The Arceau watch by Hermès, originally created in 1978, rethinks last year’s playful silk scarf design by British artist Alice Shirley. The dial of Arceau The Three Graces was inspired by Shirley’s trip to South Africa; the three giraffes she spotted, partly hidden by an ​​acacia tree, are here reproduced in wood marquetry.

‘We like the grace and elegance that the giraffe expresses,’ says Philippe Delhotal, Hermès Horloger’s creation and style director. ‘Wood marquetry was the perfect technique to express the contrasts in this design.’

The marquetry specialist used 195 tiny pieces of naturally dark, light, stained or bleached woods – including American walnut and maple, European sycamore and tulip tree – for an intricate dial assembled like a puzzle. An aventurine base (a form of quartz) is intricately micro-painted for a rich palette of complex colours and contrasts.

Hermes watch with a giraffe on the dial

Hermès Arceau watch: a feat of craft 

‘At the beginning of the project, the choice of wood took some time, so that we could find the right tones and colours to offer the best rendering to the giraffe,’ says marquetry expert Olivier Varenne. ‘Then the biggest challenge on this dial was to blend two different crafts with such different technical constraints. I had to apply each piece of wood in the prepared shape of the giraffe, which brings an additional challenge: applying the marquetry in the exact position, shaping the wood precisely without breaking it and finally respecting the width, as we are working on a very small scale. But it was very interesting for me to bring my knowhow to give birth to this exceptional piece.’

The result is set in a white gold case sprinkled with diamonds, the culmination of a multitude of skills. ‘We like playing with different techniques, but they must bring an additional aesthetic and a strong creation,’ adds Delhotal. ‘Thanks to the experience of the craftspeople we work with, they are always keen on achieving and overcoming new challenges and this, for me, is what makes the difference when working on exclusive pieces like the Arceau The Three Graces.’ §