Stanislas de Quercize, the recently appointed CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, must not be averse to risk. After all, he entrusted two young executives possessing minimal watchmaking experience to conceive the timepieces that would mark the Paris jewelry house’s centennial anniversary this year.
One of those men responsible for the Lady Arpels Centenary watch, the most impressive item in this year’s collection, is 31-year-old Louis de Meckenheim, who was selling software only five years ago. Soft-spoken and courteous, de Meckenheim spent his first four years at Van Cleef & Arpels working in sales in South America before becoming the company’s watch product director. In this position, he manages Van Cleef’s watch development process—a dream job for the self-described watch fanatic. His 34-year-old boss, Nicolas Bos, the company’s design director, has a slightly longer track record. A graduate of France’s prestigious Insead business school, Bos already had won plaudits for his work with the Cartier Foundation and as design director for Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry.
Their collaboration has produced a series of contemporary men’s watches and a complicated women’s piece—the Lady Arpels Centenary—that exhibit an imaginative flair. “The first thing Nicolas told me when we were discussing the Centenary watch was to rethink our interpretation of time,” recalls de Meckenheim. Their novel concept considered minutes and hours and the more romantic notion of the changing seasons. The Lady Arpels Centenary features a disk that bears an enamel-painted scene representing the evolution of the four seasons. The disk completes one full revolution each year, and, as months pass, a different part of the scene that corresponds to the current season becomes visible through a wide aperture on the dial. Van Cleef’s Richemont-owned sister company Jaeger-LeCoultre produced the movement, which was made to Van Cleef’s specifications, and an independent artisan painted the disk.
De Meckenheim and Bos are working on another piece that would be even more whimsical than the Centenary. The design calls for a sequential display of cocktail recipes from famous nightspots around the globe. But this proposed watch and the Lady Arpels Centenary represent more than just fun and games. By incorporating the complicated watchmaking expertise of Van Cleef & Arpels’ affiliated brands, these timepieces—and the brand itself—should gain enhanced credibility among watch collectors. “Before we had jewelry that tells the time,” says de Quercize. “Now we have real watches.”
Van Cleef & Arpels