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You can’t watch a ballet performance, but you can admire one on your wrist

Van Cleef & Arpels’ trio of Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales timepieces prove that the love for ballet can still persist.

You can’t watch a ballet performance, but you can admire one on your wrist

The dial of the Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales timepiece is designed to resemble a performance hall, with hand-painted ballerinas dancing across the dial. (Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels)

There are many things we miss about a pre-pandemic world, and one of them is the ability to step into a concert hall to catch a musical performance, a theatre show, or a spellbinding ballet.

We may not be able to watch an enchanting live ballet performance these days, but you can still capture its essence on your wrist, courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels' exquisite trio of Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales timepieces.

But first, why did Van Cleef & Arpels decide to showcase ballet on a watch? The bond between jeweller-watchmaker and art form dates to the 1920s, when Louis Arpels, brother of co-founder Estelle Arpels and a fervent ballet lover, would take his nephew Claude to the Opera Garnier in Paris.

This kinship with the world of ballet deepened in the 1950s, when Claude Arpels made the acquaintance of famed choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet. Their shared passion for gems blossomed into an artistic bond that produced Balanchine’s ballet Jewels, first performed in New York in April 1967.

Every act of the non-narrative triptych linked a gemstone to a musical composer: Gabriel Faure for Emeralds, Igor Stravinsky for Rubies and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.

To capture the beauty of Balanchine’s masterpiece, Van Cleef & Arpels placed each act on the wrist with a trio of masterpieces. Gem-setting, enamel painting and mechanical watchmaking combine to create an enchanting celebration of the ballet, where no detail is spared.

The Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Emeraude watch displays green nuances, while the Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Rubis timepiece shines in elegant crimson tones. 

Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Emeraude. (Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels)

The Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Diamant watch sparkles with intense white, blue and golden hues. 

Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Diamant. (Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels)

The dial of the timepiece is designed to represent a performance stage. The diamond pave on the upper dial is akin to a chandelier lavishly cascading over the stage. At the touch of a button, the hand-painted draperies on the lower dial part to reveal ethereal ballerinas in miniature painting. 

Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales Rubis. (Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels)

Music even emerges through the diamonds on the timepiece, transporting the wearer into a live performance space, where ballerinas dance before the eyes.

The melody is the result of combining a music box with a mechanical carillon minute repeater function. Together, they are able to play on-demand music synchronised with the ballerina movement.

The timepieces have a 52-hour power reserve, and are manually wound. On the case back, the jeweller-watchmaker has designed an engraved bas-relief illustration portraying a ballerina dancing in front of the Van Cleef & Arpels 5th Avenue boutique in New York, where Claude Arpels hosted George Balanchine in 1966 for a private viewing of the house's creations.

With such an elaborate dial, how then, can one tell the time? A star, tucked discreetly at the top of the dial, moves across a retrograde hours scale between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. The dots between the numerals represent 20-minute intervals between each hour.

The wearer can tell time via a retrograde hours scale between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. (Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels)

But with such captivating artistry on the watch, we think that telling time is almost irrelevant – you'd be too caught up admiring the beauty of the ballet.

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Source: CNA/st(ds)