By Rebecca Doulton
There is always something rarefied, almost enchanted, about entering the world of Van Cleef & Arpels watches. You wouldn't be at all surprised to run into Maria Callas trying on a high jewellery model of the Cadenas watch, which has been revived this year.
One of the most memorable high jewellery watches at this year's SIHH salon was the Carpe Koï watch bracelet. Directly inspired by the Carpes Koï ring from the Palais de la Chance collection, the watch recreates the theme of movement in nature. This is a unifying motif at Van Cleef & Arpels, found in the famous en tremblant - or trembling - brooches that imitate the movement of flowers in the breeze.
A carp fish might seem a somewhat strange motif for a watch, but in Japanese culture, the bright orange carp is a symbol of love, serenity and life. In Van Cleef & Arpels watches culture, however, the carp means the chance to embellish this unique piece with 8,000 magnificent coloured gemstones requiring 3,450 hours of work. I don't usually mention the hours of work entailed, but since the figure is so high, it's worth highlighting: that's approximately 14 months in total.
The body of the carp is adorned with different coloured gemstones: yellow sapphires and spessartite garnets set into the yellow gold scales, and diamonds and Paraiba-like tourmalines to recreate a lively spray of water. Even its bright orange garnet eyes seem to twinkle, enlivened with black spinel pupils. To attach the coiled carp to your wrist, apply a bit of pressure on its tail and see how beautifully the bracelet sits, revealing the fish's lovely, gem-encrusted body, tail, fins and head to maximum advantage.
To consult the time, the little carp opens its mouth to reveal a secret dial studded with princess-cut diamonds on the indices, spessartite garnets and yellow sapphires. This unique watch keeps track of the hours and minutes thanks to a precision quartz movement, allowing you to enjoy the attention this bracelet is going to attract.
Read about the best high jewellery watches here