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The new escapades of Yvan Arpa

January 17 2018

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At the headquarters of a Swiss bank, where does not enter, the watch Bye Bye Euro Yvan Arpa has something incongruous about it. Just like the sulphurous series Magma of Respect where are found traces of five mythical watchmaking timepieces that were previously melted. Fusion of genres. - Joel A. Grandjean.


was he allowed to use real bills to line the dial of a watch? Yvan Arpa launched this watch on the occasion of a vertiginous fall of the European currency against the Swiss franc. On his dial, real cuts of Euro piled up in a happy striated graphic. Since then, this piece comes out from time to time, every time the Euro takes the broth. There is even a version with dollars.

The troublemaker of watchmaking is there, without complex, in the heart of a universe which has, at first sight, nothing of rock'n roll. He receives, he is received. The UBS, the big banking sign, has reserved for him on the secure floor of its Geneva headquarters, one of these spaces to make envious all those who are thirsty for exposure in these times of SIHH 2018. One thousand square meters, a VIP area. All his creations are represented: his mechanical impulses, including an ArtyA automobile, his passions, his laboratory wanderings, as well as his successful projects.

Yvan Arpa introduces himself as a designer who creates as much for the other brands - Samsung and QoQa.ch, for the most recent - only for himself, for his own brand which contains his initials mixed with the word "art": ArtyA. A block of letters erected in a logo whose aesthetic recalls some anarchist claim.

This creator, a former math teacher, flanked by his wife, a painter turned miniaturist, has a particularity. Wherever he operates, he creates watches whose name or slogan becomes more famous than the brand that houses them, forcing the latter to run after a meteoric fame. There was the slogan no limits for the Sector brand, a kind of 'Do not Crack Under Pressure ' before the hour. There was especially the Titanic Romain Jerome, the Five Time Zone of Jacob's & Co and, just before Christmas 2017, the Magma from Q & A ...

Note that this phenomenon, although it normally takes years to build, remains the fantasy of watchmakers. There is no one who does not dream of having a reference to his catalog so famous that it forces the brand to fight to impose new models. It's both boosting and paralyzing. Jaeger LeCoultre struggles to make as famous as its legendary Reverso another model of the catalog, ditto for Audemars Piguet and his iconic Royal Oak, Rolex and his indétronable Oyster or Cartier and his legendary Tank.

His creations subscribed to the register of the unusual, have an "added media value » real as they are predisposed to run ink. So has he just made one of those blows of which he has the secret. Approached by Pascal Meyer, the founder of a website specializing in online sales with a reputation and methods tinged with disruptivité, Yvan Arpa launches on the market, the time of a sale of a few hours as well as a flash promo on the Swiss national television, a series of 1482 watches Q & A (QoQa & Arpa) divided into three models of 494 parts. Beaded timepieces Magma whose accuracy is validated by 16 days of tests entrusted to the COSC, the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing.

To make them, the designer has literally sacrificed five luxury timepieces on the altar of fusion, whose point of no return is the 1482 degrees bar. At this temperature, even the steel is flowing. 1482, so it will also be the number of watches produced, numbered, offered to CHF 999.00 instead of CHF 5'999.00 they would be supposed to be worth.

The next day, and even though the exhibition punctuated by the arrival of his house template exploded in a block of Plexiglas should have fueled the conversations, all guests were distracted by the real-time performance of this marketing operation unprecedented. They had their eyes riveted on this Swiss-Swiss flash sale. In these bad times, who could sell so many watches in such a short time? On the flank of each watch, a steel plate from this sacrilegious flow was affixed. It bears the inscription, like plaque affixed to old factory machines, "Magma of Respect". Unconditional respect for a handful of the most institutional watchmaking names, respectable brands that may have gone well with this sacrificial act taking their sacred models to the pyre: a Patek Philippe Nautilus, a Rolex Daytona, a Royal Oak d 'Audermars Piguet, A Panther by Cartier.

Obviously, double-reading is necessary. And if a parcel of inaccessible luxury embodied by these sacred monsters of haute-horlogerie allowed itself to be acquired at less than 1'000 francs?

Inspired by the artistic expressions of a street culture Smartly introduced into the micromechanical universe of watchmaking excellence, without ever falling into trash, Yvan Arpa will always defend himself to be a provocateur. Bad faith? When using butterfly wings to better color his dials, do not imagine that he smudges the SPA. When he puts real bullets in the dials of his watches, it is not by apology of the war, but to emphasize that such munitions are much better at this place, tamed by an improbable esthete, than to stroll in the open air on battlefields. When he transcends the rich veins of a piece of Cropolite, fossilized dinosaur droppings, and he exclaims in a memorable slogan Is it cheat, yes it is! it is as if to revolt, in the middle of the watchmaking fair, against the surrounding creative monotonies. So, to top it off, he will serve his precious timepieces on leather toad-buffalo the most beautiful effect, the nose to the noble alligator generously dubbed. He will even enter the museum, the Vallée de Joux, time for an exhibition dedicated to design: his collection stylizing the end of a guitar has a silhouette that is recognizable from afar.

During the week that the SIHH 2018 lasts, on the sidelines of the highways of the agreed attendance, sure that some sorted visitors, customers, retailers, distributors and journalists, will offer the detour by this exhibition as complete as it is instructive. A living homage and, in passing, a message from Swissness to the address of these great fortunes who could have an appointment with their banker in one of the adjoining private rooms. And who could, after an interview on the management of their assets, acquire a parcel of horological magic.

ArtyA exhibition, 1er floor. Geneva headquarters of the UBS, 35 rue des Noirettes, Acacias Geneva. Until February 2018.