Hermès Arceau The Three Graces: A Giraffe In A Dial-Sized Savannah
by Martin Green
Hermès has a way with details. The brand’s designers and artisans pay particular attention to them yet in a way that you don’t directly notice. It almost looks as if their products are more “sculpted” than “manufactured” because every detail is so in tune with the others. As a result, Hermès creates its own sense of luxury.
While this can seem extroverted, especially in terms of the silk scarfs and ties, overall it is rather restrained and subtle. Less is more is a philosophy that Hermès feels comfortable with and can also afford as the brand uses the finest materials, which are processed and worked with the best artisans in the industry.
In this way, Hermès captures the true nature of luxury while achieving very high quality and an elegance transcending fleeting fashions and trends. Many of Hermès’ products attain a sense of timelessness – and especially for watches, this might very well be the greatest good a brand can ever hope to achieve.
The Hermès Arceau: an artistic canvas
Every time I see an Arceau model, I am surprised how contemporary it looks. What could have very well been a design introduced in the last couple of years is already more than 40 years old.
Henri d’Origny, Hermès’ famed artistic director, created the design in 1978 using a minimum of lines for the stirrup-inspired design. In doing so, he cleverly embedded Hermès’ original “DNA” into a watch that would prove to be a force of its own.
While enticing in its own pure way, the Arceau model also became the canvas of choice for Hermès to express itself in more artistic ways. Quality driven as always, the brand has utilized a wide variety of crafts on the dial, in essence transforming the watch into a canvas. Over the years, this has resulted in tantalizing creations, each surprising in its own right.
This is also true of Hermès’s latest model, Arceau The Three Graces.
Hermès Arceau The Three Graces: art comes to life
As is often the case, Hermès took its inspiration from one of its beautiful silk scarfs.
In 2020 the brand released a design by British artist Alice Shirley featuring three giraffes partially hidden by an acacia tree. She spotted this scene when traveling through South America.
While it’s a lovely shawl, I feel that the watch came out even better – with the exception of its name. Calling it “The Three Graces” might be a nice nod to the scarf that inspired its design, but it also has you expecting to see three giraffes.
Fortunately, Hermès focused only on one here, ensuring that the dial space is utilized well and offers a powerful image. The giraffe on the Arceau comes much more alive, primarily because of the different métiers d’art used.
Hermès Arceau The Three Graces: the “cutting edge”
The giraffe is made up of 195 tiny pieces of wood, each cut with great precision to form an artistic, complex, miniature jigsaw called wood marquetry. No fewer than four different types of wood were selected to create a giraffe that comes close in appearance to its natural counterpart.
Alongside European sycamore and tulip trees, American maple and walnut woods were used. By staining and bleaching some elements, a broad yet subtle color palette emerges that gives the giraffe a three-dimensional appearance and a texture that very well replicates fur and lends this magnificent creature a very graceful appearance. A special varnish forms the finishing touch, protecting the image for decades to come.
While this in itself would already make for quite a watch, Hermès decided to use a different craft for the surroundings. Guided by the original design, micro painting was used to create the vegetation surrounding the giraffe. The lacquers used are fixed on the dial by baking them in a kiln.
What I particularly like is that the individual brush strokes can still be seen, forming a pleasing contrast in both texture and color to the giraffe. The most ingenious element, though, was to place all this on a dial made of dark blue aventurine. This makes it look as if the giraffe is gazing through the leaves of the acacia tree to the night sky.
With a diameter of 38 mm the Arceau is well proportioned. Some might want the watch to be a bit larger, but the more modest classical size means that it is far more challenging to create the dial, hence more desirable.
The very wearable white gold case features a bezel adorned with 82 brilliant-cut diamonds.
Hermès Caliber H1912 can be admired through the display back. This movement was launched in 2012 and is made by Vaucher in Fleurier, Switzerland. As Hermès has a substantial 25 percent stake in this company, this caliber can be considered “in-house.”
I never cared much for this term or the added value one perceives it to have. A movement should be judged by its characteristics and performance, and in those Caliber H1912 don’t disappoint. In particular I like the repeated engraving of the Hermès logo, which reminds me of the 1990s when Cartier used to do the same with intertwined Cs on their movements (which I prefer over Cartier’s current, classic Swiss decorating style).
The H1912 is fitted with a full-size oscillating weight, and when fully wound it has a power reserve of 50 hours thanks to twin mainspring barrels.
Hermès will make just 24 pieces of the Arceau The Three Graces, which is a perfect example of how métiers d’art in the watch world can take an inspiring design to an even higher level.
For more information, please visit www.hermes.com.
Quick Facts Hermès Arceau The Three Graces
Case: 38 mm, white gold, bezel set with 82 colorless, brilliant-cut diamonds
Dial: aventurine base with wood marquetry and miniature painting
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1912, 4 Hz/28,800 frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 24 pieces
Price: CHF 76,600 / €70,000 / $84,300