The Pierre Arpels Watch

Pierre Arpels Watch by Van Cleef & Arpels

Recently, we were honored and excited to be contacted by the famous jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels asking to post a video about the Pierre Arpels watch. On average, we receive 5 or 6 such notes per day, which we usually decline.  I think it is essential to see and test a product before I can write about it, let alone advertise or recommend it, because I consider it my duty to only put the Gentleman’s Gazette seal of approval on something that we are certain is worthy.

Pierre Arpels

Pierre Arpels

Every once in a while, though, we make an exception to this rule for truly remarkable items, and today is just such a moment.

When I wrote about watches for morning wear, I mentioned that the ideal watch choice would be elegant, low-profile and simple with a black leather band; the same is true for a tuxedo watch. A low profile is an important feature, as it should hug the wrist and sit discreetly beneath the cuff to avoid catching on a seam. Black is imperative, since it is the classic color of formal evening wear and is simple enough that it does not distract from either the wearer or other people.

The most classic shape is gold, round and flat. When I saw pictures of the Pierre Arpels watch, I first thought was that this was simply the perfect watch for a tuxedo: classic and simple overall, very flat and elegant, but with enough detail to show some refinement. I hope that I will be able to acquire such a watch one day, because for me it is looks like the perfect evening accessory.

 

Now, let’s discuss the watch and introduce the creator and namesake of the watch: Pierre Arpels.

Pierre Arpels Watch Shape

Pierre Arpels Watch Shape

The Pierre Arpels Watch

Introduction to the stunning Pierre Arpels watch & biography of its creator.
Pierre Arpels
Date Published: 10/11/2012
5 / 5 stars

Most watch buffs will know Van Cleef & Arpels for their refined ladies watches but not as much for their male counterparts, even though the initial design of the Pierre Arpels watch was created in 1949.

Today, the jewelry house is part of the Richemont Groupe – just like Montblanc - but that does not influence the quality of the watch.

Pierre Arpels Watch in Pink Gold 42mm

Pierre Arpels Watch in Pink Gold 42mm

The first drawing of the PA 49 Pierre Arpels watch

The first drawing of the PA 49 Pierre Arpels watch

Interestingly, the Pierre Arpels watch comes in a standard 42mm size as well as a smaller 38 mm casing, which is opposite the trend for bigger watches. Personally, I think a watch should be too small as opposed to too big, and the 38mm is an excellent size although most men will likely feel more comfortable with a 42mm watch on their wrist.

Pierre Arpels Watch in 38mm

Pierre Arpels Watch in 38mm

Of course, these timekeepers are rarely acquired for their original purpose. Much rather the design, prestige, precious metals and most importantly the mechanics are the reason for  investing large sums in watches nowadays. As such, it must be mentioned, that the Van Cleef & Arpels relied on a Piaget manual-winding Caliber 830 P for this watch, which is a mere 2.5mm thick. Just for reference, Piaget’s thinnest caliber is the automatic Caliber 1200P, which features a micro-rotor and measures at just 2.35mm.

Now, to some it may seem less desirable to buy a caliber from a different company, but I think they realized that Piaget had a long standing history of producing exquisite flat calibers and so they decided not to reinvent the wheel. Instead they focused on what they do best: the design. They kept the basic shape identical and added only a few contemporary design updates. In 1949, the extravagances of pre-war Art Déco was over and as such, the simplicity of this watch does not come as a surprise. Nevertheless, some may claim that this watch is a bit feminine for three reasons:

Detail of the Pierre Arpel's profile

Detail of the Pierre Arpel’s profile

  1. the 38mm size
  2. the fact that if comes in rose gold (a bit more copper is added to achieve this look)
  3. The attachment rod lug system looks more delicate
The rod lug attachment

The rod lug attachment

Personally, I think all these features make the watch well suited for evening wear because it adds elegance, and as such, it is preferable to other watches with a rougher, more traditional style.

