The Hermès story won’t make the front page of its timeline. It is intimate, discreet, gently caressing the skin. And while selfies and likes will figure prominently, the idea is to play with them, with the free-spirited impertinence that characterises Hermès watchmaking, which is recreational, playful and enriched by the many arts and crafts it has perpetuated since its creation. Under the skilled hands of in-house artisans, wood marquetry, miniature painting and engraving are used to create a unique and playful composition.
This fanciful spirit has driven the Arceau since 1978, when Henri d’Origny saw a watch with half of it hidden under a leaf. He was amused by the idea: deliberately ditching any idea of perfect symmetry, his Arceau would have only one lug! He wanted it to be shaped like a stirrup, evoking the equestrian ancestry of Hermès the saddlemaker. And the timeless object would become one of the aesthetic signatures of his/ watchmaking.
Nearly 45 years later, this discreet master stroke is once again the backdrop for a new watchmaking fantasy. The Arceau Hermès story plays with time and goes beyond fashion. The all-digital world is expressed through age-old artisanal skills in which chisels and scorpers reign supreme, giving life to shimmering mother-of-pearl reflections and hand-sculpted gold volumes.
The story was born from the lively pencil of English designer John Burton, who recently designed the Hermès Story silk scarf in the spring/summer 2022 collection. In this work, he reinterprets the uses of social media, the singular art of staging, an offbeat universe that he depicts beneath the gaze of various fauna amused by the selfie exercise.
The giraffe has donned his best bow tie, the toucan his top hat and the turtle his hat – which is of course a bowler by the very British John Burton! At the centre of the scene, a rider on a wooden horse in full regalia captures this improbable animal reunion, which is already giving rise to a few “likes”.
The two Arceau Hermès Story watches capture the essence of these fantasy animals. The first version, issued in a 12-piece limited and numbered edition, features a tiger composed of wood marquetry. The feline with turquoise eyes combines plum, tulipwood, ash-olive, maple and sycamore in 290 pieces of wood patiently cut, stained and assembled one by one. The tiger alone requires five days of work to render all its nuances and subtleties.
Nothing less is needed to breathe life into the bestiary surrounding it: butterflies, hummingbirds, turtles and peacocks give unique depth to the dial through their hand-engraved and painted gold applique. Next to them, rabbits and praying mantises are miniature-painted in various layers that endow them with subtle depth achieved after five days of artisanal devotion. This playful yet technical composition is framed by a 38 mm rose gold case featuring a bezel set with 82 diamonds.
Another scene, another craft: a white gold version in a 24-piece limited and numbered edition features miniature painting on mother-of-pearl. Varnished, polished and smoothed by hand, it is adorned with 20 or so layers of multiple colours designed to reveal its subtle nuances and shimmering reflections.
Eight days and a few firings in the oven later, the magic happens: the princess appears on her wooden horse at the heart of an animal circle where toucan, turtle, peacock, swallow and rabbit vie for the best spot in a countryside selfie.
Guide Price: CHF 92,000