Hermès is quite a rare breed in the luxury watch industry, being a family-owned independent company particularly known for fashion and leatherwork. However, they are serious about watches too, and the Arceau watch designed by artist Henri d’Origny, with its distinctive wind-blown font and asymmetrical lugs, has also been around for a while. The new Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane is the latest evolution of the Arceau design, featuring a much sportier theme than previous incarnations.
The bracelet version of the new Cape Cod collection has a rhodium-plated dial with a mirror-polished surface that is coated with a translucent lacquer. There are two dimensions, with either one bracelet or even a “double tour” version that wraps around the wrist two. The double tour allows the strap to be worn loosely, and gives it a bracelet-like quality. It comes in two sizes — large (29 x 29mm, with a lug width of 19mm) and small (23 x 23mm, with a lug diameter of 14mm). The cases are made of 316L steel. There’s a strap edition of the massive size, in either étoupe (dark beige) or Malta blue, in double or single tour fashions. The dial of the étoupe model is given a “black gold” remedy, and the Malta blue version has a blue lacquer dial. Instead of Arabic numerals, the dials of both of these versions are decorated with four anchor string themes, a signature emblem of the Cape code line, in 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. The Cape Cod was created by Hermès’ long-time artistic manager Henri d’Origny, that was inspired by the brand’s anchor string theme, which has been used in the organization’s jewelry collections because 1938. The instance is essentially a square within a rectangle, with broad, stylized strap lugs. The Cape Cod (made in 1961) celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016. The movements in these new versions are quartz, an emerging tendency in women’ collections by otherwise high-end brands, as an alternative to larger, more expensive automatic movements. It’s likely a sign of what we will see more of next year, since the Swiss watch industry is only starting to emerge from a recent recession. The new generation of quartz watches, however, aren’t low-end pieces. They are made based on high standards of quality than those made during the quartz age of the 1980s.
Henri d’Origny joined Hermès in 1958, working in the maison’s flagship boutique in Paris. He designed silk and leather goods for the company as well as iconic watch designs such as the Cape Cod, which turned 25 last year (our hands-on impressions here), as well as the original Arceau model in 1978.
The dial of the Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane is galvanic black with transferred white Arabic numerals and a minute track which features a red bar every minute and a red pip every five minutes. Many chronographs color-coordinate the chronograph hands, but here the central chronograph seconds hand and the running seconds hand at 3 o’clock are red, with the remaining hands being rhodium-plated. The running seconds indicator is made even easier to locate at a glance thanks to a contrasting grey exposed titanium ring around its perimeter. A date indicator is wedged in at 4:30 and uses the same whimsical font as the dial. The hour and minute hands could be described as leaf-shaped and should provide good legibility against the black dial.
The Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane features a 41mm bead-blasted grade 2 titanium (99% pure titanium, which is softer than the alloyed grade 5) case, achieving a kind of gunmetal grey look and enhancing the sporty character of this watch. The combination of a titanium case with a leather strap should also make this watch quite lightweight and easy on the wrist. The asymmetrical lugs are a long-standing feature of this collection and were inspired by stirrups, Hermès tells us. The watch face is covered by a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment, and is rated to a water-resistance of 3 bar (30m).
Included with the Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane is either a natural or a black embossed Barenia calfskin strap. Barenia calfskin is a signature leather of Hermès and was originally used for saddles, which adds to the equestrian theme. Powering the watch is a Swiss-made automatic movement with 37 jewels, which offers a 42 hour power reserve while oscillating at 28,000vph, or 4Hz. Hermès hasn’t disclosed specifically which movement they’re using, but it isn’t one of their manufacture calibers.
The Arceau collection is a distinctive pillar of Hermès’ design language, and with the Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane, it receives a few modern upgrades and a case size increase to appeal to a wider audience – Hermès actually refers to this size as a “Very Large Model.” A manufacture caliber might have been nice, but one can still expect a well-made chronograph with a prestigious name and some unique design flair. The Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane has an asking price of $4,950. hermes.com