Hermès combine the art of French lacquering with watchmaking and create a collection of miniature masterpieces, each framed by one of their superb Arceau watch cases.
La Montre Hermès celebrated 35 years of their Arceau collection in 2013, but this milestone also marked the anniversary of the creation of a designated watchmaking department with which to realise their Haute Horlogerie ambitions. Now having achieved their objectives with the unveiling of their first Hermès Manufacture movement, and having also received accolades including a GPHG award for the Arceau Temps Suspendu, they can bask in the glory of being a serious player in the watch industry.
Any manufacturer of luxury goods can turn their hand at producing exquisite products of superior quality, but as we have recently discovered, Hermès can not only produce artistic dials, but also highly original examples too. You may recall the exceptional beauty of the Hermès Arceau Marqueterie de Paille which had a dial created using a special kind of rye straw and more recently the remarkable Arceau Millefiori. With the new Cheval d’Orient collection Hermès use the skillful technique of French Lacquering on metal to create a watch dial rather than using the more traditional wood or bamboo base – the end result is a resplendent trio of artisan timepieces.
With a reputation originally gained from their equestrian leather goods, the inclusion of Oriental horses in these new pieces is extremely appropriate, especially when the Arceau case with its stirrup-inspired lugs provides the frame. The magnificent creatures provide a majestic subject matter, but the composition technique for these dials is highly complex and it requires the talents – and the patience of highly proficient artisans.
First the rich ebony background – layers are built up using a fine-tipped brush before fine sanding at each stage, three days drying time is needed for each layer with up to thirty coats required to produce the deep, black base. Many artistic dials have their creation measured in hours or days, the black lacquering process of these models will take many weeks.
Next the flawless composition of the artwork. The outline of the design is done by pencil onto the lacquered dial. The colours are prepared by crushing and mixing the pigments until the required shade is achieved, and I think you will agree, the are dazzling. The colours are applied one by one, building up to intense shades after which the artwork will need ten days to dry thoroughly. Even the final stages in which twenty layers of transparent lacquer are applied also require perseverance in order that it dries out properly, after which an ultimate polish unmasks the lustrous composition. Inside the 18kt white gold case of each model the automatic Hermès in-house calibre H1837 beats at 28,800 vph and has a power reserve of 50 hours.
The Hermès Arceau Cheval d’Orient collection will be available in three editions, in a limited number of 24 pieces, each providing its wearer with a unique loupe-worthy example of miniature art.