The Automate Fée Ondine Extraordinary Object by Van Cleef & Arpels expresses how the passage of time can be precious and delightfully enchanting. It is an extraordinary object people; a result of long years of work and an intense collaboration with automaton maker François Junod.
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 centre 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. What a dreamlike sense of wonder!
Thanks to a highly complex mechanism which animates various elements and also tells the time, you actually witness the poetry of time! There is movement and lightness and the beauty of nature shines purely.
The nuances of precious stones and enamel for each of the objects of the scene, are noteworthy. The water lily leaf, flower, butterfly and ladybird are hi-jewellery creations that reflect the painstaking efforts put into creating the entire scene.
Behind the scenes
To put together an object of such complexity is no mean feat. This project brought together the jewellery and watchmaking traditions of the brand. 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, jewellers, stone-setters, enamellers and cabinetmakers.
The clock tells the time in the most dreamlike way. Combining a retrograde hour display and animation on demand, this creation provides the gaze with a dual spectacle. On the side of its ebony-coloured 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.
Scroll down to witness a bejewelled tableau come to life with infinite delicacy!