Hermès Arceau Harnais Français Remix: Colorful Horseplay
by Martin Green
One of the things that I appreciate most about Hermès is the brand’s subtlety in design. No matter which of the objects you take in hand, it has that sense of understated luxury.
Hermès achieves this by combining high-quality materials and craftsmanship with a certain restraint in expression. That also makes this brand the first that comes to my mind when talking about Parisian chic.
In this light, the Hermès Arceau is a stroke of brilliance. It is rare that an asymmetrical watch case works so well – and for such a long period of time. The Arceau was originally designed by Hermès’ legendary artistic director Henri d’Origny in 1978 and has withstood design trends spanning several decades.
At the same time he also cleverly integrated the equestrian heritage of Hermès into the Arceau as the shape of the lugs help it to resemble a stirrup. It has a quality that many Hermès designs seem to possess: it doesn’t fit in, yet it doesn’t stand out; instead, it seems to occupy a realm of its own unaffected by the passage of time. Today the Arceau is as pleasing and chic as when it was first created.
Extravaganza in execution
For Hermès, the Arceau has also proven to be the perfect canvas for a rather large variety of watches. Usually, they follow the same restrained style for which the brand has become famous, but in some cases, like with the Arceau Harnais Français Remix, Hermès allows for a bit of “horseplay.”
Don’t mistake this for fooling around, though, as Hermès is always earnest about having a bit of fun.
For the Harnais Français Remix, Hermès’ watch designers, who work under the watchful eye of Philippe Delhotal, found inspiration in a pair of beautifully harnessed horses that formed the centerpiece of a silk scarf designed by Hugo Grykar, who served as Hermès’ in-house designer from the 1940s until 1959.
Grykar himself was inspired by a painting that was part of Émile Hermès’ private collection. The painting featured horses with colorful, feathered harnesses pulling the coach of Napoleon I at his coronation in 1804.
Hermès could have opted to produce the dial in oven-fired enamel, but opted for something different to that provided the scene with more depth: the artisans used for their canvas unglazed, matte Limoges porcelain, also known as bisque, to carve out the horses’ profiles.
This is a meticulous job with no room for error. It can take up to a month to engrave all the fine details in bas relief before readying the dial for the next step: adding color. This is done by applying a multitude of enamel layers, again not a job for the faint of heart.
As the final image was envisioned to be vibrant and multicolored, the dial requires many precise firings in the kiln, with each round of heat adding another layer of risk of breakage. Applying successive layers of color and firing are all steps in which the dial can easily be ruined.
In that way the Arceau Harnais Français Remix is also an ode to masterful craftsmanship. The result is a smooth and shiny porcelain that looks decidedly different from an enamel dial.
Does it really need diamonds?
The eye-catching dial of the Arceau Harnais Français Remix is framed by a bezel set with 82 colorless, brilliant-cut diamonds. It is almost a staple these days to set a bezel with diamonds on high-end ladies watches, and I do wonder if it is necessary.
In my opinion, the Harnais Français Remix doesn’t require additional sparkle, but then again there is also no need to fit horses with such exquisite harnesses when parading them around. From this point of view, the diamond-set bezel is almost mandatory as it places the case on the same level as the image on its dial.
A watch like this deserves a serious movement, so under the dial beats Caliber H1912, an automatic mechanical movement made exclusively by Vaucher, which is co-owned by Hermès and Parmigiani’s parent company. Vaucher also creates movements for other high-end brands including Richard Mille.
The movement is not the main attraction of this watch, but it does offer reliable timekeeping, beautiful finishing, and a generous power reserve of 50 hours.
Hermès has created the Arceau Harnais Français Remix to be worn and enjoyed, not as a a safe queen only to be worn on special occasions if at all.
A fitting finishing touch in terms of color and quality is therefore the alligator skin strap in a stunning raspberry hue. It complements the dial beautifully and, like the feathers on the horses’ harnesses, it further underscores what an exceptional creation the Arceau Harnais Français Remix is.
For more information, please visit www.hermes.com.
Quick Facts Hermès Arceau Harnais Français remix
Case: 38 mm, white gold, bezel set with 82 colorless, brilliant-cut diamonds
Dial: engraved and enameled Limoges porcelain dial
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1912, 4 Hz/28,800 frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 24 pieces
Price: $53,300 / CHF 55,000 / €48,000 / £40,670