Several maisons work on a poetic approach to marking time – notably Van Cleef & Arpels and Vacheron Constantin – but Chaumet's new collection 'Attrape-moi... si tu m'aimes' is poetic with a touch of humour that gives an extra sparkle to the diamonds.
The highlight is undoubtedly the piece with the bee and the spider. Superficially, it looks simple: the bee's wings form the minute hand, read on the twelve pink gold cabochons on the bezel; the spider shows the hours, close to the centre of the dial. But it's more than this. The spider and bee follow irregular courses around the dial, more like a zig-zag than a circle, creating the effect of the spider waiting at the centre of the web, while the bee flits around, boldly approaching the spider and actually brushing one of its legs with a wingtip, only to escape again. A delicate story, narrated with brilliant craftsmanship, with mother-of-pearl and diamonds set marquetry-style onto the dial. The movement was developed specially for Chaumet, a Swiss-made automatic calibre CP12V-XII.
The other pieces in the collection are equally decorative. One features lovely butterflies in agate or blue-tinted mother-of-pearl; others are based on Escher-like compositions of butterflies; in one, dragonflies are beautifully painted in enamel; and in a mysteriously romantic composition, a nocturnal scene is silhouetted against the full moon, with a snail, a dragonfly and a caterpillar sculpted from mother-of-pearl.
The bee has long been a favourite motif for Chaumet. The maison was founded by Marie-Etienne Nitot in 1780, and he worked for Marie-Antoinette and later for Napoleon. The bee, symbol of immortality and resurrection, was adopted by Napoleon to provide a link to the sovereigns of France: golden bees were discovered in the tomb of Childeric I, founder of the Merovingian dynasty in 457.
Chaumet and its tiaras