In this year’s Best of the Best, we honour the brands and people behind the most covetable products. Here, we honour Van Cleef & Arpel’s Fonatine aux Oiseaux, a table clock to behold
Rarely do you see craftsmanship as extraordinary as Van Cleef & Arpels’ Fonatine aux Oiseaux automaton (price upon request). The huge clock features a retrograde time display via an ebony base with 18-carat white-gold indicators on a 12-hour scale, topped off with eggshell marquetry protected by eight layers of vegetal lacquer.
Time, of course, is secondary in this awe-inducing animation. The stage belongs to two 18-carat yellow-gold and white-gold bejewelled birds. When activated, the companions turn their heads, sing a song (via bellows and a clicking box), flutter their wings and raise their legs as they draw closer together in a display of courtship around a basin of rippling water made of chalcedony, rock crystal and aluminium.
Each creature comes dripping in gems. The male bird is coated in sapphires, emeralds, tsavorite garnets, diamonds and lapis lazuli, while the female displays her sapphires, mandarin garnets, amethysts, diamonds and turquoise. An 18-carat white-gold, mother-of-pearl and enamel dragonfly hovering below 18-carat yellow-gold and lacquer water lily leaves in the water is adorned with sapphires and diamonds.
At a height of 44.15cm and a width of 41.13cm, this unique piece is an impressive work of art for the home but more than deserves its place in a museum.