September 29, 2022


Anyone who has tried their hand at horticulture probably knows how difficult it can be to cultivate a thriving garden. Whether your goal is edible fruits and vegetables, colorful flowering annuals, or hardy shrubs and perennials, a garden always exists in tentative balance with its environment. Success and failure can come from a variety of directions and often we have limited control over them.

There are green thumbs out there that feel at one with nature and seem to have an almost magical ability to make anything grow. But the rest of us must accept that tasty food or gorgeous blooms are a combination of luck, patience, and ample googling of what is killing my pepper plants (or lilies, hostas, lilacs, raspberries, etc.). It could be too little or too much water, sun, shade, acidic soil, pests, or the fact that the temperature just isn’t optimal for that species of plant.

There are reasons that different types of plants might need to be grown indoors, outdoors, in a greenhouse, under a growing light, in hydroponics, or separate to prevent disease or pests. My current outdoor garden is kinda sad, though still alive, yet the best luck I’ve had with a plant is the Chinese Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides) a friend gifted me. It’s the only thing that hasn’t indicated how terrible I am at consistently watering and caring for it while spreading enough so that I can probably split it into a handful of new pots to put throughout the house.

But this plant doesn’t flower, so I know if I want blooms I need to learn a lot more than I currently know. The engineer in me wishes it was a bit more straightforward to care for plants – like maintaining a motorcycle or a piece of equipment.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier

Luckily for me, Van Cleef & Arpels created a mechanical garden of stunning flowers that blooms perpetually on the wrist: the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales and Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier are a pair of mechanical wonders that channel the natural world in an ever-changing display for the wrist.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier

The Heures Florales Cerisier is one of the least traditional pieces ever made for the Lady Arpels collection, and that is saying a lot. The collection has been the home of multiple award-winning timepieces that saw unique horological mechanics crafted with feminine sensibility in mind. Yet where before the dial generally maintained clear indications for the time (no matter how poetic), the Heures Florales Cerisier uses miniature flower blossoms to indicate the hours as they bloom in various patterns at the top of the hour.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier

This dance appears random to the casual observer, but the flowers open in a programmed pattern, similar to how a perpetual calendar functions, and has three cycle variations before starting over. Since the dial is entirely about this performance, Van Cleef & Arpels decided to keep it from becoming cluttered by moving the indication of minutes to the edge of the case. Using a window and a vertical hand, the minutes are tracked along a scale that starts at zero and increases clockwise up to 60, where the animation is renewed.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier

The Heures Florales comes in two variations, the first – Heures Florales Cerisier – features mother-of-pearl, blue, pink, and red hand-painted enamel blossoms, and butterflies in a pink gold case sporting white and yellow diamonds and buffed pink sapphires.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales

The other edition, Heures Florales, is housed in a white gold case and sports a mother-of-pearl dial with green and light and dark blue blossoms and leaves with white and yellow diamonds at the center of the flowers. Both models have tiny pink gold sculpted branches and a fully diamond-set case.

The rear of each watch features an engraved case back mimicking the front as well as a carved disk of sapphire crystal with a painted butterfly or dragonfly (depending on model) that rests over a decorated gold oscillating weight that fully fills the window. That weight rotates as you play with the watch, giving a secondary animation to the rear for your visual pleasure.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales

The Heures Florales is first and foremost about being a piece of mechanical art, reminiscent of MB&F, only entirely realized for lovers of nature, precious stones, and poetry. Telling time is somewhat secondary, but don’t think that makes it any less horologically stupendous because this movement is a stunner in its own right.

Hand enameling a blue butterfly for the rear of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier

Mechanical blooms

The blossoms are clearly the centerpiece of the Heures Florales. There are 12 different flower blossoms, each comprising five individual enamel-painted petals that rotate on pinions, all driven by complex gear trains tied to program wheels under the dial. The blossoms snap open when the program wheel allows a cam finger to drop into a slot as it rotates. It’s basically a simple on/off switch for a gear train, and it resembles the calendar wheels in a perpetual calendar with “programming” notches.

