Ever since its foundation in 1906 on Paris’ Place Vendôme, Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn inspiration from the world of couture, like a homage to its place of birth. Over the years, the Maison has reinterpreted the fluidity of fabric in gold and precious materials, giving rise to creations of timeless elegance.
Today, it is putting this source of inspiration at center stage, as it unveils new pieces at the crossroads of High Jewelry and Watchmaking. Revisiting the style of the Ludo bracelets designed in the 1930s, five watches display the passage of the hours with the Ludo Secret models. Van Cleef & Arpels is also presenting eight unique long necklaces, adorned with a precious tassel and a carefully disguised watch.
A blend of flowing lines and refined materials, these variously transformable creations bring new delight to the art of telling the time.
Ludo Secret watches
Revisiting an iconic piece from the 1930s
Van Cleef & Arpels is putting the Ludo bracelet – one of the Maison’s emblematic creations in the 1930s – back at centre stage with the Ludo Secret watches, presented in two different styles. Like the original creation, they evoke the shape of a belt with their flexible mesh, punctuated by a jewel-encrusted motif in place of the buckle.
Bringing together different materials and colours of gold, the creations are made up of hexagonal links. Adorned with a precious stone – a ruby or sapphire – in star setting at their centres, they form a glittering constellation around the wrist.
Following in the footsteps of the secret watches that Van Cleef & Arpels holds dear, these new pieces harbor a dial in white mother-of-pearl, surrounded by diamonds. On the models in hard and precious stones, a cabochon rotates to unveil the iridescent shades of the dial – embellished with a set star indicating the twelve hours; on the Mystery Set watches, the time is revealed beneath a motif of sapphires or rubies.
Similarly reinterpreting the Ludo bracelet, a series of three Ludo Secret watches reveals luminous combinations of materials. The rose gold model associates the warm hues of rubies and coral, while the two versions in yellow gold bring together chrysoprase, emeralds and sapphires on the one hand, and lapis lazuli and blue and pink sapphires on the other.
In an interplay of colors and materials, precious and hard stones come together within a symmetrical rose motif. The petals – depicted by gems of different sizes – blossom around a generous hard stone cabochon, haloed with diamonds. Recalling the outline of a belt, the extremity of the bracelet is made up of a gem-set motif that echoes the rose.
In keeping with the Maison’s tradition of transformable pieces, these creations can be worn in a variety of ways: the motif with the dial can be replaced on the bracelet by an hexagonal mesh buckle set with precious stones, to create a new piece of jewelry. The rose can also be transformed into a clip or a pendant, threaded onto a long chain.
Secrets and mysteries
Van Cleef & Arpels offers two unique Ludo Secret pieces: one in white gold set with sapphires, the other in rose gold adorned with rubies.
Inspired by the Ludo Hexagone Macarons secret watch from 1941, these creations are enlivened with loops on either side of the dial. They frame a motif in Mystery Set rubies or sapphires, creating an intensely colorful effect. Slightly convex, the motif echoes the generous curves of the case and the rounded bracelet.
From stone department to workshops
Using gold to reinterpret the fluidity of fabric presented the Maison’s workshops with a real technical challenge. To create the impression of a delicate weave, the watches’ hexagonal motifs were carefully assembled and individually adjusted by hand, for the best possible articulation.
The precious materials were chosen by the Maison’s expert gemologists according to the most stringent criteria: the lapis lazuli, coral and chrysoprase were selected for their intense and even color, while the dial’s mother-of-pearl combines harmonious shades, a regular surface and luster of the highest quality. Matching the hard and precious stones – revealed in a variety of cuts that includes cabochon, pear-shaped, navette and round – was an intricate task.
The sparkle of Mystery Set
The unique watches are illuminated by one of the Maison’s emblematic techniques: the Mystery Set. A genuine feat of jewelry-making, it consists in inserting specially intricately cut precious stones onto gold rails. Once in place, the gems – sapphires and rubies in this case – perfectly cover the set surface, giving the piece a velvety sheen. Such is the degree of expertise required to create a piece in Mystery Set that it remains the exclusive preserve of a few rare lapidaries and master jewelers, known as the Mains d’Or.
A style inspired by the Maison’s heritage
The Ludo Secret watches celebrate the timeless elegance of one of Van Cleef & Arpels key signatures: the Ludo bracelet. First created in 1934, the model bears the nickname of Louis Arpels, one of the Maison’s founders. Evoking a belt – a much sought-after fashion accessory for daring women of the 1930s – the Ludo bracelet was an immediate success.
The original 1934 creation, composed of briquette motifs, was joined the following year by a version made up of small articulated hexagons. Adorned either with a motif in Mystery Set, or with flowers or graceful volutes, both versions lent themselves to multiple adaptations throughout the 1930s, taking the form of rings, watches and lapel clips, worn either on a jacket or a collar.
