Van Cleef and Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate

Van Cleef and Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate

2017 GPHG Ladies High-Mech Category Finalist

In the frivolity of the beating wings of a little butterfly amid stained sapphire meadow grass, the Lady Arpels Papillon Automate by elite jewellery maison Van Cleef and Arpels is a colourful, technical and welcome finalist in the 2017 GPHG Ladies High-Mech category.

The dial of the Lady Arpels Papillon Automate is quite simply breathtaking. A blissful scene of a breezy summer meadow is beautifully captured in vivid three dimension with layered strips of colour-stained translucent sapphire grasses which twist and bend amid cornflower blue enamel flowers, with a backdrop of multi-coloured sapphire stones and diamonds. It tells only the time in hours and minutes, but it's the exquisite little butterfly automata, perched on a flower of mother of pearl which provides the real fascination.

The fact that its wings beat at all is a wonder in itself, but that they do so with irregularity, their frequency and number of beats varying depending on the motion of the wrist, is a wonderful little trick of horological genius, the origins of which span right back to the mid 1700s. The mechanism is beautifully executed and although concealed from sight is a work of technical mastery. Although there is a sapphire caseback, it covers a closed mainplate, engraved in bas-relief with the highly unusual sight of a full circular disc oscillating weight which energises the self winding movement.

In the Ladies High-Mech category this year, only the Lady Arpels and Graff's Mastergraff Floral Tourbillon really possess what I'd call exceptions in watchmaking, and even if all six finalists are horologic masterpieces in their own rights, doesn't 'High-Mech' in this very specific category suggest something which can be complex yet pointless, other than to amuse, fascinate and entertain? If so, then The Lady Arpel is the realisation of those criteria.

The Watch Press prediction

Our choice for the Ladies High-Mech Aigulle

The pertinents

CASE: White gold
BUCKLE: Pin buckle
MOVEMENT: Self winding mechanical. Power reserve: 34 h, 28'800 vph
FUNCTIONS: Hours, Minutes, Automaton
SIZE: ø 40 mm
THICKNESS: 16.6 mm