Everything that Hermès makes is stamped with the distinctive house style, which more often than not takes us back to the stable with horse-inspired motifs. This is because Hermès started out life as a producer of harnesses and saddles in Paris. When Emile Hermès took over the directorship of the house in 1920, the inventive Mr Hermès had to rethink his strategy and set his mind to finding new ways to use his leather workers' skills following the demise of horse-drawn carriages and the rise of the automobile. Instead, he decided to focus on the needs of the traveller, from luggage and scarves to timekeeping.
"Because my great-grandfather saw that horse equipment was a less important market for Hermès, he had to invent new products and have them made by the workshops that were specialised in harness and saddles," says Guillaume de Seynes sixth generation family member and Vice President of Hermès and President of La Montre Hermès S.A. "This coming together of craftsmanship with creativity is still an essential part of Hermès."
In the case of the newest women's watch, the Arceau Ecuyère, the equestrian link is clear to see in the detail on the leather strap, which neatly wraps around the stirrup-shaped loop on the top of the watch. As one of the few French companies designing watches, Hermès' women's range has always had a heightened sensitivity for subtle details, such as the strap that is hand-stitched with as much care as a Kelly bag or the sunburst motif engraved on the dial. The Arceau adds to the house's range of mechanical watches and, as is to be expected, there is a tantalizing array of new styles to choose from.
The steel and rose gold versions are set with 60 diamonds on the bezel, with the former being paired with a handsome, indigo-blue alligator strap and the latter with a black strap. However, it is the limited anniversary rose-gold edition that is most striking in terms of diamond settings -shimmering with 74 diamonds on the bezel and lugs, only 100 have been made. All the models feature a single diamond set into the crown as a wink to the luxurious care taken in making this watch and are powered by the mechanical self-winding movement, Vaucher Manufacture H1912.
The larger men's 40mm Arceau Automatique exudes an air of quiet opulence and, like the women's models, is inspired by the shape of a stirrup. The dial is stamped with an attractive herringbone pattern that subtly catches the light, and the numerals are plated in rose gold for a rich finish. The watch is powered by the mechanical self-winding movement, Vaucher Manufacture H1837.
Like everything signed by Hermès, the quality is exceptional, from the the intricate pattern on the dial to the mechanical movement, painstakingly made at the prestigious Vaucher Manufacture in Switzerland. The automatic mechanical movement has a 50-hour power reserve, which means that it will rarely need winding up if worn regularly. Even the inside of the watch is decorated, and you can admire the movement whirring away through the glass back of the case.
"Being able to still make mechanical watches is fantastic," says de Seynes of the return to the craft of watchmaking. "It means people still believe in the value of craftsmanship and are ready to pay for the price for something that has more spirit, even if it is less accurate in time measurement. Maybe the world is not completely crazy after all."
The starting price is £10,700 for the stainless steel Arceau Ecuyère model with a diamond-set bezel.