Watchmakers have long added “complications” to their timepieces to provide additional functions.  The term “complication” is an odd one, but for the watchmaker, adding any functionality to a timepiece beyond telling the time does, indeed, complicate their job.

van cleef & arpels ballerine enchantee

The ballerina’s tutu tells the time.

Most complications are purely functional, adding time-related features to the watch.  This might include adding the date or the day of the week, or perhaps a stopwatch feature or a second hand.

All of these things are technically complications, and probably 99% of all of the complications that you’ll find in a watch add some feature that makes the watch more useful as a watch.

That isn’t what’s going on in the new Poetic Complications series of watches from Van Cleef & Arpels.  These watches do include complications, but they’re not your garden variety add-ons.

These complications change the way the watch works, or in some cases, simply add a bit of fun to the timepiece.  They’re still, at their core, wristwatches, but now they have a bit of whimsy to them.

Take the Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantee watch, for instance.  This white gold and diamond-encrusted beauty features a lovely ballerina on its face.

She’s dressed in a tutu, and the tutu rises and falls to indicate the hours and minutes.   That’s it; the watch is a time-only timepiece, and the elaborate complication simply involves creating another way to have the watch display the time.

Of course, this is all done in a beautiful 40mm white gold case with white gold, and the entire bezel is surrounded by diamonds.  There are also diamonds used for the hour markers.  The tutu on the ballerina is white gold, and the crown is white gold, capped with yet another diamond.

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The butterfly moves at rates that vary according to your own movement.

Van Cleef & Arpels did not design the movement; it was apparently designed and built by an unnamed watch manufacturer.  The mechanical movement has a 59 hour power reserve.

While lovely, the Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantee is not cheap; it sells for $120,000.

This beautiful watch is one of a number of pieces in the company’s Poetic Complications series, all of which have taken the notion of a watch complication and used it to do something extraordinary.

There are 35 or so watches in the series, and they are all truly stunning examples of how one can make a watch that is a thing of beauty as well as a bit of fun.  They’re lively and colorful, and they’re all gold or platinum and diamonds about.

The only downside, of course, is the price, but if you’re familiar with Van Cleef & Arpels, you’ll know that they’re not exactly a bargain-basement kind of company.  Everything they make is lovely, but it’s all fairly pricey.

Still, they’re amazing watches, and it’s nice to see someone thinking outside of the box when it comes to watch design.  Anyone can add a date or a stopwatch to a wristwatch, and by now, pretty much everyone has done that.

Sure, there are a few companies that try to pile on the complications, and then you end up with tides, and chimes and whatnot.  There’s a place for that.  There’s also a place for something else, and in their Poetic Complications series, Van Cleef & Arpels have shown that something else can be pretty amazing.