[Only Watch] Van Cleef From the Earth to the Moon

The «Voyages Extraordinaires» by Van Cleef & Arpels, is one of the most subtle and refreshing storytelling of these last years.
A full French response to a certain horological presumptuousness.

For its poetic complications, VCA’s management chose the works of Jules Verne as a source of inspiration, calling upon several sociological references in order to seduce the watch lover.
The French literature, for the most classical collectors. Science fiction (Steam-punk trend), for the Geekiest. The poetry of the «Voyages Extraordinaires» for the most romantic. Sprinkled overall with a French touch in the best taste, completely offbeat from some heavy internationalist horological trends.

The star VCA of this SIHH2011 (see SIHH VCA article) was of course the «Cinq semaines en ballon» from the «Voyages Extraordinaires» collection, a watch to fall for, whose mother of pearl and Champlevé enameled dial featured a bi-retrograde display (developed by Agenhor) instead of the traditional hours and minutes. The same movement is revisited here, in a totally exclusive fitting.

This bi-retrograde watch, akin to the «Cinq semaines en ballon», revisits the J1C 846 based Agenhor complication plate, already featured in other VCA watches (see my article on Agenhor).
This mechanism with retrograde hands, enables hours to be displayed on the left, through the course of the star, and the minutes on the right hand side, following the Lunar capsule‘s trajectory.
The creative choice made by VCA was to conceal the hands under a central cover, bringing volume to the dial’s scenography.
Regarding the esthetics, no room for a fake vintage tribute paid to Jules Verne, by simulating Industrial Revolution codes (even though the full-back is engraved akin to the pictorials of this period).
When the «Cinq semaines en ballon» developed themes bordering to Japanese woodblock prints, here we are not far from Funkadelic, or even from child-like drawings (very fashionable, especially in cartoons).
Child-like graphics, but master execution. The watch once again demonstrates VCA and its partner’s expertise, with a level of craftsmanship that pays tribute to classical «Haute Horlogerie».
The most impressive detail: Saturn and the Earth spreading out from the dial (akin to the Bovet OW) onto the white gold 42mm case. The planets are made of Champlevé enamel. The dial is made of black jade, which naturally produces a slight starry quality, with a look reminiscent of marble, but more refined. The Sun as well as the crown’s cabochon are made of Agate.

When one asks a child to draw on a sheet of paper, it usually goes slightly outside the lines, which are irregular, and the proportions are uncertain. The child-like drawing is first and foremost a world of representations, neither realism nor technique matter.
By choosing to give a child-like touch to the tribute paid to Jules Verne, VCA also pays a subtle but indisputable homage to sick childhood. The imagery is supported by finishings related to the most worthy watchmaking.
Once again, VCA’s artistic direction nails it, by giving to Only Watch a timepiece mastered in its even most minute details, a delicate piece, touching.

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Van Cleef from the Earth to the Moon pictures.

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