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.
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.
The Pierre Arpels Watch
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.
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.
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:
- the 38mm size
- the fact that if comes in rose gold (a bit more copper is added to achieve this look)
- The attachment rod lug system looks more delicate
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 ?