It used to be when watch nuts saw the same name on the dial as was strutting down the runway, hefted onto a shoulder or sparkling in a store window, they made a quick getaway. While fashion, jewelry and leather houses had the glamor and know-how to qualify them for haute couture and accessories, they just didn’t have the credibility in haute horlogerie. The watches looked good since fashion companies are known for their style, but unscrew the back of the case and you’d find either a quartz or mechanical off the shelf movement that was unexciting to say the least.
For some reason a lot of fashion houses have decided they want to be taken seriously as watchmakers, and that’s good news for us. Some have teamed up with adroit watchmakers, while others have established their own ateliers. Jewelry and accessory titan Cartier built their own fully integrated manufacture and came out with some impressive complications this year like the Time Zone Watch. Ralph Lauren decided to get in on the horology game too. He showed he was serious by partnering with Piaget, for example, in the Slim Classique. Harry Winston has its own manufacture as does Luis Vuitton, while Van Cleef and Arpels for its poetic complications teams up with independents like Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, who plays a big part in this very story, to create proprietary movements that are wonderfully whimsical and technically advanced.
At Basel this year Hermès, which owns a percentage of the manufacture Vaucher associated with Parmigiani, demonstrated imagination with the Arceau Le Temps suspendu (Time Suspended) timepiece, developed in conjunction with retrograde wizard Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his company Agenhor. Wiedderrecht and his team are responsible for several remarkable retrograde complications, such as the award winning Bridge of Love and “Five Weeks in a Ballon,” both for Van Cleef & Arpels. It seems natural that Hermès would put their attention to timepieces, since in Greek mythology Hermès was the grandson of Chronos, god of time.
The Arceau Le Temps presents time in a very playful and whimsical fashion, even the numbers in a mischievous script round the perimeter. By pressing the pusher at 9 o’clock, time stops, with the hour and minute hands moving to the 12 o’clock position, at the same time the retrograde date indicator is concealed. You can go off the clock as long as you wish. Never fear, the watch continues to keep track of time until you’re ready to stop dreaming and come back to the present.
The mechanism works off a triple retrograde system including two 360° functions for the hour and minute hands that qualified for two patents. The dial is laid out nicely, a a slice of circle at 12 o’clock designed in a slightly different texture and color to cue that time is suspended when the skeltonized hands are at rest in the space. Down between 4 and 6 o’clock reside the retrograde date and the name of the watch in script, providing a balanced counterpoint to the brand name “Hermès Paris” at 9 o’clock.
The watch comes in a 43mm pink gold or stainless steel case.
Prices: $36,200 for the rose gold, limited to 174 pieces, symbolic of the year of the house of Hermès
$17,150 for the piece in steel, which is unlimited.