The understated, elegant look that has come back into fashion in men’s watches over the past few years is on display in the men’s dress watch introduced by watch-and-jewelry maison Van Cleef & Arpels at this year’s SIHH watch fair: the Pierre Arpels, named after a son of the brand’s co-founder, is a contemporary version of a wristwatch that Arpels created for himself in 1949.
The concept behind the original watch was a thin, perfectly round case that appears to be suspended in space due to the lack of the lateral attachments (lugs) commonly used to secure the case of a watch to its strap or bracelet. The discreet, rounded strap attachments at the top and bottom are meant to be similar to the Earth’s central axis that runs from North to South Pole. The watch had a white dial with matte finish, simple baton hands, geometrically placed Roman numeral hour markers, a yellow-gold case, and a simple, black leather strap. After several years of keeping it exclusive to himself, Arpels later duplicated it for a few family members and close friends, and the model was finally commercialized in 1971 with the name “PA 49.”
This year, Van Cleef & Arpels releases a new interpretation of the watch, which now bears its originator’s full name, with a few contemporary touches. The dial is still in white lacquer, with hours represented by gold Roman numerals and simple black indices. However, the dial’s center is now embellished with a honeycomb pattern reminiscent of a tuxedo shirt front and a Van Cleef & Arpels logo.
The watch case is still extra-thin, but its profile is now slightly beveled, making it even easier to slide discreetly under a shirt cuff. The rounded attachments at the top and bottom of the case remain, helping the watch to lay lightly on the wrist. The black strap is in Pierre Arpels’s preferred patent alligator leather, now with a modern construction: two layers manually glued together so as to do away with visible stitching. The gold crown of each watch is set with a single diamond, a nod to Van Cleef & Arpels’s jewelry expertise. There are two case diameters available — 38 mm or 42 mm — and this slender wristwatch contains a correspondingly thin movement, Piaget‘s manual-winding Caliber 830 P.
The Pierre Arpels is available in rose gold (pictured) or white gold, and also in versions with diamond-set bezels. The rose-gold pieces are $15,500 (38 mm), $18,200 (42 mm), $33,500 (38 mm, with diamonds), and $40,700 (42 mm, with diamonds). The white-gold models are $16,300 (38 mm) $19,000 (42 mm), $34,300 (38 mm, with diamonds) and $41,500 (42 mm, with diamonds).
Click below for a video of the Pierre Arpels…