The name of this new model by French powerhouse Hermès references the year 1978, when designer Henri d’Origny set the aesthetic codes for the understated new Arceau line, the first timepiece he designed for the brand. With this watch family having turned 40 in 2018, the brand releases a preview of the latest iteration ahead of its debut at the SIHH in Geneva, which opens its doors on January 14, 2019.
D’Origny is a legendary figure at Hermès, beginning his career there in 1958 at the age of 25. It was he, in fact, who “invented” the Hermès tie as we know it today – and a modern new identity for the old-school brand at the same time. D’Origny also designed many other typical Hermès items such as scarves, belts, tableware, and our subject here, watches, largely based on equestrian topics. In 2015, it was also interestingly then-82-year-old d’Origny who designed the face of the “Cape Cod” that appears on the Hermès-edition Apple watch.
The Arceau’s signature elements include a round case with asymmetrical lugs inspired by stirrups and a sloping font for the numerals meant to evoke a horse gallop. Despite having gone through decades of iterations (see a few particularly interesting ones at Roaring Into Life At Full Gallop: Hermès Arceau Tigre Email Ombrant and The Hermès Arceau Temari: Stones Here And Stones There), the new Arceau 78 does not veer far from d’Origny’s original codes, though more than a touch of new-millennium modernity has been added with a masculine, grained, anthracite-colored dial, contrasting cream-colored numerals (still famously galloping) and hands, a matte bead-blasted stainless steel bezel gracing the otherwise high-polished case, and a natural Barenia calfskin strap. The dial, case, and strap are all made in Hermès’ own Swiss workshops (see how an Hermès strap is made in Hermès Watch Straps: Quality Without Compromise, Suppleness Guaranteed). For a touch of fun (and viewing ability at night), the creamy numerals are painted with luminous Super-LumiNova. And with Hermès’ usual eye for details, the small date window placed on the dial at 6 o’clock reveals a date wheel and numerals painted in the same colors as the rest of the dial. This is unfortunately not a given in the world of watches, a sore point for critics and enthusiasts.
With the case coming in at 40 mm in diameter, this watch is just unisex as understood in the modern age, though remaining a “new men’s classic” size for the masculine wrist. Understated and deliberately minimalist, the Hermès Arceau 78 is powered by a precise Swiss quartz movement. It retails for $3,250 and will be available in the second quarter of 2019.