To many, its name still conjures up handbags more than horology, but when La Montre Hermès introduces a new timepiece complication, it usually does so in a big and distinctively stylish way. In its second year exhibiting at the SIHH watch salon, the company impressed us once again with its new take on the classical moon-phase watch, the Arceau L’Heure de la Lune.
The watch’s 43-mm white gold case frames a dial of either gray meteorite of starry, blue aventurine, both inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and houses an all-new movement, Hermès Caliber H1837, outfitted with a proprietary, patent-pending module that drives its unusual timekeeping and moon-phase display. Here’s how it works: the time and date are displayed separately on two satellite subdials, which float above two mother-of-pearl moons, one each for the northern and southern hemispheres. The southern lunar view is on the top of the dial at 12 o’clock, the northern view on the bottom at 6 o’clock, an unusual arrangement that allows the satellite subdials — in black on the meteorite dial, white on the aventurine — to rotate clockwise, covering and uncovering both lunar disks in tune with the actual phases of the moon, completing a sweep around the dial every 59 days. The mastermind behind this cosmic complication is Jean-Francois Mojon, who has worked with a host of brands, including MB&F and Harry Winston.
This horological hide-and-seek comes courtesy of the module, developed exclusively for Hermès, which consists of 117 polished and bead-blasted components and measures a slim 4.2 mm thick. The module incorporates seamlessly into the H1837 self-winding movement, whose high-horology decorations include a circular grained and snailed baseplate, satin-brushed bridges and a rotor engraved with the Hermès “H” pattern. Decorative detail also abounds on the dial, whose signature sloping-font Arabic numerals are swept over by blued steel hands, and whose moon disks each feature a special surface decoration: the southern moon features a portrayal of the mythological winged horse Pegasus (horses, of course, being a frequent Hermès motif since its early days as a saddlemaker), inspired by the Pleine Lune (Full Moon) works of artist Dmitri Rybaltchenko; the northern moon boasts a transfer illustration depicting a realistic view of the lunar surface.
The watch’s white-gold Arceau case, a staple of Hermes watchmaking since its was designed in 1978 by Henri d’Origny, attaches via its hallmark stirrup-inspired lugs to a matte alligator strap (three guesses which fine leather purveyor provides it) in either “graphite gray” or “abyss blue. The Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune is limited to 100 pieces in each dial version, each priced at $25,500; Hermès says they will be available at retail in Spring of 2019.