The Marcella Pique Dial

The Marcella Pique Dial

In addition to that, the inner part of the white lacquer dial features a pattern that reminds me of waffle piqué fabric which is often used for tuxedo shirts.

The simple gold and black layout as well as the refined, fine Roman numerals are perfectly in accordance with the elegant nature of this watch.  The watch has also been slightly bevelled, in order to ensure it slips effortlessly and discreetly underneath the cuff.

Big Version with Diamonds

Big Version with Diamonds

Bevelled Side

Bevelled Side

In my opinion, the diamond in the crown is just as unnecessary as the versions with extra diamonds on the bezel, though I am sure these models will find their customers.

Price

The rose-gold and yellow gold pieces retail for $15,500 (in 38 mm) and $18,200 (in 42 mm). In my opinion, these are the most classic black tie watches, and they are unlikely to look dated in twenty years, making them a truly lasting investment. The white gold versions are slightly more expensive $16,300 (in 38 mm) $19,000 (in 42 mm) and the ones with diamonds range from $33,500 (rose gold, 38 mm, with diamonds) up to $41,500 for the 42 mm version in white gold, with diamonds.

Conclusion

Black alligator strap

Black alligator strap

If price is of no concern, and you wear black tie outfits on a regular basis, you should seriously consider buying one of the yellow or rose gold PA 49, since I have never come across a better-suited evening watch for tuxedos. Then again, I am not a watch expert, but much rather an admirer of style, quality, elegance and beauty.

Pierre Arpels in his office

Pierre Arpels in his office

Pierre Arpel – The Person

Pierre Arpels was born in 1919, and early on he developed a talent for design. At the age of 30, he designed the watch we’ve been discussing, and although friends and family members wanted to get their versions, it took him years to agree with them and produce replicas of his watch. First, it was referred to as model PA 49 and interestingly, he always wore in on the right hand so he could glimpse the watch while writing.

Claude & Pierre Arpels in India in the 1950s

Claude & Pierre Arpels in India in the 1950s

Take a look at Claude and Pierre Arpels on an elephant’s during one of their trips to India in the 1950s. In 1956, they returned to Paris with a treasure trove of fabulous jewels from the maharajas. Two of the most extraordinary pieces from this lot were a 100 carat cabochon emerald and the stunning «Blue Princess», a 144 carat sapphire.

Apart from jewelry design, Pierre also enjoyed being creative. For example, he eventually bought an entire two floors of a modern building in Paris and designed everything on the inside and outside himself, with the main piece being a “hanging garden”- where he could relax in the evenings. This way, he created a an environment that reminded him of the countryside, but at the same time, it took him only 15 minutes to reach the company’s premises at Place Vendôme.

So, what do you think about the rose gold Pierre Arpels watch? Are you man enough to wear it ;) ?

6 replies
  1. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Quite beautiful. Trouble is, once you enter that price bracket, there’s a multitudef possibilg manufacture caliber watches of highly prestigious houses that move further from the jewelry realm.

  2. Sven Raphael Schneider
    Sven Raphael Schneider says:

    Mark,

    In the very early days of evening wear, it would have been impolite to look at your watch in the presence of peers since it would have implied you have something else to do. Later, the pocket watch became a popular accessory. Teh gentry of the day wore it in white gold with a matching chain in solid white gold with their tailcoats.
    For the tuxedo, a black wrist watch was accepted though. Today, I see many men wear watches with evening wear, often times, big chronographs that are totally inappropriate for evening wear.
    So if you do not want to wear a watch, that is totally fine, but if you wear one, wear a flat elegant one.

  3. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Ultra Thin … for that matter even the Reverso Grand Taille for the thinness, art deco styling and a pinch of playfulness !!!

  4. Andy
    Andy says:

    While I must admit that this watch is quite handsome, I just cannot get over the price for what is essentially a fashion watch. Even though it has that 830P movement. At that bracket, as another reader has pointed out, many other similar options from more respected watch houses become available. Patek Philippe’s Calatrava line immediately comes to mind.

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