Rhapsody in Blue

Angus Davies reviews the Hermes Arceau Marqueterie de Paille. The luxury brand has delivered a stunning watch with a vivid blue dial.

Hermes Arceau Marqueterie de Paille

I am always surprised how on hearing a piece of music I can find myself momentarily drifting into another world. Vivid images enter my brain and I sometimes adopt a persona and lifestyle far removed from my everyday existence.

George Gershwin conceived Rhapsody in Blue on a train journey to Boston. His brother Ira suggested the name. Whenever I hear this music I visualise myself in New York. I don’t know why, but I do.

A few bars of the introduction and I can see in my mind’s eye, steam rising from drain covers, pastrami on rye being sold from a deli and yellow taxis with tired suspension being driven by animated cabbies.

The music engages with me in a shivering embrace. There is a connection at a sub-conscious level that goes beyond mere enjoyment.

The word Hermès has a similar effect. On hearing the esteemed nomenclature, I imagine myself walking along the Champs-Élysées or Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. I am thinner in my dream, sartorially attired and a bon viveur meandering past the finest boutiques.

Along the boulevards, tall elegant mademoiselles wear couture, they tip-toe on insanely high shoes which could readily instigate vertigo and wear make-up applied with the deft skill of an old master.

Café culture is omnipresent in the finer districts with fragrant Chablis in the air to accompany the sight of foie gras and fig jam.

Hermès and Paris are inextricably linked.

My obsession with the brand commenced with handbags. An unusual admission for a raving heterosexual. However, it is the peerless craftsmanship, the artisans’ endeavours and the savoir faire which inspire awe in this alpha male.

The Kelly and Birkin bags complement any outfit. A Hermès scarf attached to the bag enhances the look still further.

A recent trip to Baselworld and a view of the Hermès Arceau Marqueterie de Paille reinforced my predilection for Hermès.

The dial

The watch is available with two dial variants; chevrons and squares. Chevrons is my preferred choice but both options are stunningly beautiful.

Hermes Arceau Marqueterie de Paille

It can often be increasingly difficult to captivate cynical journalists with new products but whenever I have discussed this model with my fellow professionals, they have joined me in enthusiastic praise.

Hermes Arceau Marqueterie de Paille

Hermes Arceau Marqueterie de Paille

Hermes Arceau Marqueterie de Paille

Rye straw is used to create a beautiful textured pattern on the dials. It is harvested, coloured and left to dry. The skilled craftsmanship involves splitting the straw with a sharp blade and then manually flattening it with a bone tool. The strips of straw are then cut to length. They are placed on graph paper, arranged in different positions, glued together and then assembled on the watch dial to achieve the desired appearance.

The interplay between the blue and black hues of the straw, captures light and affords the dial a wondrous three depth. The straw has a vibrancy, similar to the much loved scarfs Hermés is famed for.

The two leaf shaped hands depict hours and minutes succinctly with their elegant form.

The brand’s name and origin are presented towards the northerly position of the dial, using a transfer on the inner surface of the sapphire crystal, appearing to almost float above the straw.

The case

The white gold case has a diameter of 41 mm. A perfect size for comfortable wearing, suiting both male and female wrists.

The crown is knurled to aid adjustment but is neat and does not detract from the minimalist lines of the case.

An urbane aspect of this watch is the marriage between the strap and case. The strap joins the case at the bottom of the dial using conventional lugs. However, the strap affixes to the top of the case using a stirrup-like loop. It is yet a further example of the poetic design language that distinguishes this watch.

The strap is presented in matt indigo blue alligator on a white gold pin buckle, working harmoniously with the dial and case.

The case back features a sapphire crystal to facilitate view of the finely finished movement.

The movement

The calibre H1928 is made by Hermés subsidiary Vaucher for exclusive use by the Parisian brand.

The self-winding movement offers convenience to the wearer.

Whilst the styling may be French, the mechanical heart of the watch is Swiss.

The movement contains 220 parts including 32 jewels and a gold oscillating weight.

Twin barrels provide a power reserve of 55 hours.

The watch is the embodiment of style but it does not eschew fine watchmaking. Hand-chamfered and polished bridges reinforce the fine finishing of the movement.

Conclusion

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is admired by many for its mellifluous magnificence.

I believe Hermès have created a horological rhapsody in blue which elicits effusively enthusiastic praise from all those who have had the pleasure to view it.

A Hermès belt and tie can complete a sartorial ensemble to wonderful effect. It signifies the wearer as elegantly astute. This watch further enhances the whole with an aesthetic that is distilled to perfection.

Technical specification

  • Model: Hermès Arceau Marqueterie de Paille
  • Reference: 038058WW00 (chevrons); 038059WW00 (squares)

  • Case: white gold; diameter 41.00 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and rear.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes.
  • Movement: H1928 Vaucher Manufacture, self-winding; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 32 jewels; power reserve 55 hours
  • Strap: Matt indigo blue alligator leather strap on white gold pin buckle.

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