Hands-on, with the new Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Casse-Noisette

We got a a chance to get up close and personal with the new Lady Arpels Casse-Noisette from Van Cleef & Arpels that interprets Peter Tchaikovsky's legendary Nutcracker ballet beautifully in enamel
The world of dance and ballet has informed Van Cleef & Arpels' timepieces for a while now. The watchmaker has often used the elegance of dance forms and movements to create a poetic expression of time, and the latest watch that exemplifies this is the Lady Arpels Casse-Noisette.  Inspired by the second act of The Nutcracker ('Casse-Noisette' in German), which features some of Tchaikovsky's greatest compositions, the dial of the watch brings to life the colourful fantasy world and dance of protagonists Clara and the Nutcracker.

The Lady Arpels Casse-Noisette

Van Cleef & Arpels' new timepiece impresses with its craftsmanship, colour composition, and design. The two main characters dance on the dial at the top left, their faces decorated with pink diamonds, their movements accompanied by painted miniature costumes. Emerging from a winter landscape, represented by a suggested diamond snowflake, Clara and the Nutcracker dance in front of a colourful landscape that reminds one of candy. The composition of the tableau shows the expertise of the High Jewelry and Métiers d'Art departments of Van Cleef & Arpels. The Geneva watchmaking workshop brings together a spectrum of 70 different colours, finishes, and enamelling techniques, according to the Maison, their “most rich creation to date”. 

The diamond setting on the bezel and 40mm white gold case

We had the chance to view the timepiece in advance, and we can assure you that no photo can do justice to the complex work of different volumes and depths. It was difficult for those present to take their eyes off the watch. Van Cleef & Arpels have managed to create the multi-faceted scene with precious and decorative stones, diamonds, coloured sapphires, blue tourmalines, onyx, sugilite, and lapis lazuli. This is complemented by new enamel techniques that the house has developed: On the Lady Arpels Casse-Noisette, enamelled beads in the shape of balls adorn the dial. Relief "candies" are embedded in the molded enamel disks, which are made using a sealed enamel process developed by Van Cleef & Arpels. The setting continues on the white gold caseback, depicted by a hand-engraved winter landscape with snowflakes and Christmas trees. The whole thing is housed in a 41mm white gold case . The watch is limited to three pieces. 

The engraved caseback

Dance and ballet have long been a source of inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels, particularly the Extraordinary Dials collection. Set at the interface between innovation and imagination, the creations reinterpret timekeeping and invite you to capture the moment as poetry. Van Cleef & Arpels is particularly known for its art of enamelling; in addition to traditional methods, the Maison is characterized by the constant development of the technology used to create lively decorations.

The art of enamelling at Van Cleef & Arpels
Enamelling occurs when the enamel, which consists of silicon dioxide powder and pigments, is solidified in the kiln after application. The enamelled motifs are brought to life in several layers. The material is carefully poured onto a plate at high temperatures and then cut into a three-dimensional shape in several steps. After a low-temperature firing, which eliminates the tensions in the material, the enamel is carefully glazed at over 500 degrees Celsius. The surface becomes smooth and retains its familiar shine. Sealed enamel – another technique developed by Van Cleef & Arpels – is also used in the new creations: pre-formed enamel elements are joined edge to edge using a melting process. The firing process begins in a cold oven and continues over a period of around twelve hours according to a defined temperature curve that rises and falls in several stages. This is how two enamels are sealed together without using glue or metal. The different coloured motifs then form a single relief ensemble. 

Van Cleef & Arpels let us experience first-hand how much precision working with enamel requires during a visit to the factory in Geneva. We were able to work on a pre-formed silver butterfly at a workshop. Several layers and firings later, we were able to admire our masterpiece three hours later. Unevenness, holes or not exactly coordinated firing processes, caused some of our attempts to break and required a lot of space for necessary repairs by the employees who otherwise use the technology on the miniature formats for a dial. Even the professionals often need hundreds of attempts before each new project until they find the right granulate level, colour composition, technique and firing temperature that does justice to the design - an exciting process through which the artisans bring to life the charming scenes on the dials of the Extraordinary Dials collection.

Images: Courtesy WatchTime.net

The story first appeared on www.watchtime.net

Launched in 2012, WatchTime India is the result of a collaboration between America's most-read watch magazine, WatchTime and, India's leading media house, Malayala Manorama. With an aim to popularise and celebrate the evolving watch culture of the country, the publication is your one-stop destination for everything related to fine luxury watches. From the latest tests to reviews, to exclusive features on the history and horological heritage of some of the most spectacular watch brands of the world, the WatchTime India portal has a lot to offer. Stay tuned for an exciting journey, through the fascinating world of watches!

Sign up for our newsletters to have the latest stories delivered to your inbox

Sign up for our newsletters to have the latest stories delivered to your inbox