Hermes has long been known as a master of the arts when it comes to watch dials, evoking strong emotions with its enamel work, miniature paintings and its incredible straw and wood marquetry. Now, the brand reinterprets The Three Graces theme from the silk scarf of the same name, designed by British artist Alice Shirley in 2020. Inspired by her trip to South Africa, the scarf depicted the animals of the country, particularly the giraffe, in all its beauty. Using wood marquetry and miniature painting on an aventurine dial, Hermes magically reinterprets the giraffe of The Three Graces.
While the image alone makes this watch highly coveted, the fact that it uses there important artistic techniques and is created in a very limited edition of just 24 pieces, makes this a true collectors item. To create this masterpiece for the wrist, the artisans at Hermes use an aventurine glass dial as the background to achieve the midnight blue twinkling star effect. On top of that, the marquetry wood that forms the giraffe is carefully put into place, and it is all finished with miniature painting on the aventurine to create the final blue floral motif background for the giraffe.
The original Arceau watch was designed by Henri d’Origny in 1978. Its stirrup shaped lugs and ample dial make this watch the perfect canvas for the arts. The marquetry that comprises the giraffe’s long neck and head is created by transferring the image and miniaturizing the design. The types, grains and colors of the wood pieces are carefully selected and meticulously cut to form the multi-colors of the giraffe’s patterns. Some pieces are even stained or bleached to achieve the desired hue. Exactly 195 pieces of American walnut and maple, European sycamore and tulip wood are used to complete the graceful animal in all its beauty. Once the portrait is assembled, the jig-saw like finished product is glued, sanded and varnished. This process alone is an extremely time-consuming feat.
Meanwhile, the artists who work with miniature painting set out to create the colorful floral motif that is hand-painted on the aventurine base. After each painting, the dial is placed in a kiln to fix the colors. Successive layers of micro-painting are applied until the desired depth and richness is achieved. The painting is also a meticulous and time consuming work. In the end, it takes multiple artisans several weeks of work to produce just one highly unique dial.
The 38mm 18-karat white gold watch features a bezel set with 82 shimmering diamonds. The watch is finished with a blue alligator strap made in the Hermès Horlogerie workshops. Powered by the Hermes H1912 mechanical self-winding movement, the Arceau The Three Graces, as mentioned, will be made in a limited edition of just 24 pieces.
(This article by Roberta Naas first appeared on her column on Forbes.com.)