Hermès Takes Flight With The Arceau Toucan De Paradis
by Nancy Olson
All art starts with an idea, whether inspired or realized by unrelenting pursuit. And the art of watchmaking is no different. Whether it’s a new movement, enhanced case, rediscovered métiers d’art, or even a revised bracelet configuration, each begins in the imagination.
Though some might argue that a timepiece falls more heavily into the engineering camp than art because of its purposeful – as in time-telling – nature, I think that a watch at its best holds space for both. And sometimes one or the other may take precedence as in the new Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis, whose multihued dial is clearly the grabber.
The Arceau, designed by legendary artistic director Henri d’Origny in 1978, is perhaps Hermès’ best horological expression of its roots as a saddle maker, evoked consistently throughout the collection by the asymmetrical, stirrup-shaped lugs. D’Origny, whose career counts more than 50 years at Hermès, is also the creative mind behind the Hermès Cape Cod and Clipper watch collections.
Since its introduction, the Arceau has grown to include a variety of mechanical variations, including models with a chronograph, a moon phase, a skeletonized version, a tourbillon, and even one with a complication that halts time (Le Temps Suspendu).
The Arceau Toucan de Paradis featured here uses silk thread and enamel to tell its story.
Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis: smooth as silk
Hermès commissioned freelance illustrator Katie Scott for the Toucans de Paradis silk scarf of 2020, which has been reimagined for this watch dial. This is not the first time an Hermès scarf has provided inspiration for the dial of an Arceau. Among them, the recent Space Derby recalls a scarf designed by French illustrator Ugo Bienvenu.
Scott, based in London, is known for her botanical and animal illustrations that whimsically straddle fantasy and reality. I find her use of color captivating in its sometimes-muted explication, acknowledging both the past and the future with equal intensity.
In addition to Hermès, her list of international clients includes such notables as Nike, the New York Times, Wired, and the BBC.
Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis
The dial of the Toucan de Paradis takes over a week to produce, and it includes two materials that in combination far exceed their sum.
The multistep process goes something like this.
A well-practiced artisan uses a fine brush to coat the white gold dial plate with glass powders mixed with natural oils, applying them in several layers that are each dried and fired in a kiln.
The bird and its plumage are created using vibrant silk thread, which is set in closely engraved recesses adjacent to the enameled surfaces. Each thread is meticulously positioned and fixed in place to create a textile effect.
The shades chosen both for the enamel and the silk thread perfectly complement one another without dominance or clash. Rather, they meld into a stunning whole with just enough texture variation to add further interest to an already-interesting art form that Hermès says took five years to perfect.
The 38 mm white gold timepiece is powered by the H1912 automatic movement – an Arceau favorite – whose functions include central hours and minutes. Its decoration features a circular-grained and snailed base plate and an oscillating weight and bridges adorned with an “H” pattern visible through the case back.
The bezel is set with 82 diamonds that expertly frame the art on the dial. And once again color is used to its greatest advantage, this time in the choice of a Zanzibar blue calfskin leather strap – the perfect decision.
For more information, please visit www.hermes.com.
Quick Facts Quick Facts Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis
Case: 38 x 10.26 mm, white gold, bezel set with 82 colorless, brilliant-cut diamonds (0.63 ct)
Dial: enamel and silk thread on white gold base
Movement: automatic Caliber H1912 , 4 Hz/28,800 frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 24 pieces
Price: $71,900 / 71,000 Swiss francs