Rewrite the poetry of time to the tunes of the ballet.
The curtain is raised. Finely sculpted, engraved and hand-painted draperies reveal five ballerinas in miniature painting, dancing to 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). We are led into the enchanting world of ballet within seconds.
It’s not an exquisite musical box being described here, but the new Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales timepieces created by Van Cleef & Arpels. For the first time, music and motion entwine beautifully in a timepiece. As the dial awakens, the scene is revealed as the melody plays out against a three-dimensional tableau of an actual theatre stage painstakingly recreated by the Maison to capture the allure of the ballet. The 44.5mm diamond-embellished white gold case encloses the stage “lit” by a diamond-set upper dial representing a chandelier and lavish curtains.
A star graces the top of the dial, in tribute to the Paris Opera’s “danseuses étoiles”, as it displays the passage of time on a graduated 12-hour scale. Perpetuating a tradition dear to the Maison, the watches run on a manual-winding mechanical movement with retrograde time indication, with a 52-hour power reserve.
The Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Émeraude watch displays tasteful green tones, while the Rubis shines in classy shades of red, and the Diamant glistens in white, blue and golden hues. Each piece is a numbered edition featuring its own blend of stones and motifs, an allusion to the three movements of Jewels, with a precious stone reflecting the colour of the dial, on its upper crown. The watch is paired with an alligator strap in matching colours, secured with a diamond-set white gold folding buckle, both interchangeable.
On the back of the watch is an engraved bas-relief illustration of a ballerina dancing in front of the Van Cleef & Arpels 5th Avenue boutique in New York, where Claude Arpels hosted renowned choreographer and co-founder of the New York City Ballet, George Balanchine in 1966 for a private viewing of Van Cleef & Arpel’s creations. They developed a deep artistic bond with a common love for gems, eventually blossoming into Balanchine’s ballet Jewels, first performed in New York in April 1967 and now, forms the inspiration behind the Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicals timepieces.
Conceived a decade ago, the project took seven years of development to be brought to perfection. The Maison worked closely with Swiss concert musician, Michel Tirabosco to simplify and adapt the arrangements to just two instruments – a music box made up of a 10-blade keyboard plucked by pins located on the underside of the rotating disc that presents the visual animation, and the carillon with four gongs struck by as many hammers, providing additional notes.
The instruments are carefully tuned to ensure perfect pitch for the 20- to 25-second melodies, relaying the melody and harmonies of the selected tunes accurately with a centrifugal regulation mechanism maintaining constant speed regardless of the tension in the animation barrel. The tune can thus be played three times in a row with flawless melodic quality, amplified by the watch case that transmits it through a diamond-paved surface. Made from birchwood and walnut marquetry, the watch case was created in partnership with luthiers and acoustics experts, and enriched with an electronic amplifier to further elevate the listening experience.
Adhering to the Van Cleef & Arpels tradition of excellence, the Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales series of timepieces is an enchanting blend of savoir-faire, where fine watchmaking expertise meets the mastery of fine crafts and jewellery to depict the art of music and dance.
Images courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.