When it comes to falling in love – horologically speaking – what catches your eye first? Well, unless you have a fetish for a certain complication, it is most likely to be the dial, or the face of the watch, as it is also appropriately called. And when it comes to good looking faces, Hermès is at the forefront of watch design.
The Hermès design team has always had a lot of fun with its watch dials, designing its own fonts, experimenting with new métiers d’art, creating three-dimensional surfaces and playing with all the colors under the sun.
2018 was an exceptional year in terms of design and here are some of our favorite artistic dials from the French maison.
The Hermès Arceau Pocket Millefiori
The dial of the Hermès Arceau Pocket Millefiori could be mistaken for alligator skin, but it is in fact crafted out of black crystal. The black color is the result of a mix of crystal and several minerals that remains a closely guarded secret. The fabrication process starts with the melting of the crystal material, which is then transformed into crystal rods by expert glass-blowers. A white-hot thread is then pulled out and cut into sections. These sections are then assembled onto the dial creating an artistic illusion for lovers of the métiers d’art.
Slim d’Hermès GMT
This latest addition to the Slim d’Hermès collection has a particularly interesting dial thanks to its distinctive font designed by Philippe Apeloig with spaces between the lines. In addition to the font, Hermès added a simple, yet ingenious, second time zone display. This indication, situated at 10 o’clock, places the numerals all over the sub dial in what seems like a random order, and yet the blue hand highlights each one very clearly as the hours pass. The result is not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also offers a whimsical way of displaying the time.
Arceau Cavales & Arceau Casaque
Designed in 1978 by Henri d’Origny, the Hermès Arceau takes the design of a classic round watch and gives it a twist by using different styles of lugs at the top and bottom. For 2018, Hermès unveiled a number of striking versions that depict the outline of a horse’s head that were created using either marquetry of mother-of-pearl or the champlevé technique with different colored lacquer.
Heure H Double Jeu Vertical Setting and Horizontal Setting
The Heure H Double Jeu, designed by Philippe Mouquet in 1996, came in two new striking dial designs this year with a vertical setting or a horizontal setting. The vertical setting timepiece features a black or white lacquered dial with Arabic numerals transferred onto an inner square and the letter H set with diamonds, while the horizontal setting version breaks with gem-setting traditional and sets the whole lower half of the dial and the lugs with diamonds.
Animal motifs have always been a particular favorite design of Hermès and 2018 was no exception with two timepieces featuring dials crafted out of leather micro-marquetry. The first is an Arceau Cavales that depicts the head of a horse. The maison’s artisans started by selecting the most radiant colours of full-grain calfskin before cutting them out and juxtaposing them in a marquetry of leather. The Arceau Cavales dial is inspired by Hermès’s “Samarcande” chess set created in 2009.
The Slim d’Hermès Les Zèbres de Tanzanie is inspired by a collection designed by Yves-Marie de Malleray in 2010 and is crafted out of miniature enamel painting and leather marquetry.
Arceau Robe du Soir
And last but not least, is the Hermès’s Arceau Robe de Soir, a 41mm diameter timepiece with a mosaic dial comprised of 2,200 tiny juxtaposed leather squares which form the profile of a horse that was inspired by the Hermès Robe du Soir silk scarf designed by Florence Manlik earlier this year. This horological creation is imbued with the Hermès saddle- and leather-making heritage and is limited to 12 pieces.
With so much creativity coming out of the French maison in 2018 alone, we thoroughly look forward to seeing what Hermès’s artisans have in store for us at the upcoming SIHH.