Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune: And Pegasus Flies On The Moon
Even though 2018 was fortieth anniversary of the Hermès Arceau collection there was no dedicated anniversary piece. However, the 2019 L’Heure de la Lune in an Arceau case more than makes up for that.
The Arceau line was chosen as the home for Hermès’ new haute horlogerie timepiece because the case shape fits the complication and movement. “This was the natural piece to welcome that kind of complication, one that needs a lot of space,” Laurent Dordet, CEO of La Montre Hermès, explained as we discussed L’Heure de la Lune.
“We think this piece is like a highlight of our spirit,” he emphasized. And I could not agree more.
L’Heure de la Lune is Hermès’ first “manufacture” moon complication. And it continues the story of the brand’s other complication timepieces beginning with 2011’s Arceau Temps Suspendu and continuing with 2014’s Dressage L’Heure Masquée and 2017’s L’Heure Impatiente.
Temps Suspendu was successful in generating both sales and accolades – it even went on to win the Men’s Watch award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2011 – and inspired Hermès to explore more in the realm of high complications. Now, at the beginning of 2019, we are privileged to preview the next playful Hermès complication.
So I asked Dordet where the idea for L’Heure de la Lune came from. The answer was typically straightforward: “[La Montre Hermès creative director] Philippe Delhotal wanted to express something like ‘let’s bring our clients to the sky; let’s dream’ . . .”
And perhaps not unintentionally this concept builds a bridge to the overriding Hermès theme of 2019: “it starts with a dream.” In case you’re not aware, every year the French brand sets a theme that guides all of the collections across its 14 product categories, including home goods and one-of-a-kind objects just as much as watches, jewelry, shoes, scarves, and fashion.
“Hermès is all about having feet on the ground and head in the stars,” Dordet reminded me. “And so I said what about giving Hermès’ vision of the stars, what the stars are for us, what the sky is for us. And maybe Philippe wanted really to focus on the moon because it is the first thing you see when you look at the sky; it is the centerpiece of the sky. And maybe he was influenced by the importance of the moon phase in the watch industry.”
Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune’s central character
The moon is a frequent character in the story of life. And the moon phase is a common complication for astronomically inclined watches. And this is certainly no coincidence.
But to simply drop a moon phase display into a regular movement and call it good is in no way the sort of thing that would fit into Hermès’s rigorous culture of craftsmanship and creativity.
“This is true,” Dordet gently smiled. “We didn’t want to do something classical. And thus came the idea of treating the moon as a satellite, something that is peripheric, the appendix of the earth, and not as the principal character.”
And so Delhotal set to work, along the way enlisting Jean-François Mojon of Chronode to work on this special moonstruck watch. Mojon worked out the technical idea for two years before Dordet and Delhotal saw anything.
“And when we did, we were very amazed with the result,” Dordet revealed. “This three-dimensionality, the depth . . . I got the impression of diving into the dial and really being projected into something very unique. And I knew this is what Philippe wanted to express.”
It’s all in the details: enter Pegasus
Of course, the famous Hermès horse is here somewhere . . . and not only in the stirrup-shaped lugs of the Arceau case designed by Henri d’Origny in 1978.
Here the horse is in fact a winged example – Pegasus of the Greek myths – and found on the southern moon. But you have to look closely to see him, for he is only visible when the moon is full (of course).
This particular rendition of Pegasus was created by Dimitri Rybaltchenko, the “dreamer artist” who often designs scarf motifs, watch dials, and more for Hermès. The artwork, entitled Pleine Lune (Full Moon), will also be used on a scarf set to appear in summer 2019 – making this watch dial Pleine Lune’s very first appearance.
The winged horse is a frequent subject for Rybaltchenko; through the ages Pegasus has been a symbol of high-flying imagination, and in this case denotes a poetic passage between two worlds, a place where magic and reality merge.
The northern moon located in the lower half of the dial is decorated with a realistic depiction of the moon’s surface. And, yes, you just read that right: the southern moon is placed in the upper half of the dial for more ability to lose yourself in time and space when you look at it.
When I first saw this piece, I remarked how three-dimensional I found it, almost like a moving sculpture. And Dordet agreed.
Hermès is a brand that does details so beautifully that whatever impression its engineers want you to have is what you will have. And here the impression is for the owner to look at this watch and dream about the heavens. Unambiguously.
And this impression is given even more depth by Delhotal’s choices of dial materials: aventurine and meteorite. Dordet reports that clients, customers, and even Hermès’ own employees are split on a favorite between the two versions, with it coming out straight 50/50.
They are both absolutely beautiful, of that there is not even an eclipse of a doubt. Wouldn’t they just make for the perfect “couples” or “buddy” watches?
What the Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune does
“Wearing an Hermès watch is about making light of time rather than seeking to dominate it. It is about envisaging a singular relationship with time, a time with which one plays, yet without ever hoping to control it,” Dordet says.
And keeping that in mind, what this watch does above all else is offer a unique view of the moon and its phases using a simultaneous display from the northern and southern hemispheres – with the southern hemisphere on top for once.
This is an offbeat expression of an age-old complication, but one that is perfect for physical or spiritual travelers who like to be reminded of the time and space they have flown or will fly through.
To hammer that point home, it is the two subdials displaying the time (hours and minutes) and the date that rotate around the dial, covering each of the moons appropriately to display the correct current moon phase in each hemisphere. Not only is this cerebral and beautiful, it is unusual.
And the displays aid in creating the idea of floating time as the subdials do seem to hover.
The movement base is an Hermès manufacture H1837 crafted by Vaucher (Hermès owns 25 percent of Vaucher), while the motion of the moons is controlled by a patented module created by Mojon.
At a height of 4.2 mm, the module contains 117 expertly finished and bead-blasted components. It’s pretty easy to see how challenging it might have been to fit all those pieces into that small space, but it was necessary to keep the timepiece as wearable as it is.
Thankfully, though, the technical ballet of metal components remains hidden by the variety of beautiful dial parts so that the wearer is given the space to dream among the stars.
One detail that is practically mind-boggling: the price
Yes, it’s gauche to talk about prices. And we all know that if you have to ask the price, you probably won’t be able to afford it.
But for my money, this is quite a lot of haute horlogerie watch for the price: at 26,000 Swiss francs it is practically a steal. I asked Dordet why.
“Because we really want to bring value for money and to avoid any suspicion of arrogance,” he again answers in a straightforward manner. “We certainly want to avoid that because we think we have everything to prove every year in our products and we don’t want to be suspected of arrogance in terms of price.”
And, of course, let’s not forget the Hermès alligator skin strap in graphite grey or abyss blue as the cherry on top of such a heavenly cake.
Quick Facts Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune
Case: white gold, 43 x 13.27 mm
Dial: aventurine with white lacquered subdials and mother-of-pearl moons; meteorite with grey lacquered subdials and mother-of-pearl moons; blued hands
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1837 with Chronode module; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, double moon phase as seen from both the northern and southern hemispheres
Limitation: 100 pieces of each version
Price: CHF 26,000, delivery spring 2019