Pompon long necklaces
Jewels that tell the time
The Maison is unveiling new creations that combine elegance with metamorphosis: the Pompon secret long necklaces. Inspired as much by the fluid lines of the jewelry of the 1920s as the dazzling color combinations of the 1970s, these eight unique pieces associate white cultured pearls with a variety of precious materials. The blue of a Sri Lankan sapphire makes way for the luminous green of a tourmaline, while the colors of spinels are complemented by those of hard stones such as onyx, lapis lazuli and malachite.
Emblematic of the world of couture, a tassel enlivens each necklace with lines of pearls and multicolored beads. Gracefully accompanying its wearer’s movements, it harbors a delicate dial in mother-of-pearl, concealed differently according to the model. In keeping with one of the Maison’s cherished traditions, the pieces can be transformed and worn in several ways, to suit any mood.
Made up of rows of cultured pearls, jewelry motifs and a fluid tassel, this long necklace reveals a 6.19-carat Sri Lankan sapphire at its heart, in a well-proportioned cushion cut. Its remarkably intense color contrasts with the whiteness of the pearls and establishes a dialogue with the sapphire details and lapis lazuli beads present on the piece. Hidden beneath the central motif, a secret dial is revealed by delicately pressing one of the diamonds
Extremely transformable, this creation is simultaneously unique and graced with a multiplicity of functions: the secret watch and tassel can be removed to vary the length of the long necklace, which can be shortened even further thanks to removable strands of pearls. The latter metamorphose into two bracelets, while the secret watch can be attached to a third bracelet in diamonds, sapphires and cultured pearls.
Tassels and their secrets
Colored and pearly tones alternate on these two long necklaces, which lend an elegant, joyful touch to the silhouette. The first combines white cultured pearls with beads of lapis lazuli and onyx, alongside black spinels, sapphires and diamonds in a gradient of deep shades. The tassel is suspended from a jewelry motif in white and yellow gold set with diamonds, which frames an 11.87-carat tourmaline of limpid green.
In the same style, the other long necklace reveals a flamboyant palette, in which pearls complement rubies and pink and mauve sapphires. These gems echo the pinky shade of an 8.99-carat spinel, set at the heart of a finely wrought motif.
On both creations, the dial is elegantly concealed in the tassel, among strands of pearls and colored stones: when delicately turned, it reveals a diamond-set case and enables the hour to be read with discretion.
Transformable into different lengths – short or long, and with or without the tassel – these pieces may also be worn in another way: the main motif can be removed and worn as a clip, adorned with the central stone.
With their dazzling colors, these creations are characterized by an interplay of materials and contrasts. The palette of blues provided by turquoise, chalcedony and lapis lazuli is enriched by the greens of chrysoprase, amazonite and malachite. Deep black onyx and coral that ranges from reddish orange to red complete the chromatic variation of these long necklaces, which harbor a secret watch. On the top of the tassel, a set motif slides to reveal a dial in mother-of-pearl.
The fluid lines of the tassel echo a cascade of pearls, precious stones and colored beads that adorns the nape of the neck, in a refined effect of symmetry. This bejeweled ornament can even become a pendant at the front, in one of the possible transformations. The art of surprise dear to the Maison is illustrated by numerous wearing possibilities, ranging from a short to long necklace, with the tassel removable to suit any occasion.
The palette of savoir-faire
To bring these jewels that tell the time to life, Van Cleef & Arpels has deployed all its jewelry and watchmaking expertise. The selection of the stones by the Maison’s expert gemologists was a key stage. The fires of diamonds classed D to F for color and IF to VVS for clarity blend in with the brilliance of colored stones – sapphires, emeralds, rubies, tourmalines, spinels and garnets – which stand out for their sparking material, their well-proportioned cuts and their shimmering hues.
The cultured pearls have been chosen for their consistent shape and the beauty of their iridescent overtones, while the beads of hard stone had to display a smooth surface and harmonious color to ensure that they matched one another perfectly. Luminous blue turquoise, malachite of an elegantly striated green and slightly translucent chalcedony, amazonite and chrysoprase endow these creations with a chromatic palette that is as noble as it is varied.
Creating each long necklace involves another craft that Van Cleef & Arpels holds dear: knotted threading. This traditional technique consists in threading the pearls one-by-one onto a silk thread, then making a knot between each pearl to protect the beauty of the gem and ensure the necklace’s overall solidity.
Because each piece is transformable, special attention has been given to the clasp and security systems, which are hidden inside quarter-turn jewelry motifs or the thumb piece on the Pompon Margaret long necklace watch. The jewelers have also installed ingenious secret mechanisms to conceal the dials, while providing for the flexibility and fluidity of each long necklace.
A history of long necklaces
Ever since its foundation in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has borrowed elements from the world of couture, reinterpreting the lightness of fabric and the delicacy of trimmings in precious creations.
Beginning in the 1920s, the fashion for fluid, slender dresses inspired the Maison to create long pearl necklaces, sometimes adorned with twirling tassels. This aesthetic was revisited in the 1970s, when long necklaces were embellished with brightly colored precious and hard stones, reflecting the style of the period and the fashion for ‘‘cocktail’’ pieces to be worn at receptions. Today, Van Cleef & Arpels perpetuates the charm of both these periods, in colorful long necklaces suffused with movement and femininity.