If the history of Van Cleef & Arpels began at the beginning of the last century, this high-end Parisian jewellery company never ceased to amaze the world through their magnificent compositions. One of the first jewellers to be headquartered in Vendome Square in 1906 was able, from an early stage, to support their craftsmanship with a clear imagination. Between 1920 and 1940 marked a particular turn for the designers – when Renée Puissant, the daughter of the founders, took control of the artistic direction, she then tasked René Sim Lacaze, artist, with designing the aesthetics of Van Cleef & Arpels.
The key piece of their new repertoire – the padlock-watch, the perfect mix of pragmatism and magnificence. In an era during which women were still subject to some very strange social norms, Van Cleef & Arpels were going to signal these unjust bans with exceptional skill. It was viewed poorly for women to wear a watch, or worse, to check the time in public. Van Cleef & Arpels accordingly decided to highlight this anomaly to the world with a poetic composition – a breath-taking piece; an audacious and cunning padlock-watch. A piece which blurs the lines between jewellery and watchmaking!
Made like a bracelet, the padlock watch conceals a watch-face for whichever elegant lady is wearing it. In 1935, a classic was born! A symbol of a union, the padlock marries the world’s most precious substances with a refined design – the absolute chef d’oeuvre, the original model was poured in a cast of gold. The rectangular lines of the lock’s casing balance out the baroque style of the serpent like chains which act as a bracelet. The strap merges in with the rounded edges of the padlock. Conceived in this way, the Van Cleef & Arpels watch integrates a watch face which allows the lady wearing it to check the time discreetly! The marvellous piece was notably visible on the wrist of Catherine Deneuve in the film “The Last Metro”. An icon through symbolism…
The Van Cleef & Arpels “Cadenas”, Key Dates:
2017: The company now offers a model of the padlock enhanced with rubies.
2015: The Van Cleef & Arpels “Cadenas” watch stole the show at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva.
2015: In 2015 Van Cleef & Arpels released nine stunning new models.
1980: Nine new models of the padlock watch are released.
1936: A “cadenas” watch found in the inventory of the Duchess of Windsor was dated with a message for the year 1936.
1935: The first designs for the classic padlock watch are put together.