May 21, 2024

Van Cleef & Arpels: Lady Arpels Papillon Automate

Van Cleef & Arpels never speaks about “watch business”: instead, the French maison talks about the “poetry of time”. This is demonstrated by the extraordinary creations presented by the brand on the occasion of the SIHH 2017 – examples not only of great craftsmanship in watchmaking but also in the art crafts and, above all, the ability to tell poetic stories through their products.

Among others, Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled in Geneva the Lady Arpels Papillon ™ Automate. Equipped with a particularly sophisticated automaton module, it depicts the random fluttering of a butterfly, moving in accompaniment to the movements of the watch’s wearer.


A world of poetry comes to life beneath the glass of its dial: as the hours and minutes flow discretely by on the right, the butterfly beats its wings randomly – one to four times in a row, depending on the power reserve. The frequency of the movements is also irregular, since they take place every two to four minutes when the watch is not being worn and more often when it is on the wrist. The butterfly’s liveliness echoes that of its wearer. The spectacle on the dial can also be triggered at the push of a button: the butterfly then beats its wings on demand.


The dial brings together a number of elements, created at Van Cleef & Arpels’ watchmaking workshops in Meyrin, Switzerland: the golden butterfly appears on a flower of sculpted mother-of-pearl, its wings colored with two shades of plique-à-jour enamel. The surrounding vegetation is adorned with champlevé enamel and curved plique-à-jour enamel. The background accentuates the sense of perspective: a moon in paillonné enamel is reflected in water set with blue, mauve and violet sapphires. This spectacle is also interspersed with round and pear-shaped diamonds, creating glittering corollas. The scene continues on the back of the watch – with a bas-relief on the rear of the case – and on the oscillating weight, which is visible through a decorated sapphire glass.

The Lady Arpels Papillon ™ Automate case, 40 mm in diameter, is made of white gold.

The timepiece has been produced in limited and numbered edition. A unique creation – you cannot remain indifferent to it.

By Valeria Garavaglia