March 24, 2015
by James Lamdin
With the tremendous number of new timepieces we are presented with at our annual pilgrimage to SIHH, it is inevitable that we will miss getting information on some of them to our readers in a timely manner. In this case, over a year has passed since we were first introduced to the Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs, a fact we were reminded of when we saw it again while visiting with VC&A in Geneva.
This is in no way to suggest a lack of interest on our part; quite the opposite. While VC&A is more typically known for their jewelry and ladies timepiece collections, what we discovered with this elegant gent’s timepiece was an incredible understanding of sophisticated men’s design, as well as an impressive mechanical ability. Interested in finding out why? Read on!
The Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs is the newest addition to VC&A’s Pierre Arpels Collection, a small but impressive assortment of men’s timepieces amongst a predominantly feminine line. Since 1949, VC&A has offered men’s timepieces, but this piece represents a serious departure for the manufacture. While most pieces in the Pierre Arpels collection are relatively simple two hand designs with manually wound movements, the Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs (which translates to “Time Here & Time Elsewhere”) is the first dual time complication, also featuring an automatic movement with double jumping digital hour display and retrograde minutes.
Utilizing a platinum micro-rotor movement specially developed for Van Cleef by Agenhor, the watch takes a giant step forward in regards to mechanical modernity, all while maintaining a simple elegance in design. Housed in a brilliantly polished white gold case sized at 42mm, the complicated piece features a relatively stark dial layout, featuring twin digital hour displays at 5 o’clock and 11 o’clock and a single retrograde minutes register fitted along the left side of the dial in between. The center of the dial features a subtle piqué motif, and the name of the timepiece is spelled out in blue opposite the minutes register. The bulk of the dial remains relatively clean, with large areas of unused space finished in crisp lacquered white.
In keeping with the design language of the rest of the collection, “T-Bar” lugs are fitted at the top and bottom of the case, to which a full grain black alligator strap is affixed. The front crystal and display back are made of sapphire, the latter providing view to the slim and impressive movement, which also features piqué detailing to the rotor in blue. The crown is located at 3 o’clock and features a set-in brilliant cut diamond, an obvious nod to the manufacture’s roots as a jeweler.
Despite its elegant appearance, the Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs does not give the impression of fragility when handling or wearing it. Even with its slim dimensions and “T-Bar” lugs (which are known for being flimsy in other applications), the white gold case has a notable amount of heft, lending itself well to real-world use. While the timepiece obviously sits on the “dress watch” end of the spectrum, I would absolutely travel with it on the wrist – provided I was in the First Class cabin.
The watch is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist, with its heft reminding you of its presence as it tucks out from underneath your cuff. Admittedly, my experience with white gold has been less than fantastic. As the softest precious metal, white gold does not hold up to any sort of abuse well, so my preference here would be for platinum. Regardless, with a great design that pairs a great size with hallmark historical design traits, this is not the kind of dress watch you forget you’re wearing, and in my book it is a winner.
In an opinion shared by many, Van Cleef & Arpels are a master of their art, producing jewelry items and ladies timepieces that are… well, art. Their diamond settings and ornately decorated enamel dials are simply breathtaking, and have at times made me jealous they aren’t made for men. (For proof of this, Google image search my name and look for a picture of Ariel and I sporting a pair of Ladies Zodiac watches, it won’t be hard to find!)
With the Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs, the brand introduces a new spin on timepieces for men to great affect. At $39,200, the timepiece comes in at nearly double the price of their typical Pierre Arpels model, but the added cost is without question justified by its enhanced complication and impressive, simultaneous, instantly jumping hour displays.
With this real mechanical credibility paired with historically inspired mid-century design and just the right amount of luxury, it is a conversation piece for sure, and while it would stand out in my collection as an oddball, I think I could be just fine with that.
In other words, while the bulk of the Pierre Arpels collection might be geared for the well-heeled fashionable gentleman, the Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs is a timepiece designed for the horology enthusiast. A welcome surprise from the world of Swiss luxury. vancleefarpels.com