It takes 500 silk threads and a week of intense embroidery just to make one dial
Hermès took the watch industry by surprise 15 years ago when it began to produce luxury Swiss-made watches with manufacture movements. Not that the brand was entirely new to watchmaking: Hermès established its first watch division in Switzerland in 1978 when it introduced the Arceau, still one of its signature lines, but the company’s acquisition of a controlling share in the Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier in 2006 consolidated its position as an authentic player in high watchmaking.
Within a year, the brand launched its own automatic base calibre, and became a bona fide producer of high-end pieces with prestigious movements. And it has created a niche as one of the industry’s most important producers of artistic, hand-crafted dials. Hermès’ limited-edition métiers d’art pieces have become serious collectors’ items, particularly those inspired by the brand’s iconic scarf patterns. The latest is the Toucan de Paradis, inspired by a scarf designed for Hermès by British artist Katie Scott, known for her stylised botanical and animal illustrations.
The exotic toucan is rendered in bold, tropical colors in a painstaking process of hand-threaded silk embroidery over an enamel dial. The technique was developed exclusively for Hermès by Agnès Paul-Depasse, a straw marquetry artist who has created several pieces for the company in the past. She was so inspired by a visit to a kimono weaving workshop in Kyoto Japan, that she worked out a way to duplicate the process on a watch dial.
Each Toucan de Paradis dial is composed of 500 individually assembled threads and takes a full week to execute. The white-gold base is first enamelled, and the artisan uses a very fine brush to coat it with glass powders mixed with natural oils, which are then applied in several layers, dried and fired in the kiln. Recesses are engraved around the enameled surfaces to house the silk thread, and then the weaving begins. Each thread is meticulously positioned and fixed into place to create just the right reflection of light and the perfect weave.
The 38mm Arceau case, with its distinctive asymmetrical stirrup-shaped lugs, is made of 18-karat white gold, and the bezel is set with 82 diamonds. It contains the in-house calibre H1912 automatic movement. The strap is a vibrant, Zanzibar blue calfskin. It is limited to 24 pieces. Price upon request.
This story was first published on Robb Report US