A magical mechanical timepiece

The Fée Ondine from Van Cleef & Arpels tells a wordless fairy tale

Van Cleef & Arpels yellow, white and rose gold, silver, enamel and wood Fée Ondine automaton with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, aquamarines and opals, price on request | Video: Icone Production

This latest creation by Van Cleef & Arpels is neither a piece of jewellery nor a watch, but a work that combines the disciplines of jeweller and watchmaker to create an object larger than any watch or jewel – a tabletop sculpture.

Droplets of crystal “dew” sparkle like liquid diamond on a veined enamel lily pad. The lily sits on top of a veneered wooden base on which a ladybird of cabochon rubies makes its way along a scale marked with the hours of the day to give the time. Press a discreet lever and the lily pad undulates as though touched by an invisible ripple. The movement seems to wake a flower at the lily pad’s centre, and tinkling music fills the air. A graceful white-gold fairy with wings of plique-à-jour enamel stirs, raises her head, lazily flaps her lacy wings and moves her body with the lithe grace of a ballerina.


This magical, mechanical tableau vivant lasts about two minutes, and for Van Cleef & Arpels represents a project of unprecedented scale and complexity, combining the skills of ébéniste, enameller, lapidary, jeweller, goldsmith, silversmith, sculptor and clockmaker to tell a wordless fairy tale.

For more stunningly sculptural tabletop timepieces, click here.


See also