The Hermès Arceau l'Heure De La Lune watch hands-on
What has Hermès to do with fine watchmaking, somebody might argue? I'm more than curious to find out how many of you, after reading just the article's title, asked themselves this question. The truth is that the French brand that we usually associate to ready-to-wear items and original leather accessories has been in the business for a long time now; so long it boasts a forty-year plus experience already since the La Montre Hermes SA factory was initially founded in 1978 in Switzerland. Among the many new products revealed by the brand at SIHH 2019, the Arceau L'Heure De La Lune is the most striking so far, thanks to its innovative display of the moon phases.
Changing the perspective
If you look close, you will notice that two mother-of-pearl disks are set into the dial at twelve and six respectively, whereas two satellites containing date and time rotate, around a subtly hidden central pivot, over them. During their rotation, the two disks alternately hide and reveal the mother-of-pearl decorated discs, thus visualizing the different moon phases.
In a "standard" timepiece, the dial is usually designed to mainly display time and date, with other mechanical complications added on top, while here is exactly the other way round. The center stage is, therefore, the moon phase display with time and calendar being means to achieve such a "noble" purpose.
A fusion of art and mechanics
From a mechanical point of view, the Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune is powered by the automatic H1837 caliber beating at 4Hz, conceived to let time and date satellites complete a full rotation in 59 days (which is twice as much as the lunar month).
We have no detailed info regarding total power reserve, we think however it is far more relevant to talk the overall size of the caliber, that encloses the lunar module in just 38mm in diameter and 4.2mm in total thickness. The caliber is pretty refined aesthetically too since the winding rotor, and the main plate, are machine-engraved with an H-shaped pattern representing the brand's logo.
From an artistic point of view, instead, many are the details that make the watch quite pleasing, like the adoption of precious stones to craft the dial. The Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune comes, in fact, with two options: a Meteorite dial (which is darker and faceted) and an aventurine quartz one, whose color has a hue of blue that easily reminds outer space, combined to a gray decal or a white lacquer for the small dials of the satellites, respectively.
They both convey a sensation of an immersive experience. To make the entire package even more appealing, a moon representing the southern hemisphere with a Pegasus depicted on the inside has been placed at twelve (its designer is famed Dimitri Rybaltchenko) while at six there's instead a moon for the northern hemisphere to represent the classic visualization of the lunar surface.
The main features
The watch has a 43mm case crafted in white gold and comes on an alligator leather strap with a white gold folding buckle in the shape of the Hermès logo.
Its asymmetrical lugs represent an interesting detail, i.e., the ones at the 12 o'clock position are different in size from the ones placed at 6 o'clock and draw inspiration from the original 1978 project devised by Henri d’Origny. The timepiece will be produced in just 100 pieces for each dial variant. The retail price is $25,500 (€23,000 approximate).
The Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune is a watch conceived to impress and leave a mark in high-end watchmaking, a direction the French brand has embarked on growing its brand awareness and credibility as a watchmaker, thus setting it apart from other competitors belonging to the fashion luxury segment.
It is in my opinion superbly crafted, comes with an out-of-the-ordinary moon phase display, which I think is a winner and a color palette that gives the dial amazing hues. What I don't really like instead is the choice of adopting a simple joint cover to hide the connection between the two satellites. All in all, kudos to Hermès for looking at things from a different perspective, and give this mechanical masterpiece the same unique touch and care it usually gives its luxury accessories.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Peter Tung)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®