At the top end, high-jewellery houses continue to create haute horlogerie, with novelties that are guaranteed to capture the imagination. An example is the Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complications collection: the 2017 highlight is the exquisite Lady Arpels Papillon Automate, priced at about R5-million, with a miniature butterfly feature flapping its tiny wings in time to a lucky owner’s wrist movements.
Fabergé has relaunched only recently, but the brand known for its priceless, jewel-encrusted eggs has been excelling. It has collaborated on new timepieces with Swiss complicated movement manu-facturer Agenhor, which is also responsible for the wonderfully quirky Hermès L’heure Impatiente and Le temps Suspendu watches. The Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock, which pays homage to the famous Peacock Egg of 1908, won the prestigious 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève; and Fabergé continues to update this collection, this year in elegant black. Hours rotate on the outermost mother-of-pearl disc and are read at the crown, with a retrograde minute indicator literally fanning out each hour, returning to zero when the lead tail fan reaches 60.
Very few of these fine pieces would make it to our shores; however, the real movement, so to speak, is to be seen in “more accessible”, practical timepieces for daily wear. The most prominent complication in this category is the moon phase, which references the origins of timekeeping and the evolution of the modern wristwatch. Larger dials and colour-and-metal combinations offer more variety, while automatic movements and increased power reserves enhance practicality.