feature a retrograde function to tell the time. On the top of the dial, a star – in tribute to the Paris Opera’s “danseuses étoiles” – displays the passage of time on a graduated 12-hour scale.

Hand engraving of the ballerina on the back of the case
Assembly Diamant’s case

A singular combination of two musical instruments

The music box is made up of a 10-blade keyboard, plucked by pins located on the underside of the rotating disc that presents the visual animation. The four gongs of the carillon, struck by as many hammers, offer additional notes.

Hand engraving of the ballerina on the back of the case
Assembly of the carillon’s gongs by the watchmaker

The two instruments had to be carefully tuned, like a piano, to ensure perfect pitch for the 20- to 25-second melodies. To respect the rhythm of each arrangement, a centrifugal regulation mechanism maintains constant speed regardless of the tension in the animation barrel. The piece can thus be played three times in a row with flawless melodic quality.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
View of the carillon in the movement

A blend of savoir-faire

In addition to the technical exploit of playing two different instruments inside a watch case, Van Cleef & Arpels also took up the challenge of reproducing the complex melodies of three classical music themes: Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 80 by Gabriel Fauré (1898), Capriccio for piano and orchestra by Igor Stravinsky (1929) and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 (1875).

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Assembly of the music box’s keyboard

The Maison worked closely with Michel Tirabosco to simplify and adapt the arrangements to just two instruments. A Swiss concert musician, born in Rome and famous for his mastery of the pan flute, he was intimately involved throughout the development process. In the heart of each creation, the rich tones of the carillon and music box accurately and delicately relay the melody and harmonies.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Assembly of the music box’s disk

For example, the movement of the Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Rubis watch performs Stravinsky’s Capriccio with no fewer than 92 notes: 69 played by the music box, and 23 by the carillon.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Technical Specifications

Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Émeraude watch

• 44.5mm diameter case in white gold set with diamonds, bezel in white gold set with diamonds and crowns set with diamonds and an emerald
• Dial in miniature painting, upper dial in engraved white gold set with diamonds
• Interchangeable shiny green alligator strap with an interchangeable white gold folding buckle set with diamonds
• Manual-winding mechanical movement with retrograde time indication, on-demand musical animation, 52-hour power reserve
• Numbered edition

Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Rubis watch

• 44.5mm diameter case in white gold set with diamonds, bezel in white gold set with diamonds and crowns set with diamonds and a ruby
• Dial in miniature painting, upper dial in engraved white gold set with diamonds
• Interchangeable shiny wine red alligator strap with an interchangeable white gold folding buckle set with diamonds
• Manual-winding mechanical movement with retrograde time indication, on-demand musical animation, 52-hour power reserve
• Numbered edition

Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Diamant watch

• 44.5mm diameter case in white gold set with diamonds, bezel in white gold set with diamonds and crowns set with diamonds
• Dial in miniature painting, upper dial in engraved white gold set with diamonds
• Interchangeable shiny charcoal grey alligator strap with an interchangeable white gold folding buckle set with diamonds
• Manual-winding mechanical movement with retrograde time indication, on-demand musical animation, 52-hour power reserve
• Numbered edition

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Gallery

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