VIDEO CREDIT: Harper's BAZAAR Singapore

VIDEO CREDIT: van cleef & arpels

Combining a retrograde hour display and animation on demand, this creation provides the gaze with a dual spectacle. On the side of its ebony-colored base, a ladybird in Mystery Set rubies moves peacefully along the time scale. Reaching 12 o’clock, it returns to its starting point to begin its journey for the next half-day.

When activated, the automaton comes to life for about 50 seconds, revealing a scene worthy of a fairy tale. First the water lily leaf begins to ripple, as if blown by a gentle breeze. Chimes ring out a crystalline melody and the water lily flower slowly blooms. The fairy awakes and raises her head to admire a butterfly at the center of the corolla: it rises into the air, beating its wings and twirling about. After moving simultaneously, the butterfly returns to its shelter, the fairy goes back to sleep and the water lily’s oscillation comes to an end.

Creating the Automate Fée Ondine called for the excellence of the most expert craftsmen in their respective fields. After imagining such an unprecedented piece in its history, Van Cleef & Arpels enlisted the services of some 20 workshops in France and Switzerland, including holders of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France) and Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Establishment of Living Heritage) titles. The experience of the automaton maker François Junod, based in Sainte-Croix in Switzerland, was complemented by that of lapidaries, jewelers, stone-setters, enamelers and cabinetmakers.

Day after day, these virtuosos communicated and shared their skills, each of them surpassing themselves to respond to the project’s specificities. The challenges were constant: miniaturizing the mechanism inside the fairy or shaping petals that were sufficiently light to be borne along by the movement, for example. They implied a continuous process of research, from design through to the final finishing touches.
The Maison is proud and delighted to have brought these rare and precious crafts together and to have made it possible to accomplish this unique feat. After originating as a dream, Van Cleef & Arpels’ first Extraordinary Object thus developed into a collective human adventure, beneath the watchful eye of the Fée Ondine.

Unique Piece


Automaton mechanism: Manual-winding mechanical automaton movement with animation on demand, 5 cycles of 50-second animation are available when the mechanism is fully wound.

Watchmaking mechanism: Manual-winding mechanical movement, retrograde hour, 8-day power reserve

Top: Engraved and enameled silver strips, white gold, pink gold, diamonds, pink sapphires

Fairy: white gold, diamonds, sapphires, milky aquamarine, plique-à-jour enamel

Water lilies: silver, enamel, yellow gold, diamonds, yellow and orange sapphires

Butterfly: white gold, diamonds, pink sapphires, Australian white opal

Ladybird: pink gold, white gold, diamonds, rubies in Traditional Mystery Set

Base: ebony veneer