Continuing to cultivate a long-established tradition of artistic craftsmanship, La Montre Hermès turns the spotlight on the goldsmithing profession. A skill that combines gold marquetry and hand engraving, now embodied in a unique piece: the Arceau Pocket Volutes.
Inspired by an Henri d’Origny design for a Hermès silk carré in 1972, the volutes or scrolling pattern adorning the cover of this pocket watch goes back to the origins of the Maison Hermès. A dream universe nurtured by the equestrian world and revealed by the work of artisans fashioning noble materials with their nimble fingers. Graced with a cover that required almost 150 hours of work for its surface work alone, the Arceau Pocket Volutes testifies to this determination to perpetuate skills that have become a rarity today.
Two white gold and rose gold discs are first crafted separately, before being assembled and welded together by firing in a furnace. The finely chased superimposed rose gold plate reveals the first curves of the scrolling motif in a two-tone nested pattern. The delicate workmanship with a scorper – using the pounced ornament technique known as ramolayage in French goldsmiths’ terminology – can thus begin. The artisan engraves the subdivisions of the individual scrolls or curls so as to refine them and define their initial volume.
He models the material, cutting down the right angles of the cut metal and curving the surfaces so that they reflect the light. This complex quest for the perfect curve free of any unattractive glinting, is followed by hammering of the surface to be blackened. Performed with a chasing-tool, this delicate operation serving to prepare the metal for colouring heightens the contrast between the polished white gold and the more matt-looking blackened white gold areas. The part is then coated with a protective varnish and then immersed in a ruthenium colour bath; once the varnish is removed, it reveals the gold parts in three different colours: rosy pink, light grey and dark grey.
On the dial side, the Arceau Pocket Volutes highlights another emblematic skill: grand feu enamelling. This patient work has been done on a cambered plate, creating subtly graded shades of colours in warm chestnut brown hues, with lighter nuances in the dial centre due to a thinner enamel coating.
To give life to this unique work of art, a Manufacture mechanical self-winding H1928 movement beats at the heart of the Arceau Pocket Volutes – because at Hermès, fine craftsmanship delights in rubbing shoulders with noble horological tradition.