For all its prosaic utility, the second-time-zone complication is a remarkably romantic function. On the surface, it is what it is: an indication of the time in a different location in the world, which allows for convenient reference when traveling. For frequent travelers, however, the second-time-zone function carries an additional emotional charge: it is an ever-present reminder of home when one is away from it.
The Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs timepiece is housed in the Pierre Arpels collection, and the clean simplicity of the design is what allows the second-time-zone display, within its little porthole, to really stand out. The instantaneous action of the jumping hour registers at the edge of your peripheral vision even if you are looking elsewhere, but even that slight flicker sends a little alert to the brain — a little prod to think about what’s happening at home.
In most second-time-zone watches, one of the hour displays will carry greater prominence than the other. Not so with the Pierre Arpels Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs. Both hour displays are perfectly balanced, and this is where the watch transcends its utilitarian function: by acknowledging that even though the time zone that we occupy may carry more immediate relevance, it is often the other time zone — the “Heure d’Ailleurs” (or “time elsewhere”) in the name of the watch — that holds dominion over our hearts.
Adding to the jumping hours and second time zone is yet another extremely emotive method of displaying the time: the retrograde hand.
The slender baton-shaped minute hand traverses the distance between the two hour displays and clicks back to its zero position upon the jump in hours. The retrograde hand — in its action as well as its mechanism (relying on a sprung finger cleaving to a snail cam that increases in height until the difference in the highest and lowest points of the cam triggers the zero reset) — is evocative of our innermost yearnings to return to our points of origin. It is a yearning that manifests in the most instinctive human tendencies toward nostalgia, showing up in our feelings of homesickness in foreign lands; it is the essence of our nature as three-dimensional beings who, despite our greatest efforts, can only move forward and not backward in the fourth dimension, or “time”.
In creating this watch, Van Cleef & Arpels have worked with one of their long-time collaborators, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of movement-specialist atelier Agenhor. The jumping and retrograde displays are somewhat of a known calling card of this workshop, and this movement finds its perfect expression in the guileless and pure form of the Pierre Arpels watch.