Hermès Introduces the Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes

A one-off repeater in "H" style.

Hermès introduced its first tourbillon, the Arceau Lift, in 2013, an early indication of the leather goods maker’s ambitions in technically-oriented watchmaking. The intertwined, double “H” tourbillon cage was modelled the wrought-iron door of the elevator in the Hermes’ fabled store in Paris at 24, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, hence the name.

Seven years later, the Arceau Lift has been upgraded to incorporate a minute repeater. The Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes is being produced in just two examples – each unique – in pink and white gold respectively.

Initial thoughts

While combining two “high” complications is impressive, the whimsical house style of Hermes is what stands out at first glance. Elements like the asymmetric watch case and open dial are simple quite quickly identifiable as Hermes.

More subtle is the dial, which is surprisingly discreet until you spot it. It’s cleverly designed to incorporate the brand’s familiar horse-head motif that takes the form of a cut-out that serves to show off the racks and snail cams of the minute repeating mechanism.

The H1924 movement within is high quality in both finish and construction, and also incorporates the equestrian theme with a barrel bridge shaped like twin horse heads. But it is produced by Manufacture Haute Complications (MHC), a respected but struggling Geneva-based movement specialist that has supplied the same calibre to H. Moser & Cie., Dolce & Gabbana, and Artya. So while the movement is an excellent one, it isn’t particularly uncommon or interesting.

At the same time, because MHC was founded by Pierre Favre, an alumnus of defunct complications specialist BNB Concept, its movement is similar to the minute repeating calibre produced by La Fabrique du Temps (LFDT), the subsidiary of Louis Vuitton run by the talented Michel Navas and Enrico Barbarsini, who were the “N” and “B” in BNB. Because of the shared history and other assorted events, the MHC and LFDT movements are extremely similar.

And last is a minor quibble: the dial is lacquered rather than fired enamel, which would have been a small but significant extra.

At around US$270,000, the Arceau repeater is priced comparably to other watches with the same movement, so it’s a fair deal from that perspective. That said, its value proposition is probably not a concern for the eventual owner, since it is a one-off creation from Hermes. For the brand’s devotees, the twin complications combined with the quintessential Hermes style is probably a winner.

A closer look

The success of the dial lies in its contrasts. However captivating, a complicated mechanical look can be cold or distract from legibility. Luckily, the exposed mechanics on the dial are balanced with elegant Breguet numerals.

On the back, there is again visual contrast, albeit of a different sort. The movement is well finished; the double-H tourbillon carriage, for instance, is black polished and has chamfered edges.

On the back, the look is restrained, with the bridges plated with dark rhodium and vertically brushed, but enhanced with polished, bevelled edges. The of the repeater are hammers are black polished and bevelled.

That said, the movement does lack the finer touches of high-end finishing. The inner angles on the edges of the bridges are less well defined, and the countersinks for the screws and jewels are not sloped and polished.


Key facts and price

Hermes Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes

Diameter: 43 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Rose or white gold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: H1924
Features: Hours, minutes, tourbillon, and minute repeater
Winding: Hand-wind
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 90 hours

Strap: Alligator

Limited edition: Each a piece unique in rose and white gold respectively
Availability: 
Upon request at Hermes boutiques
Price:
US$269,000 (rose gold)
US$282,000 (white gold)

For more, visit hermes.com


Correction September 6, 2020: The movement is produced by Manufacture Haute Complication (MHC), and not La Fabrique du Temps (LFDT) as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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Grand Seiko introduces the T0 Constant-Force Tourbillon Movement

A concept movement with ambitions.

A tourbillon is not uncharted waters for Seiko, as evidenced by the Credor Fugaku Tourbillon of 2016. The extremely rare, and modestly unattractive, Fugaku was something of a statement, as much about its ornate case and dial as the mechanics.

