The history of automatons, which are among the Maison’s most spectacular objects, is closely intertwined with the emergence and development of watchmaking, as well as the mastery of time and mechanics.
As part of this tradition, in 2016 Van Cleef & Arpels created its first Extraordinary Object: the Automate Fée Ondine.
This unique piece is the result of seven years’ work and close collaboration with automaton maker François Junod. At the crossroads of the jewelry and watchmaking traditions, it brought together the expertise of seasoned craftsmen in a variety of fields: lapidaries, jewelry-makers, gem setters, enamellers and woodworkers.
View on the water lily and the butterfly
View on the Automate Fée Ondine, its stones and craftmanship
The highly complex mechanism allows for coordinated movement of diverse components, while also telling time. Nonetheless, the technical intricacies are far outshone by the creation’s spirit of ephemeral poetry: movement and lightness, the beauty of nature and the grace of a fairy waking from sleep amid nuances of precious stones and enamel. Through this Extraordinary Object, the narrative universe of Van Cleef & Arpels, transfused by the Maison’s creativity and savoir-faire, engenders a true sense of wonderment.
View inside the Automate Fée Ondine, with the various mechanisms, including the double barrel motors
Polishing aquamarines representing the fairy face
Presenting the butterfly before its setting on the Automate Fée Ondine
Fairy wings before and after application of plique-à-jour enamel
To mark the creation of the Automate Fée Ondine, the Maison collaborated with journalist and author Nicholas Foulkes to produce the book Automata, published by Editions Xavier Barral. This work, illustrated with photographs and reproductions of archival documents, retraces the epic tale of automatons from Antiquity to the present day.