Van Cleef & Arpels pioneered the concept of “jewellery that tells time”. How would you describe the relationship between jewellery and watches?
Our watches not only tell time, but are art pieces too. Working with diamonds is one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ strongest points. Our diamond watches feature a 3D design on the dial with layers of beautifully-set diamonds. By combining our expertise in jewellery, there’s no reason why our watches couldn’t be masterpieces too.
What do you mean by “poetic complications” with this new “Une Journée à Paris” watch presented at SIHH 09?
By poetic complications, we really mean sophisticated movements. The idea of this watch is to display a perception of time that is utterly unique. The face of Une Journée à Paris watch is different every hour you look at it, because the dial is always changing. Some others even display the different seasons throughout the year. At Van Cleef & Arpels, every creation has a heart beating inside of it, a soul.
Talking about poetry, the story of how Van Cleef & Arpels started is a great one.
Yes, we were born of a love story. Back then, Estelle Arpels met and married Alfred Van Cleef. They created a company together, and the very first boutique was set up on 22 Place Vendome in 1906, where it still stands today.
What are your classic collections?
The PA49 is a piece which Pierre Arpels created in 1949. He designed this watch because he couldn’t find a classic watch for himself. The PA49 inspired our “Midnight in Paris” men’s watches collection this year. Another watch that I love is the “Cadenas”, an original model dating from 1936, which we relaunched a few years ago. It’s incredible to see how much reaction this watch has generated. It’s modern beauty. It’s beautiful today, and it will still be 100 years from now!
What are the best-selling pieces?
Van Cleef & Arpels offers such fashionable collections. When you think about it, there are not that many jewellery brands that are fashionable at the same time. “Alhambra”, orignally created in 1968, is so versatile. The four-leaf clover symbolizes luck, health, prosperity and true love. The collection revives the trend of practical pieces that can be worn. People don’t want to buy something and put it in the safe. They want to enjoy the pieces they purchase - which is the whole point of jewellery! The collection is timeless and looks beautiful on any woman whatever her age. The Alhambra pieces start at £600 for a simple pendant, going up to £20000 for fancier designs. And then you have the diamonds pieces. Our customers collect them in different colours or wear them all together. Alhambra is a lot of fun, and sells very well.
We’re also famous for our between-finger rings. They are comfortable, transformable. Lots of people who are starting to know Van Cleef & Arpels begin with this ring collection.
Van Cleef & Arpels often pays homage to the city of Paris. Is this a characteristic of your designs?
Of course, the city is in our DNA! Paris in the 20s, 30s and 40s – those decades when the city’s paintings, architecture and visual arts were in their heyday - remain a great inspiration for our creations, as does its positioning as the epicentre of haute couture. That said, we are in no way defined by Paris - nature is also a major influence in our work.
How would you describe the UK market?
London’s one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and it is where our biggest UK market lies. People from all over the world travel here for business and leisure. And Bond Street is the first port of call for internationals seeking global luxury brands.
On a more personal note, what are your favourite cities in the world?
Venice, New York and London. My favourite restaurant outside london is Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. It’s been ranked the best restaurant in the world and lies 30km outside the city. In London, I love L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon - not just for its great food, but its ambience too. It has a different atmosphere on each floor and its Covent Garden positioning is ideal.
What about your favourite hotels in London?
I can’t wait for the Savoy to re-open because I love the space of the hotel. I also like The Connaught, where French chef Hélène Darroze offers wonderful food. I love Claridge’s for its Old London feel - it really encapsulates the soul of Mayfair, it’s incredibly chic.
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