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Best of the Best 2008: Women's Watches: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Féerie

Laurie Kahle

In 2005, Parisian jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels presented its Midsummer Night’s Dream high-jewelry collection depicting impish fairies rendered in sparkling gems. Last year, the brand combined the fairy motif with a complicated retrograde movement and created the $96,000 Lady Arpels Féerie watch.

Designers referenced a museum piece, the 1927 "Bonze" fob watch, for this retrograde watch, which was made in collaboration with Geneva specialty house and frequent Van Cleef & Arpels partner Agenhor. A retrograde time display indicates measures of time with hands that sweep along arcs and then snap back to their original positions to trace the line again. The diamond-set fairy who sits perched on the dial of the Lady Arpels Féerie points to the hour with her star-tipped wand, while the longest of her glittering wings indicates the minute.

One of the watch’s less obvious technical achievements is its ability to generate enough power to move the hands, which are set with diamonds—a hefty and rare treatment for watch hands. The Féerie’s movement consists of two parts: a Jaeger-LeCoultre base movement and a module by Agenhor. Intricate guilloche engraving in a geometric lozenge pattern enhances the deep-blue enamel dial’s depth and luminosity. A jeweler sculpts the fairy figure in white gold and sets a specially cut diamond to represent her face.

"Usually, the purpose of a mechanical complication is to transmit mathematical information," explains Louis de Meckenheim, who manages the development of Van Cleef & Arpels’ watch collection. "Our purpose is to use mechanical achievements in order to transmit the poetic notion that time is a gift."

Van Cleef & Arpels, 800.822.5797, www.vancleef-arpels.com

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