Now an independent brand after being spun off from its parent, Grand Seiko has just announced a movement that squarely emphasises on timekeeping, the T0 Constant-Force Tourbillon. Announced as a concept movement – with no plans for commercialisation publicly revealed – the movement is Grand Seiko’s first equipped with a tourbillon, and also marks the first time Seiko or any of its brands is utilising a constant-force mechanism.

The T0 disassembled

Initial thoughts

It is not often Grand Seiko launches a new and truly novel movement; this year has seen a few. The recent 9RA5 Spring Drive and the 9SA5 Hi-Beat automatic are interesting and practical movements that will be found in future models. On the other hand, the T0 tourbillon stakes a claim of technical prowess oriented rather than practicality, a claim bolstered by the remontoir constant-force mechanism integrated in the tourbillon cage.

While Grand Seiko’s integrated remontoir constructed is patented, this is not exactly novel. Precedents in the watches of IWC and Andreas Strehler, for instance. While each of these executed the idea of an integrated constant force differently, all share the common approach of a one-second remontoir. In short, the Grand Seiko construction is a new, and perhaps better, interpretation of a familiar idea.

As a concept movement, it is possible variations of the T0 will be commercialised, or the technology might trickle down to more affordable watches.

But despite being presented as a concept movement, the T0 is characterised by outlandish design elements that feel forcibly incorporated after the fact – seemingly to make the audience sit up and take notice of the form rather than substance – rather than being an integral part of the design. Most notable are the shape of the bridges; the curved, fang-shaped hands; the wide arms of the tourbillon cage and even the proprietary turret-headed screws – all of it feels a touch excessive from a brand that has always been far from the likes of Jacob & Co. in style.

The Credor Fugaku Tourbillon

Constant-force nested cages

The highlight of the movement is the tourbillon cage, which integrates a one-second remontoir co-axially, meaning the constant force mechanism shares the axis of the tourbillon. It can be inferred development of the constant-force tourbillon began about a decade ago, as its patent, JP2015072254A, was filed in 2014.

The tourbillon consists of two three-legged cages made of blued titanium, nested within each other. The inner cage rotates beats with a constant force from a spiral remontoir spring, sandwiched between the cages and hidden from view.

The outer cage incorporates a five-toothed ceramic ratchet wheel, which is released every second by the inner cage’s rotation. The release of the ratchet wheel in turn releases the outer cage, which jumps a second forward – doubling as a deadbeat second display – and simultaneously recharging the remontoir spring.

As with current high-frequency Grand Seiko movements, the escape wheel of the T0 is fabricated via an ultraviolet lithography process that results in a delicately skeletonised shape intended to reduce inertia and weight. This is coupled with a relatively small balance wheel that beats at 4 Hz, or 28,800 beats per hour, higher than the 2.5 Hz or 3 Hz of most tourbillon movements.

On the reverse, clearly visible are the two parallel barrels that occupy the top half of the movement. The left barrel has visible planetary gears that act as a differential for the power reserve display at nine o’clock.

The barrels power the going train via the centre of the movement – the hand sit in-between the two barrels – while driving the tourbillon cage on its periphery. This contrasts with conventional tourbillons, which are often driven from under the cage, a construction that would make what appears to already be a bulky movement even thicker.

Identity crisis?

The rest of the T0 is heavily designed, featuring open-worked, skeletonised bridges that are a departure from the graceful norms of high-end Grand Seiko and Credor movements. Those movements are generally fitted with large bridges that hide most of the internals.

While the T0 has a mystifying design ethos, it is unquestionably intended to showcase the technical prowess of the mechanics by putting them on show; perhaps the serially-produced version of the T0 will return to the traditional Grand Seiko style.

More broadly, the movement also poses philosophical questions. It is an overwrought, highly-complex calibre of the sort that many Swiss watch brands – especially ambitious startups working with complications specialists – excel at. Swiss watchmakers have also been constructing such movements for a long time. It will be interesting to observe where Grand Seiko goes with the T0.


 

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