Van Cleef & Arpels - The Hong Kong Watch Auction: ONE Hong Kong Monday, November 30, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Van Cleef & Arpels
    Year: Circa 1940
    Movement No: 439'909
    Case No: NY 692
    Model Name: Cadenas
    Material: Platinum and diamonds
    Calibre: Mechanical, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Platinum and diamond-set Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet, 145 mm. maximum length
    Clasp/Buckle: Platinum and diamond-set Van Cleef & Arpels lock signed Van Cleef & Arpels NY 692
    Dimensions: 27 mm. wide
    Signed: Movement numbered and signed Concord, case signed Van Cleef & Arpels

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Cadenas bracelet watch, meaning ‘lock’ in French, combined both form and function for its wearer. It was deemed unsightly in the early 1900s for a woman to wear a wristwatch in public. Cased in a bracelet design, the watch dial was angled so that only the wearer could see the time, allowing the wearer to subtly check the time. It is said that the Duchess of Windsor suggested this design to Van Cleef and Arpels. Indeed, King Edward III presented the very first Cadenas Watch to the Duchess in 1936 with a personalized inscription on the case back.

    While the present watch did not belong to the Duchess herself, Van Cleef and Arpels did make exact models which they subsequently sold in the 1940s. The present Platinum watch exactly matches the one that belonged to the Duchess of Windsor. The watch case is beautifully set with pave work, accompanied by baguette cut diamonds on the side of the case. The watch is in fantastic condition, with almost no scratches to the dial or the bracelet at all.

    The Van Cleef & Arpels Cadenas bracelet watch is probably one of the most iconic timepieces ever made. The Cadenas was first patented in 1936 and sold only in 18 carat yellow gold as part of their current production at the time. The term 'Cadenas’ which in French translates to ‘lock’, was designed in the mid-1930s and was born as a result of the passion for jewellery between the famous jewellery house and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Many unique designs were created by Van Cleef & Arpels for the Duchess of Windsor, which became milestones for their extraordinary love story.

    Similar to many other unique designs, the ' Cadenas' was custom made by Van Cleef and Arpels for the Duchess of Windsor. The Duke of Windsor spent many hours with Van Cleef & Arpels to add his personal touch to these gifted creations and even included secret messages, numbers and codes that only they would understand in relationship to their most sacred memories. These modifications and commissions often made it exceedingly difficult to locate or track these designs in the firms archives.

    A platinum and diamond-set Cadenas, circa 1936, which is identical to the present lot, fitted with the same dial configuration and numerals, but with a less formal colour, was given as a gift from King Edward VIII to the Duchess of Windsor. The case is inscribed in a facsimile of the King’s handwriting and given to her for their third anniversary. The watch, once owned by the Duchess is now currently in the Van Cleef & Arpels collection. This watch was sold at Sotheby’s in Geneva in 2011 when it was included as property from the Collection of Condesa Vda. de Romanones and Formerly in the Collection of the Duchess of Windsor.

    The original provenance is unknown of the present watch, however we believe that it was purchased in New York in the early 1940’s, at a time when the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor were living at a suite in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Photographs exist and are published below of the Duchess of Windsor wearing a Cadenas wristwatch on her travels in the United States in 1941.

    What is interesting to note is that the Van Cleef & Arpels' serial numbers on the clasp of the watch is not sequential to the other examples known that have appeared at auction from the same period. It is possible that the serial numbers may have been intentionally selected for this piece and the clasp stamp may indeed have some other meaning all together. It is entirely possible that it could be a code but there is no way to confirm what it may refer to.

    The finish on the case back of the present lot is also different from other examples known, which is now grained and not polished. It would appear that a monogram may have been removed from the back of the case as there are remnants of kiss marks or some sort of script at the top.

    The present lot was purchased in a local auction of royalty themed property in England, and it was sold alongside other very personal objects from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. This local English auction house has sold many items belonging to the the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in other such sales including secret letters, photographs and wedding paraphernalia.
    Although the original provenance cannot be confirmed for this watch we can say with all confidence that the quality and condition is exceptional.

  • Artist Biography

    Van Cleef & Arpels


    When Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels fell in love, their marriage paved the way for iconic jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels to become a symbol of unification. With their background in precious stone dealing, the Arpels found their perfect match in the Van Cleefs, a family of expert stonecutters. In 1906, Estelle's brother Charles established the company name with Alfred's help and opened shop in the Place Vendôme in Paris. To this day, this Parisian neighborhood is associated with turn-of-the-century luxury.

    The Van Cleef & Arpels aesthetic has always had its finger on the pulse of worldwide trends: For example, the house took inspiration from Tutankhamen upon the Egyptian king's discovery in the 1920s, which spurred a global phenomenon marrying Egyptian Revival and Art Deco motifs. Over the decades, Van Cleef & Arpels has produced intricate watches, earrings and necklaces with a signature elegance that mirrors contemporary tastes. 

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An extremely rare, elegant and exceptional platinum and diamond-set bracelet watch

Circa 1940
27 mm. wide
Movement numbered and signed Concord, case signed Van Cleef & Arpels

HK$2,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Contact Specialist
Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2030

Ziyong Ho
+852 9386 2032

Jill Chen
+852 2318 2033

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: ONE

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2015 11am