Scarab Beetle Elytra Marquetry Makes The Hermès Arceau Pocket Ailes Et Ecailles Particularly Uncommon . . . And Beautiful
During a recent trip to Paris, I stopped by Hermès’ Faubourg Saint-Honoré boutique to look at the Crafting Time exhibition on display in the flagship store at the time.
Designed by artist Guillaume Airiaud, the exhibit’s displays presented five special crafts Hermès applies to some of its exceptional timepieces.
These five skills highlighted on display included the arts of crystal making, enameling, engraving, gem setting, and – naturally – haute horlogerie.
To see examples of each, go to How Hermès Transforms Crystal Into The Colorful Dial Of The Arceau Millefiori Watch (crystal making), Roaring Into Life At Full Gallop: Hermès Arceau Tigre Email Ombrant (enameling), The Hermès Arceau Temari: Stones Here And Stones There (gem setting), and Introducing Slim d’Hermès: The Elegant New Backbone Of The Hermès Collection (haute horlogerie).
I also managed to spy a unique piece at the exhibition that I would most likely never have gotten the chance to see otherwise: the intriguing Hermès Arceau Pocket Ailes et Ecailles.
In the pocket
Back in 2012, Hermès introduced a pocket watch concept called In The Pocket. It was based on the timepiece that young Jacqueline Hermès wore in 1912 (see The First Wristwatches From Breguet, Hermès And Patek Philippe Were Made . . . For Women), which inadvertently turned into Hermès’ first wristwatch: a small pocket watch that can be worn as a wristwatch thanks to a small leather “pocket” on a strap.
In The Pocket allows its owner to decide whether it should be worn as a pocket watch, as a wristwatch, or as a pendant around the neck. The horological chameleon not only links Hermès’ illustrious past and present, In The Pocket also offered women the luxury of sartorial flexibility.
The “pocket” aspect of this unique timepiece is, however, less obvious than the incredible métiers d’art skills that were utilized to beautifully embellish it. The leather used for this piece is a gorgeous indigo blue alligator skin. Hermès quality, of course.
Ailes et Ecailles
Back in 2012, former La Montre Hermès CEO Luc Perramond told me, “Our clients are looking for exclusive products, in all categories. So we are continuously looking for new crafts to showcase our artistic talents.”
This quote has stuck with me, even if Perramond has meanwhile moved on to Ralph Lauren; La Montre Hermès has become very expert at finding the very best and most uniquely talented craftspeople for the unique métiers d’art pieces it offers its discerning clients. And the beautiful Arceau Pocket Ailes et Ecailles is one of the very best examples of this I could possibly find.
Three consummately skilled craftspeople are needed to complete this pocket oeuvre. The first of which is an engraver, who lays out the gold dial by sketching the motif. This particular motif was inspired by a beach towel designed for Hermès by Pierre-Marie.
Following the initial engraving, enamel is expertly added to the burgeoning artwork in a champlevé technique that sees the enameler adding the liquid glass to the cavities created by the engraver. After several firings in the kiln, the dial goes back to the engraver who very, very carefully polishes the enamel to accentuate the design lines, thereby defining the fish’s eye and mouth.
Meanwhile, marquetry specialist Agnès Paul-Depasse prepares her scarab beetle elytra fragments. To my knowledge, she is the only artist currently working with this material, and she also created the dial for the Dior Envol Grand Bal VIII (see Dior’s 2015 Grand Bal VIII With Dial-Side Rotor And Scarab Beetle Elytra).
The use of this particular material naturally also perfectly fits with the overall Hermès theme for 2016: Nature at Full Gallop. “Ailes,” by the way, means “wings” in French; “écailles” means “scales.”
For more information, please visit www.hermes.com.
Case: 43 mm, white gold
Dial: gold with engraving, enamel, and scarab beetle elytra marquetry
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1837
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 2 pieces