By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
The millenary art of glassmaking meets fine Swiss watchmaking in Hermès' new Arceau Millefiori watches. The Hermès Arceau watch, with its stirrup-inspired lugs, has been decorated with a colourful mantle of thousands of miniature glass flowers crafted by Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis in France, the same company that has been blowing life into glass paperweights and other objets d'art since 1586.
In fact, the 2013 Atmos table clock, a joint collaboration between Jaeger-LeCoultre and Hermès, boasts an ethereal crystal dome created by Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis, perforated with circular portholes for a view of its extraordinary movement, which relies on tiny variations in temperature to keep it ticking in aeternum.
Hermès, the company that 'speaks with its hands', is something of an anachronism in the galaxy of luxury goods and, to this day, one of the oldest family-owned and run companies in France. Possibly the last bastion of superlative craftsmanship, Hermès has never questioned its slow, artisanal approach to production, and it came as no surprise when Hermès bought the historic Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis in 1995.
The process of making a crystal dial inspired by 19th century Millefiori paperweights is artisanal to the core. Artisans blow, twirl, stretch and fire the molten 'gob' to create the colourful canes or rods that in turn will be assembled to form a Millefiori (thousand flowers) motif. Lined up like sticks of barley sugar or candy canes, the rods containing crystal and enamel are cut into 7mm portions and arranged vertically in a cast-iron bowl to form a carpet of flowers. The flowers are then protected by a clear crystal dome, which in turn is whittled down to a wafer-thin crystal to become the dial.
The Arceau Millefiori is presented in both pocket watch and wristwatch models. The 48mm white gold pocket watch features a Millefiori dust cover to protect the dial and Hermès manufacture self-winding movement with a power reserve of 50 hours. The Hermès watches, available in diameters of 34 and 41mm, are crafted from white gold with colourful Millefiori dials, including a vibrant pink model offset by 60 diamonds on the bezel. Both watches are equipped with beautifully decorated in-house self-winding movements, which can be viewed through the sapphire crystal caseback.