Art Déco Panier fleuri Châtelaine, 1926, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Throughout the 1920s, timepieces became essential fashion accessories as well as functional objects. It was the perfect opportunity for Van Cleef & Arpels to take its first steps into the world of watch-making and to contribute to the transformation of the timepiece into a luxurious piece of jewelry.
The first “Châtelaine” or “Régence” models could thus be mistaken for beautifully adorned brooches, were it not for the small watch dial hidden on the back. This Art Deco-inspired model from 1926 is in platinum and set with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and onyx.
Catalogue page with jeweled wristwatch, 1924-1925, Van Cleef & Arpels' Archives
Wristwatches soon emerged as a more functional alternative to “Châtelaine” models. By the end of the 1920s, they had become sumptuous pieces of jewelry that women could even wear with their evening gowns.
Secret watch, 1941, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
Throughout the early 20th century, it was considered inelegant for a woman to wear a watch in public. For women still uncomfortable wearing one, Van Cleef & Arpels designed ingenious jeweled wristwatches with hidden dials that could discreetly be revealed.
Cadenas watch, 1940, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
The famous Cadenas watch - which is still featured in today’s collections - was created in the same spirit in 1935. Its inclined dial enabled women to read the time discreetly during social events.