The cam finger drives the sets of petals to snap as each finger has a rack driving each blossom’s gears. Each blossom has its own mini gear train and cam finger, and each program wheel has three blossoms running concurrently on it, requiring four different program wheels. These assemblies are separated onto four individual bridges that all mount together onto a central main plate, each driven by a gear train coming from the main movement.

Closeup look at the petals on the dial of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier

The base movement – if you can call it that – drives the automata nestled within a larger module. Mounted on the crown side, it is smaller than the total diameter and is offset to allow room on the left side of the case for the lateral minute display and the centrifugal regulator mechanism for the blossom animation mounted in a rear base plate, the whole of which connects to the central main plate.

The blossoms use that regulator system to slowly close before switching to the next set of blossoms popping open, taking around four seconds for the little miracle of nature. The entire idea was inspired by Carl von Linné’s 1751 book Philosophia Botanica, in which he imagined a garden that used flowers to tell time. It turns out that isn’t exactly a wild idea if you know a watchmaker or two.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales

Poetry or nature

The animation is a wonder to behold, even if it reminds me that my garden will never look as good as this micro-sized cultivation. But that isn’t what you should take away; the idea is the wonder and beauty of nature and the skill of the artisans. Various artists and craftspeople worked patiently to design and sculpt the dials and set the stones, while watchmakers and engineers spent five years developing this incredible movement. The result is definitely worth the wait, and the movement has become one of my new favorite attempts to create drama and excitement on a micro scale while softening it with sumptuous nature.

The flowers and stones set in their centers are stunning even if they didn’t dance for us, but seeing them open and close is an added bonus. I prefer the blue and green Heures Florales, but the Heures Florales Cerisier has a very delicate springtime quality that can’t be overlooked. I also absolutely love that Van Cleef and Arpels has continued developing incredible automata movements for the Lady Arpels collection as it is one of the very few brands that invest a lot of time, money, and effort into creating new, unique complications and mechanisms designed purposefully with women in mind.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier on the wrist

The Heures Florales is not a recycled complication from a men’s or unisex watch; it is made with the full intention of ending up on a feminine wrist. Though I have to admit if the green-and-blue Heures Florales version didn’t have a diamond-set case, I would gladly rock that watch to a dinner party. If it did need to be gem set, then I might actually prefer it to be set with emeralds and sapphires instead of diamonds to add even more vibrancy and color to the watch.

No matter what, though, this watch is an amazing piece of métiers d’art and horological creativity. It has a price tag that keeps it sadly out of my reach, but for the well-financed aficionados out there it is a pretty unique display that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else.

Bravo, Van Cleef & Arpels, keep dreaming those horological dreams and besting my garden with your micro mechanics!

At the risk of causing the blossoms to wilt, let’s break it down!

  • Wowza Factor * 9.85 All you need to do is watch a video of it working to understand why this ranks so high in wow factor!
  • Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.5 » 965.955m/s2 Not many flowers bloom at night but these do!
  • M.G.R. * 71 The incredible complexity and yet visual simplicity of this movement’s automata is worthy of a nearly perfect score!
  • Added-Functionitis * Mild I will go against my typical standards and say that an automaton to display the hours counts as an added function because you definitely will need at least children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for this amazing piece!
  • Ouch Outline * 12.4 Accidental bad sunburn! Always wear sunscreen, kids, because having half your face peel off after an ocean kayaking trip is not fun. But if I had this watch I just might do it again!
  • Mermaid Moment * Just watch! You fall head over heels the moment you see the garden spring to life!
  • Awesome Total * 866 Add up all the diamonds (424 + 430), sapphires (10), and mother-of-pearl pieces (2) between the two versions and the result is an awesome total that comes alive!

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Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
Case: 38 x 14.64 mm, diamond-set white or pink gold
Movement: automatic caliber by Valfleurier, 36-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; flower automata animation
Price: CHF 247,000

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