The well-heeled and well-informed will know that there is far more to Hermès than the Kelly. The iconic handbag was designed to be practical, understated, and anonymous but instead it became the most coveted and flaunted “it” bag of the century. So, you may be forgiven if you forgot the company’s excellent lineage and reputation for making saddles and harnesses for horses, dating back to 1837.
The famed handbag was unveiled in 1930, but only got its name after Princess Grace was photographed with one in 1956. The Kelly — with its 36 leather pieces stitched together like a glove; 608 hand stitches to be precise — has been reinvented over the decades, each new rendition becoming more desirable and exclusive. This year’s “Kellygraphie” is no exception. Its bold surface design is a seamless masterpiece of leather marquetry, with graphic interpretations of the alphabet — “calligraphy” — in combinations of navy, indigo, naturals, signature orange and red.
The saddle-maker has also been crafting highly prized leather straps since the 1920s. However, it wasn’t until 1978 when the ultra-luxury company opened its La Montre Hermès production facilities in Biel, Switzerland, that it developed its own watch manufacture. Until then, Hermès had sold brands such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, as well as many now sought-after co-branded timepieces produced in collaboration with the world’s most respected watch manufactures.
The Arceau, launched in 1978, was the family-run brand’s first in-house wristwatch. It was designed by legendary artistic director Henri d’Origny, and featured asymmetrical, stirrup-shaped lugs. The family’s appreciation of fine craftsmanship and “making things that last” is echoed throughout its collections, and the leather marquetry in this year’s limited edition 41mm Arceau Cavales captures the equestrian links, as well as the artistry of the 2018 Kelly. Although there wasn’t much from the métiers d’art at the fairs this year, with everyone getting back to basics, colour is all the rage and Hermès is certainly well-versed in the decorative arts.
The inch-perfect dial, framed by a slim, white-gold bezel, is the canvas for horse-headed knights inspired by the Hermès’ Samarcande chess set, meticulously cut out of 0.5mm-thin hide and skilfully placed, showcasing the expertise of the Maison. The familiar tilted numerals are absent from the kaleidoscopic dial of this edition, but the Arceau’s elegant leaf hands will be keeping precise time, thanks to a standard in-house calibre H1837 automatic movement with a power reserve of 50 hours. The symmetrical Cavales dial motifs are available in Hermès Red with highlights of nasturtium or Indigo Blue, and are limited to an edition of six each, with matching Hermès calfskin straps, of course.
If lassoing one of these pieces proves a little difficult, you could try for one of the striped herds boldly emblazoned on the dozen or so dials of the Slim d’Hermès Les Zèbres de Tanzanie. Picot & Moss, 011-669-0500
- From the October edition of Wanted magazine.