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Table clocks don’t generally rank high on the desirability list for women. But things are about to change now that Van Cleef & Arpels (VCA) has unveiled its Automate Fée Ondine Extraordinary Object. The first and only of its kind to be made by the French maison, this gorgeous work of art had everyone spellbound when it was showcased at the recent Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie in Geneva – and for good reason.

For one, the bejewelled tableau is truly a sight to behold: It’s vinyl record-sized lily pad is made of silver strips that have been engraved and enamelled before being adorned with diamonds and pink sapphires. Its white gold, diamond and sapphire fairy has a sizable milky aquamarine for its face and translucent plique-à-jour enamel wings. The silver enamelled water lilies are decked with diamonds and sapphires; and they all sit upon an ebony veneer base with a Mystery Set ruby ladybird on its side to indicate the time. Working in close partnership with automaton maker François Junod, it took VCA approximately seven years – not to mention the A-game of 20 craftsmen from various jewellery, watchmaking and even woodwork disciplines – to bring the creation to life.

Van Cleef & Arpels' Automate Fee Ondine
Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

However, it’s when the automaton springs to life that the Automate Fée Ondine takes your breath away. When activated, the lily pad begins to gently dance as if in rhythm to the mild ripples of an imaginary pond. The water lily flower then opens its petals to reveal a filigree butterfly (crafted in gold, diamonds, sapphires and opal) that flits its wings to a chimed melody. The fairy  moves its wings and lifts its head to watch and the whole scene plays out in a mere 50 seconds – which is a considerably shorter than the impression it leaves.

Watch the mesmerising fairy tale unfold in the video below.

By Charmaine Ho