English artist Alice Shirley has been creating illustrations for Hermès to reproduce on its scarves since 2012. Typically imaginative motifs of flora and fauna, two of Ms Shirley’s illustrations have made their way onto Hermès wristwatches. And now the Parisian leatherwoods maker has just revealed the third, and most impressive, instalment of this crossover – the Arceau Pocket Aaaaargh! Minute Repeater.
A pocket watch boasting a minute repeater and tourbillon, the Aaaaargh! is decorated in leather mosaic and marquetry – and a very large eyeball in grand feu enamel. It’s named after the sound a Tyrannosaurus rex presumably made, and continues the phonetic naming conventions of Ms Shirley’s earlier watches, which were the Slim Hermès Grrrrr! with a bear motif and the Arceau Awooooo featuring a howling wolf.
Unlike the previous two Alice Shirley watches that were time-only, the Tyrannosaurus is a pocket watch – unusual in itself – and also combines a minute repeater and tourbillon. In addition to the complicated mechanics, the motif is executed more elaborately than on the earlier watches, which admittedly were substantially more affordable, most notably with the three-dimensional enamel eye and intricate leather inlays.
The result is an intriguing, fun, and imaginative watch that is very much in keeping with Hermès’ quirky, elegant, and expensive house style. Compared to the typically safe and practical high-end complication, the Arceau Aaaaargh! is refreshing.
While the motif itself is already captivating in its whimsy, the unique combination unusual leather and enamel elevate its appeal, as it captures the Hermès’ specialty, differentiating it from the competition.
It is indeed special, but clearly catered to a narrow segment of Hermès fans, and maybe a handful of watch collectors. Appropriately the Aaaaargh! will be produced in just two example , both one-off creations, in white and pink gold respectively. Though arguably less relevant given the audience, at US$338,000, it is priced within the ballpark of comparable highly-complicated, metiers d’art watches.
The most striking element of the Aaaaargh! is the front lid decorated with a T-Rex in leather mosaic and marquetry. The majority of its head (namely the green and brown portions) is composed of leather mosaic – artfully applied tiny leather fragments, which appear complicated and messy up close but three-dimensional and vivid at arm’s length. The Tyrannosaurus’ open jaw, however, is composed of larger pieces, which is leather marquetry.
And the other highlight is the eye – a glossy, domed cabochon made of fired enamel that engages with the light to create a lively look.
And a subtle watch
Underneath the elaborate cover is a clean white dial with Hermès’ take on traditional Breguet numerals, and an opening at six o’clock for the flying tourbillon that also has the brand’s signature double “H” cage. While seemingly simple, the dial is actually a solid-gold plate covered with fired white enamel.
And inside is the cal. H1924, the same calibre found in the recently-launched Arceau Lift that is produced by Geneva complications specialist Manufacture Haute Complications (MHC). Here the movement has been customised for the dinosaur theme: the bridges are open-worked, with the barrel bridge incorporating a stylised Tyrannosaurus rex silhouette.
The finishing approach is clean and modern, with linear brushing on the rhodium-plated bridges, but enhanced with wide, polished bevels on the edges. Notably, the edge bevelling includes are two inward angles around the centre-wheel jewel, a decorative flourish that has to be performed by hand.
Key facts and price
Hermes Arceau Pocket Aaaaargh! Minute Repeater
Diameter: 43 mm
Material: Rose or white gold
Water resistance: 30 m
Features: Hours, minutes, tourbillon, and minute repeater
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 90 hours
Strap: Alligator cord
Limited edition: Two unique pieces, in white or rose gold respectively
Availability: Upon request at Hermes boutiques
Price: €300,000; or US$338,000
For more, visit hermes.com
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