We Tell Stories in the Form of Jewelry

Nicolas Bos is the head of Parisian jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. He knows how to attract female customers:with craftsmanship and sorcery. He employed 20 specialists for a table clock with fairy magic.

To fall into the frame is, for Van Cleef & Arpels, so to speak everyday business.The Paris jeweler, who has been living on the prestigious Place Vendôme since 1896, makes every year a rather conserved audience of the Geneva watchmaker, who is barely suppressed in the happiness of the new models.

The watches of the “Poetic Complications” range, which are characterized by a highly complex movement on the dial, are so different from the others, that a diamond fairy with a magic wand and moving wings shows the hours and minutes, or tiny ones Gemstone planets revolve around the sun in real time.The watches are such a natural-looking combination of sophisticated mechanics and jeweler art that one might think that they have come to someone in their dreams.

A fairy is dancing on a lily pad

This year, the brand, home jewelers of Liz Taylor , Grace Kelly and the Duchess of Windsor, and famous for the invention of the “Mystery Set,” the invisible handing out of precious stones, laid one more thing on it.She presented the “Automate Fée Ondine”, an animated table clock in gramophone size, showing a fairy of white gold and precious stones on a moving lily pad.

After winding up the mechanism hidden under the leaf, the fairy wakes up and looks to the sound of a melody, a butterfly rising from a water lily blossom. 50 seconds is the spell for which Van Cleef & Arpels spent eight years dealing with 20 specialists from mechanics and jewelery who finished the unsaleable item.

Nicolas Bos, CEO of the company, invited a wizard to end a dinner at the edge of the watch fair. He could turn a paper towel into confetti and pour a glass of red wine into a folded newspaper and pour back without any damage to the wine or the newspaper. The boss, it was nice to watch, looked with bright eyes and cheeks, as if he would show the tricks himself.

ICONIST:Monsieur Bos, do you believe in sorcery?

Nicolas Bos:Well, at least I find them interesting as a concept.When we started developing the first watches for the “Poetic Complications” line 10 years ago, we were inspired by the vending machines that made people wonder in the Renaissance and the 18th and 19th centuries.Irrationalists such as Pierre Jaquet-Droz and Jacques de Vaucanson apparently brought to life a poet, a card player, a duck or a songbird with the aid of mechanical figures.

Because they could not explain how these objects work, people thought it was magic or even black magic.These machines are the model for the “Poetic Complications”.We thought we could try to use the possibilities of mechanical art or watchmaking , so as not to measure the time or to reach the ultimate speed of a watch as usual, but instead to tell stories using clocks.

ICONIST:With the “Poetic Complications” you have launched as a first brand a collection of men’s watches that combines sophisticated watch technology with jeweler art.Meanwhile the others are eager to follow your example.Are you proud that you were the first to understand what women today expect from luxury watches?

Bos:A bit already.After all, all of us were crazy.”Women are not interested in mechanical clockwork” – that was the sentence with which many colleagues have commented in unison on the project.To realize such a challenging project as a ladies watch, we have completely against the then status quo in the watch industry.

But we have believed in this because we have a different background than the classic watch brands.We come from jewelry making, which is much more feminine and narrative.In this collection we have processed the world from which we come: we tell stories in the form of jewelry – in this case of jewelry watches.

We also knew from our core business that women are very interested in technology.Many of our customers want to visit our studios, talk to the artisans and find out how the pieces are made.It would be stupid to think that women buy something because it is simple and beautiful, and that they do not want to know what is behind it.

It is true that they do not want to understand down to the last detail, how a tourbillon works.If, however, one tells a story with a watch that is more like the likes and expectations of women than a purely technically inspired watch, then they are pretty wild at figuring out how this story is told.

ICONIST:Are your customers more demanding today because they know more?

Bos: Absolutely. We find this very well.That is why we founded “L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels” five years ago, with which we want to convey a wide public knowledge about the precious stones, their processing and the history of the jewelry production.The more they know, the better for the luxury industry, and the better for us.

Transparency is important to us, which makes the conversation with the customer more interesting and valuable.In this sense, the Internet and social media are very useful to us.In addition, they are preparing for a few exaggerations of marketing and PR:you can not lie , for example.You can not tell people that a stone is of exceptional quality, if that’s not true.In two minutes, the customer has gone through the truth on the smartphone.

ICONIST: Watch and jewelery brands are beginning to take women as customers seriously. Do you find that women are buying their jewelry more and more by Businessjust.com, instead of letting themselves be given by men?

Bos:Many of our jewelery, especially from the High-Jewelery segment, are long-term investments.They are mostly bought by a family or by a couple.The decision, which piece should be at the end, still applies to the woman.However, we have been watching a different, really interesting phenomenon for some time: especially pieces from our “entry segment”, which are not quite as high, women actually buy themselves more and more often, as fashion accessories .

For women, who spend a lot of money on handbags or haute couture, it is now quite normal that they can buy just as a Sautoir from our “Alhambra” collection.Finally, you can combine it just as well as an expensive bag.

ICONIST:For many luxury watch manufacturers, the Swiss manufactory is now part of the marketing strategy, such as the brand name on the dial.Is this also your future?

Bos:On the contrary.We have never believed in integrated manufacturing, which is not our tradition.There are also fantastic watchmakers out there.You can not be the best in everything – we tell stories, that is our strength.So if we want to tell the story of the meeting of two lovers with a clock, as we did with the “Pont des Amoureux”, we need a developer of retrograde time displays.And then you might want to go to a Koryphae like Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, one of the best in this field.

For a watch like the”Midnight Planetarium”you would like to be able to work with someone like Christiaan van der Klaauw, probably the best man for astronomical movements.We also want to allow ourselves the freedom to gather the best of their guild for a project.To limit ourselves is certainly the last thing that comes to mind.

Nicolas Bos, CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels:At the age of 45, Nicolas Bos is one of the youngest CEOs in the luxury sector. Born and grew up in Paris, Bos, who loves art, theater, and old books, will be literary professor. He decided to study economics and then worked for the Fondation Cartier ten years later. Since 2000, Van Cleef & Arpels, he was named CEO of the brand in 2013. Bos is married and father of two daughters.

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