Hermès Arceau Squelette
The Hermès Arceau Squelette upholds the styling of Henri d’Origny’s initial design of 1978 but with the wonderful addition of a skeletonised movement and smoked sapphire crystal dial. The numerous exposed components sate the beholder’s need to understand, a trait most human beings share from an early age.
There comes a point in every child’s life when a toy is viewed with an inquisitive stare. It no longer remains a toy, it has become an object to dismantle. Within a few brief moments, said child will locate a Phillips-head screwdriver and, shortly thereafter, the kitchen table becomes strewn with numerous parts.
Each component is examined between forefinger and thumb. The immature mind tries to fathom how two parts relate to each other. Eventually, the toy is reassembled, albeit with a few surplus parts left on the table.
Most people are innately curious and feel compelled to understand how mechanical objects work. This curiosity comes to the fore in one’s formative years and never goes away. The world of horology recognised this human trait many years ago, culminating in the making of skeleton watches.
Historically, an existing calibre was openworked, or skeletonised, using a series of handsaw blades. The skill would be to reveal the beauty of the mechanism without impairing its reliability or rigidity.
The watchmaker would exercise caution, taking care not to get too close to jewels, screws or gear wheels as this may have impaired reliability. Moreover, the watchmaker would be mindful not to remove too much material from the movement or it may become weak and prone to bending.
A successfully skeletonised movement would offer a degree of transparency, indulging the desires of inquisitive souls. Moreover, its ethereal beauty would provide an alluring spectacle.
Nowadays, a skeleton movement is designed from the outset to be openworked using a CAD system. The design takes into account the presence of jewels, screws, wheels, etc with due consideration to reliability and rigidity. The mainplate and bridges are optimally formed using CNC and wire erosion machines. The resultant openworked movement proves less labour intensive to produce than its modified forebears. Furthermore, product consistency is superior. However, the watch continues to exhibit a wonderful diaphanous quality.
The Hermès Arceau Squelette is made with modern-day techniques and, in my opinion, is a superior watch as a result. There is no inherent risk of flex and the movement should prove equally as reliable than its non-openworked counterpart. In this instance, the movement sits behind a smoked crystal but its beautiful mind remains clear to see.
The brand’s press release
Designed by Henri d’Origny in 1978, the Arceau watch is the epitome of formal classicism tinged with singularity. Its sober and carefully studied design, its round case with asymmetrical stirrup-shaped lugs, along with its sloping font evoking a galloping horse, all contribute to establishing its timeless yet contemporary nature. Hovering between shadow and light, this new interpretation of Hermès time subtly reveals the complexity of mechanical architecture.
The Arceau Squelette watch features a round steel case framing a smoked sapphire crystal dial. From the deep black gradient on the chapter ring, enhanced by a beaded minute circle and silvered numerals, to the transparency of the centre revealing the skeleton movement, the magic weaves its spell. The bridges, the anthracite wheels and the openwork oscillating weight play with the lightness of the slender hour and minute hands, while the cut-out numerals and the Hermès signature appear to be levitating. This aerial display, powered by a mechanical self-winding movement, is complemented by a black alligator strap crafted by the artisans of Hermès Horloger, as indeed are the case and dial.