To elicit enchantment, Van Cleef & Arpels draws on its sources of inspiration, its heritage and the expertise of its workshops. With its training schools, the Maison perpetuates ancestral know-how and expresses its attachment to the values of creation and transmission. Enamel, miniature painting, marquetry of precious and ornamental stones, the art of engraving and sculpture... the métiers d'art are deepened according to the creations while new techniques are developed in the service of a distinctive vision of the passing hours.

    Lady Arpels Papillon Automate watch, Poetic Complications collection. Van Cleef & Arpels

Painting a landscape, sculpting characters, making way for light to shine… By adorning a dial, craftsmen bring a story to life with precision. On the creations, the Maison's signature know-how combine to breathe poetry into timepieces.

The art of enamel

Within its Geneva Watchmaking Workshops, the Maison perpetuates and brings these know-how to life, in particular through an enamel workshop and a training school. Van Cleef & Arpels perfects traditional methods such as plique-à-jour or grisaille enamel. This technique, a hallmark of the Pont des Amoureux collection, allows for striking chiaroscuro effects. 

Beyond these ancestral methods, Van Cleef & Arpels stands out for the development of innovative techniques, giving rise to three-dimensional décors. Each new challenge responds to the design imagined by the Creation Studio and sometimes requires several years of research and development. A dialogue is then born between science and art, technical requirements and stylistic intentions in the service of the story told by the watch.

Setting in enamel on the Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch

Through the Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch, the House brings to life a graceful fairy, picking flowers under the first rays of the sun. The timepiece showcases a unique technique: setting in enamel. It involves setting precious stones within the plique-à-jour enamel with no other metal components. The stone is exactingly positioned in an indentation deftly carved in the enamel. The piece is then re-fired according to a highly precise temperature curve to seal the composition. This process generates a “floating” effect that accentuates the glow of the precious stones. More than 250 hours of work were necessary to assemble this true miniature tableau.

    Setting in enamel. Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch, Extraordinary Dials collection, Van Cleef & Arpels.
Press and Hold

The enameled motifs come to life through a succession of steps, giving each piece intense colors and a lively shine. Champlevé, vallonné, plique-à-jour, grisaille, gem-set, or even shaped enamel combine to breathe life into the stories told by the dials.

The art of miniature painting

Miniature painting is a age-old technique which dates back to Antiquity and has made artists famous since the Middle Ages. Just as the painter has his palette, the enameler has colored enamels composed of silica powder, very finely ground pigments and oil. On the watches, the craftsman or painter wearing a binocular applies the color using a fine sable hair brush, gradually creating shapes and gradients of shades. 

The colors are placed one by one, in a very precise order, from the lightest to the most intense tones. Each of them is associated with a specific firing, the temperature and duration of which remain the secret of the master enameler. If the drawing, executed freehand, requires precision, dexterity and a real talent as a painter, each stage of firing requires great attention to detail.

Enamel miniature painting on the Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale watch

On the Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Émeraude watch, sculpted, engraved and hand-painted draperies seem to part to reveal aerial ballerinas in miniature painting. 

The result of 72 hours of work, this technique gave life to real miniature works and allowed to adjust the volume of the disc and make it lighter.

Press and Hold
    Enamel miniature painting. Ballerine Musicale Émeraude watch, Poetic Complication, Van Cleef & Arpels.

The art sculpting and engraving

The art of the sculptor consists of making a figure emerge from a block of material - gold, mother-of-pearl or even ornamental stones - and giving it life. To work on each material, play on their appearance, highlight their reflections, create a velvety feel, the craftsman measures it first with his eyes then with his hand. Sculpture allows for a dial to be adorned or for a case back to be enhanced with effects of depth and relief.

The know-how of the engraver is measured as much by his technique as by his ability to breathe volume, depth and life to his work. On metal, mother-of-pearl or ornamental stones, it contributes to the poetry of the story told by each timepiece.

The sculpture and engraving on the Lady Féerie watch

Like a protective muse, a fairy in a dress of sapphires and diamonds watches over Van Cleef & Arpels' Poetry of Time. Seated on a mother-of-pearl cloud of iridescent whiteness, the female figure entirely sculpted in white gold indicates the minutes with her magic wand.

    Fairy sculpted in volume. Lady Féerie watch, Poetic Complication, Van Cleef & Arpels.
    Engraving of the underside of the watch. Lady Féerie watch, Poetic Complication, Van Cleef & Arpels.

Visible on the back of the watch, the oscillating weight is engraved with a full moon sky dotted with stars continuing the wonderful story told by the dial.

The art of stone-setting and the art of mother-of-pearl and ornamental stones marquetry

The role of the stone-setter is to embed the stones in the precious metal and to highlight them. They must therefore be maintained while making the frame disappear as much as possible. Depending on the design and the stones, the setter applies different setting techniques: prong, grain, closed, lifted or even rail.

    Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch, white gold, diamonds, yellow gold, colored sapphires, spessartites grenats, turquoise. Extraordinary Dials collection, Van Cleef & Arpels.

Meanwhile, the marquetry craftsman showcases gems in subtle compositions. To form a pattern, the stones or mother-of-pearl are carefully selected according to different criteria: hue, hardness, surface quality and opacity. Marquetry then requires great expertise to shape the different components of the decor. Gems are individually cut and polished by hand.

Lifted setting and turquoise marquetry on the Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch

Illuminating the background of the Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch, the sun is highlighted by precious stones: spessartites, yellow sapphires and diamonds.
On its rays, diamonds seem to levitate thanks to the lifted setting technique. The latter, developed by the
Van Cleef & Arpel Watchmaking Workshops, gives the stones the illusion of being suspended without visible support, like dewdrops.

    Assembling the turquoise marquetry on the dial. Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch, Extraordinary Dials, Van Cleef & Arpels.
    Turquoise marquetry. Lady Arpels Jour Enchanté watch, Extraordinary Dials, Van Cleef & Arpels.

This scenery takes place against a sky in three shades of turquoise. Reflecting the Maison's tradition of excellence, the lapidary's work begins with the selection of a series of blocks of turquoise which meet the highest criteria and respond to the needs of the piece, particularly in terms of shapes and colours. Then, a real puzzle is created in order to translate the dial design as faithfully as possible. Here, turquoise has been cut to evoke the different tones of a sky at sunrise.