Hermès : In praise of optical illusions

The watch : Arceau Lift by Hermès
The hour with a capital H, or better still a double H. With these two letters perched on top of the tourbillon carriage and the barrel-bridge, the Arceau Lift offers a variety of subtle references. The elegant motif reproduces an emblematic element of the interior design of the boutique on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in Paris, testifying to the early 20th century enthusiasm for wrought-iron work which abounds in the Parisian boutique, emblazoned on the front door, the staircase and even the cage of the lift – hence the name of this piece. Above and beyond the aesthetic motif, these entwined letters also commemorate the wedding of the founder’s grandson Emile Hermès, and Julie Hollande, in 1900. The decision to name the movement Calibre 1923 is also not coincidental, since it refers to the year the store lift was built.


A timepiece thus brimming with references naturally deserved to be equipped with an equally top-rate mechanism. The rose gold Arceau Lift watch, issued in a 176-piece limited edition, offers a fresh interpretation of the flying tourbillon and is the first Hermès watch to feature such a horological complication. To mark the occasion, the Maison has naturally devoted extreme care to the finishing of the multi-level movement, of which certain parts form a dial featuring a raised chevron or herringbone pattern. The chamfering is all done by hand and the double H above the tourbillon is exquisitely mirror-polished.


The architectural work : the Museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations by Rudy Ricciotti and the Villa Méditerranée, Marseille, by Stefano Boeri
Open to the public since June 2013, the new museum is a 72-metre long parallelepiped structure. Covered with a concrete veil, this construction is connected to the Fort Saint-Jean by a 115 metre-long walkway. Alongside this creation by architect Rudy Ricciotti stands the Villa Méditerranée, designed by Stefano Boeri. Completed in March 2013, the latter houses exhibition areas as well as an amphitheatre and is distinguished by a cantilevered construction.


Standing proudly between sea and land, these two constructions have been integrated within the site of the former jetty of the port of Marseille. They embody two different representations of contemporary architecture, each of which, like the circular elements featured in the Hermès watch, has been given an extremely refined treatment. They thus become precious objects transcending their respective functions and reflecting recurrent themes : the contextual nature of reflection as well as ties with history (as in the reminder of the wooden window frameworks of the Maghreb region evoked in the concrete veil).  And finally, the subjective perception of two volumes that appear to be hanging above the water echoes the aforementioned circular volumes arranged around the watch and which house its mechanism. An optical illusion that diverts the object from its primary function.


Arceau Lift
Case : rose gold Diameter : 43mm Movement : mechanical hand-wound Calibre H1923, flying tourbillon, 90-hour power reserve Functions : hours, minutes Dial : silver-toned inner bezel ring, gilt hands Case back : sapphire crystal revealing the tourbillon, engraved ex libris motif  Water resistance : 30m Strap : Havana matt alligator
176-piece limited numbered edition

Review overview