Part 1 of our 2-part series on the Best of The New York Antique Jewelry & Watch Show, Summer 2017

The Cadenas watch in platinum and diamonds at Exotic Jewel Collectors

During my guided tour at the summer 2017 edition of The New York Antique Jewelry & Watch Show (which I previewed in an article last week)  a fun and educational time was had by all who visited different dealers with me as we uncovered historical, sentimental and legendary treasures.

What was truly exciting was finding two timepieces at different dealers which each revealed unique provenances.

The Cadenas watch modeled at the show

The first was at Exotic Jewel Collectors, which showcased a special platinum and diamond commission of a Van Cleef and Arpels’ Cadenas watch, The original design developed in 1935 was reportedly inspired by the Duchess of Windsor, who also said to have conceptualized the idea for the house’s renowned Zip necklace, which I will get into in part two of this article later in the week.Many of the Duke and Duchess pieces were designed in collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels.

What is particularly special about the timepiece on display at Exotic Jewel Collectors, it that it is identical to the platinum and diamond version of the iconic watch that was commissioned in 1936 by the Duke of Windsor as a third-anniversary gift for Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom he abdicated his throne. Their love story is told through many pieces of jewelry from the time they met through their affair and their marriage. Cadenas means lock in French and symbolizes a strong union or alliance, which perfectly evokes the romance of the famous couple. The watch also proved to be an elegant design, cased in a bracelet so that a woman could discreetly check the time.

The original watch was sold through Sotheby’s in 2011 and bought back by Van Cleef and Arpels for the house’s archives.

Another view of the Cadenas watch which is owned by Exotic Jewel Collectors

Jason Nichinson of Exotic Jewel Collectors explains, “all of the gifts that the Duke gave the Duchess during their relationship held secret codes, messages and numerals which made it harder to locate or track these designs in the firm’s archives.” He continues, “The already confirmed third-anniversary Cadenas displays a facsimile of the Duke’s handwriting. The watch we own contains non-sequential Van Cleef & Arpels’ numerals that suggest a combination of both The Duke and Duchess’ birth dates. Although it is unconfirmed who purchased our version, it was bought in New York City at a time when the couple lived at the Waldorf Astoria and in the 1940’s, which predates VC&A’s opening of a U.S. based location.  In 1941 photographs were taken of the Duchess wearing the platinum and diamond timepiece as she traveled the U.S. including one photograph in which she is meeting the president.” Jason adds, “It was it also sold in a lot by Phillips alongside extremely personal objects owned the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.”  Jason’s story and  the Cadenas owned by Exotic Jewel Collectors seem to have a similar intrigue, allure and romance to that which surrounded the legendary couples’ relationship.

Photo courtesy of Rex/Shutterstock


At Aaron Faber Gallery, another watch bespoke sentiment the heirloom quality of jewelry. As Ed Faber, co-owner with wife Patricia and watch expert explains, “This early 20th century Cartier watch is the smallest timepiece manufactured and it not only comes in its original fitted box but with a letter that continued to be passed on with the watch from owner to owner.” Like the best period pieces, it carries with it the magic and emotion that you can feel as soon as you hear Ed begin to read the note. “It was bequeathed from a grandmother to her beloved grand daughter and is written in French.” Ed explains,   “The meaning translates into the grandmother passing down the watch but also letting her granddaughter know exactly the name of the store and owner to go, where she will get the best price should she ever need or want to sell it.” Hearing the handwritten note being translated not only gave me chills but many others who took the tour with me as well. Oh, the joys and of shiny pieces with provenance!

Our next installment will include the jewelry, we discovered at the New York Antique Jewelry & Watch show which will take you through 200 years of design.