Precision Timekeeping Takes Center Stage
by roberta naas
FROM LEFT: This Hermès Arceau Time Suspended watch ($19,400) is crafted in stainless steel. The time can be continuously displayed on the dial, or the wearer can opt to hide the time display with the push of a button. From Van Cleef & Arpels, this Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantée ($141,000) is crafted in 18k white gold and features a gold-sculpted and enamel-worked ballerina in the center whose tutu actually comprises the retrograde hands of the watch. With the push of a button the tutu hands rise to show the hours and minutes on either side of the ballerina, transforming her into a butterfly. The automatic Secret Hours watch from Franck Muller ($42,200) features hour and minute hands at 12:00 that indicate the time with the push of a button at 9:00 and then return to 12:00 when the button is released.
Life can be such a whirlwind that sometimes we wish we could somehow slow the pace. Luckily for us, a few timepieces have been developed that give the illusion of doing just that. On the heels of this year’s watch show in Switzerland, this newest crop of complex mechanical wonders are created by master watchmakers who rise creatively to the challenge of stopping the indication of time—or indeed, creating the impression that time itself is suspended.
“We are a house that produces beautiful objects, and the idea is to make people dream,” says Luc Perramond, CEO of La Montre Hermès S.A. “Time for us is a friend; it is not a factor of stress. We wanted to create a watch wherein time can be stopped at the push of a button.” The Hermès Arceau Time Suspended wristwatch, developed by well-known watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, was four years in the making and expresses the label’s concept of time as a dream. The wearer can push a button and stop the tracking of time, making the hour and minute hands rest at around 12:00, and, further, making the date indication disappear. The watch continues to track time internally, but the hands will not move until the wearer pushes the button again. At that point, the hands automatically position themselves to the proper time and continue on their journey. Featuring three retrograde functions, the watch allows the wearer to control whether time is displayed continually or is hidden, delighting watch lovers around the world.
The Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerine Enchantée also allows women the wonder of stopping time while beguiling them with an eye-catching design. Part of the Van Cleef & Arpels “Poetic Complications” collection, this watch drew its inspiration from a quote by Anna Pavlova that echoes the imagery of the maison: “I’ve been dreaming that I was a ballerina, and that I was spending my whole life dancing as lightly as a butterfly.” The timepiece houses a Swiss mechanical movement with a double retrograde time-on-demand module developed for the brand.
It features a guilloché and translucent enamel dial picturing an enchanting ballerina wearing a colorful tutu. The tutu is split in half with each part being one of two retrograde hands that indicate the hours and the minutes. With the push of a button, the tutu comes to life—with each half rising on either side of the ballerina to indicate the time—transforming the spirited dancer into an exquisite butterfly. The hands trace an arc on either side of the graceful figure, pointing to the hours on the left side and the minutes on the right side before returning to their initial position to begin another cycle.
For men, Franck Muller has a similar concept with the Secret Hours Curvex watch: In this bold timepiece, both the hour and the minute hands remain at 12:00, moving only to indicate the time at the push of a button thanks to the intricate design of its 264—yes, 264—components. Because stopping time is impressive, of course it no simple thing to achieve.
Photography by jeff gale; styling by terry lewis