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Hermès’ storytelling takes on a festive air

The Arceau Costume de Fête is an exceptional timepiece in category and composition.

By Debbie Hathway
Behind The Scenes For The Making Of The Arceau Costume De Fête At Hermès' Manufacture In Brügg. Image: David Marchon

Hermès’ characteristic storytelling flair comes to the fore when faced with a creative brief for a miniature artwork to fit the dial of a 38mm case, as seen in the new Arceau Costume de Fête. At a previous Watches and Wonders interview, Hermès creative director Philippe Delhotal told me that the creative process of the House was underpinned by storytelling. “Each object has a story, which is very important when you create something. We don’t do anything if it doesn’t have meaning and bring emotions to people.”

 

Hermès’ Leather Savoir-Faire Comes To Life. Image: David Marchon

In this case, the craftsmen are guided by the imagination of Polish illustrator, typographer and graphic designer Jan Bajtlik, who draws on his native country’s art of paper cut-outs (wycinanki) to set the scene for a lively, colourful equestrian motif. The result is leather marquetry and sequins adding texture to a miniature painting that reinterprets the silk scarf he designed under the same name.

 

The sculpted metal base is uniformly painted, punctuated by innumerable micropaint layers successively applied with a brush. Image: David Marchon

Hermès’ watchmaking is traditionally recreational and playful, a spirit conveyed in the Arceau since 1978 when Henri d’Origny noticed a watch half-hidden under a leaf. According to the House, the sight prompted him to ditch the idea of perfect symmetry. The result was the Arceau bearing only one lug shaped like a stirrup with deference to the equestrian ancestry of Hermès, the saddlemaker, becoming one of the aesthetic signatures of Hermès’ watchmaking.

The Design Is Expressed Through Creative Yet Demanding Decorative Techniques. Image: David Marchon

The festive finery on the Arceau Costume de Fête watch dial is inspired by traditional Krakow costumes, ornaments and decorations featuring characters, animals and flowers immortalised in Polish folk culture. Two versions, in white gold and rose gold, set with 82 diamonds, showcase a miniature horse brought to life by Hermès artisans using brightly coloured beads on a painted, sculpted metal base. The animal emerges through meticulous leather marquetry, with slim tesserae cut from 0.5mm-thick coloured leathers and six delicately applied tiny sequins. The craftsmanship includes hand-painted details on the leather harness.

The Details Of The Horse’s Harness Are Meticulously Hand-Painted. Image: David Marchon

 

Poland’s popular art of paper cut-outs influences the style of the characters, animals and flowers. Image: David Marchon

The 38mm diameter case houses the Manufacture Hermès H1912 movement with a power reserve of 50 hours, showcasing a ‘sprinkling of Hs’ pattern on its bridges and oscillating weight visible through the sapphire crystal case back. The movement is mechanical, self-winding and crafted in Switzerland.

The watches, issued in 24-piece editions, feature sakura pink or electric blue Swift calfskin straps to complement their lively tones.

Debbie Hathway

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