The Arceau models from Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur have become the vehicle for both time-only watches, as well as complications such as the Arceau L’Heure De La Lune. Originally designed by Henri D’Origny in 1978, the round case and arch-shaped lugs have made the various Arceau models design icons for Hermès and for Watches & Wonders 2022, Hermès is introducing the new Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur – an Arceau take on a dual time zone watch.
The home time is shown in an aperture at 12:00, while local time is shown on a subdial mounted on a satellite that can move around the dial, above the stylized map beneath it. The procedure for setting up the watch will feel fairly straightforward to anyone who has used a two time zone watch before, or who has some familiarity with the complication.
First, use the pusher at 9:00 to place the satellite opposite the city that represents your home time zone. Next, pull the crown out to the 3rd position, and set the time in the satellite to the correct time. (If your home time zone is using Summer time, use the city with “S” indicated, but a cool detail is that for non-English speaking countries, the letter ins’t S; instead, it’s the first letter of the word for Summer in that country’s native language.) Then, push the crown in to the second position, and turn it until the correct home time is displayed in the home time window. From that point on, once you start traveling, you simply press the pusher to move the city ring until the satellite has rotated around the dial to a position adjacent to your local time city, which will automatically update the position of the hour hand, as well. In use, the watch is quite straightforward but in practice, it was quite complex to implement. The satellite dial showing local time maintains the correct orientation when the user moves it around the dial (a feature also used in the L’Heure De La Lune watch, where the Moon displays maintain the correct orientation as they rotate) and the city indicator hand does so, as well, but allowing the satellite to rotate while maintaining the right orientation along with the city indicator hand, and updating the hour hand position at the same time took some doing. The complications module was developed by Chronode, a specialist in unusual complications, and requires the use of three differentials, with a lot of time expended on making sure that shock resistance and reliability would not be issues in a watch that, after all, is expected to spend some time on the road. A word on that map – it’s based on the fanciful notion of an “equestrian planet” and the original design was created by Jérôme Colliard, for the “Planisphère d’un monde équestre” silk scarf.
There’s no question that this is one of the most original takes on a two time zone watch in quite a while. Generally speaking, complexity and practicality are at odds when you’re talking about dual time zone watches – the primary mandate is usually centered on ease of use, legibility, and utility, and fanciful artistry, as a rule, need not apply. The achievement here from Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur is that they did, in fact, make a dual time zone watch replete with whimsy (so much so that I am forced to use the word “whimsy”) which also gives up nothing in terms of practicality. It is, of course, not quite as instantly legible as a GMT-Master II (for instance) but aside from giving some minor ground in that respect to one of the most utilitarian timepieces every created, the Arceau Le Temps Voyageur succeeds admirably at something very hard to get right.
Overall, this is a delightful addition to the lineup of Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur watches from Hermès, as well as proof that you really can teach an old dog – or complication – new tricks.