Mention Hermès and one thinks immediately of a brand unsurpassable in terms of quality and mastery in craftsmanship. First established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès, Hermès is renowned in the field of watchmaking for its outstanding watchmaking expertise. In the field of horology, few can compare with Hermès as the brand is constantly creating and innovating masterpieces with features that would impress even the most discerning and jaded connoisseur. Watches that Hermès has created are certainly treasures to be cherished. Marrying indisputable Swiss watchmaking proficiency with exquisite designs, take your pick from the following 2013 creations.
Priceless and Precious
The pocketwatch might be deemed by the unenlightened to be too old-fashioned, but take a look at these two collections by Hermès and we guarantee you would agree that these pieces are the epitome of contemporary elegance. Adopting sport as one of its themes for 2013, a conjured image that inspired the artisans at Hermès are visions of the sea dotted with elegantly billowing spinnakers. The result of this vivid visualisation is manifested in the colourful sails on the cover of the Arceau Pocket Voilier with light shining through them, achieved by an ancient filigree technique similar to that of stained-glass windows, also known as plique-à-jour enamelling.
The process involved to create the Arceau Pocket Voilier requires patience and persistence in cutting, goldsmithing, enamelling and engraving – all by hand – to achieve a subtle light effect. For the very first time, a pocket watch by Hermès features a cover that does not hide the caseback, but rather the dial. The latter is also enamelled in elegantly graded shades of blue and grey, adorned with champlevé numerals that naturally adopt the characteristic sloping style of Arceau watches. The mechanical self-winding H1837 movement is the heart of this pocket watch.
For the Arceau Pocket Volutes, gold marquetry takes the forefront. With a cover that requires approximately 150 hours of work on its surface work alone, one can imagine the painstaking effort it takes to work on such miniscule details. Yet the talented Sylvain Bettex, an expert artistic engraver who lends his skills to Hermès, did so beautifully. In addition, grand feu enamelling, another artisan skill, was utilised for the dial of the Arceau Pocket Volutes.
Craftsmanship-wise, another timepiece – a wristwatch this time – uses a simple material, yet the expertise required to tame it into watchmaking is rare. Straw is used in miniature marquetry to adorn the Arceau H Cube’s dial with an iconic motif in bright colours. The straw plant is delicately scythed by hand and then dyed through with brilliant colours. After it is dried and combined based on colours and fibres, the straw strands are patterned and then cut and assembled one by one on the dial to reproduce the perspective tricks designed – like the Arceau watch by Henri d’Origny. The geometric eye candy is emphasised by a white gold case and powered by an H1837 Manufacture movement viewed through the sapphire caseback.
While its design is more basic in comparison to the above, the Hermès Arceau Le Temps Suspendu is more of a horological wonder, and invites the innovators of complications in the House of Hermès to shine. It provides its user to experience a ‘break’ in time. A pushbutton may be pressed to bring the hour and minute hands to a halt at 12 o’clock, allowing time – for your case at least – to stop, while another push of the button sets time moving again. A subdial with 24 graduations features a hand perpetually whirling backwards. Two patents protect the clever mechanisms delivering these features. With such commitment to perfection, it is always exciting to look out for what Hermès is going to do next.
This article has previously appeared in the October 2013 issue of Malaysia Tatler: Jewels & Time.