Van Cleef & Arpels memorable watch releases tend to be ultra-high-end creations extolled for their high level of embellishment, thematic design and elaborate mechanisms—the most recent example being the Heure Florales, with diamond and enamel flower petals on the dial that unfurl to reveal the hour of the day. It is therefore not surprising that Van Cleef is overlooked as a maker of everyday watches, but the new Perlée collection just might change that.
An extension of the jewelry collection of the same name, first introduced in 2008, the Perlée watch collection now comes with the same signature beads of gold as its predecessor. Unlike vintage-style granulation, where little balls of gold are individually formed and then soldered onto a gold surface, the beading on the Perlée collection is created through lost-wax casting. Hence, the row of beads is already solidly attached to the surface of the gold. The beads are meticulously finished and polished by hand to make each one sparkle from all angles. The aesthetic is decorative and dainty without resorting to over-the-top cliché girly motifs.
The watches, which start at $8,000—a very reasonable price for a gold watch—employ the beading technique the outer bezel, where it adds a decorative, 3-D element to the case, almost like a lace border. The dials are guilloched in a gold sunburst pattern, mother-of-pearl or onyx. Bracelets are either woven grosgrain fabric in white, navy or black, or full gold, with rows of beading that match the case side. There are four variations in the 23 mm size, and one in a 30 mm case. As a bonus, each model is supplied with an interchangeable grosgrain fabric strap and a flexible bracelet.
At the higher end are a series of secret watches that pick up the hardstone disk element from the jewelry and explode it to a size big enough to form a hinged cover over the dial. A smaller disk, made with a stone of contrasting color, is incorporated into the open bangle-style bracelet. Both disks are surrounded by the gold bead motif, writ large. The dials pivot 360º to reveal a white mother-of-pearl dial surrounded by a row of large diamonds just inside the gold beading that runs along the periphery. The price of the secret watches tops out at $45,000 but they still have enough design versatility to wear dressed up or down.
The other central element in the Perlée collection is a pop of color in the form of ornamental, opaque stones, including turquoise, black onyx, green malachite, carnelian, lapis lazuli, coral or mother-of-pearl. In the jewelry, the stones are cut mostly as polished domes inlaid into gold and bordered by rows of gold beads and occasionally interspersed with diamonds. It starts at a very accessible price point of $3,000 and goes up to $35,000, depending on the size and diamond treatment. There are open bangles, small or large pendants, rings, earrings and, at the high end, gold rings designed as bands composed of five rows of beading broken by an asymmetrical triple row of diamonds, emeralds, rubies or sapphires.
Why not have one of each for a full Perlée set? Consider putting a piece of Perlée on your annual holiday wish list.