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Hermès Arceau L’heure de la lune “New York”

The Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune has quite a few fans at HODINKEE, including Stephen Pulvirent and myself, and if you spend a little time with the watch and have anything like a romantic streak, you will probably find it quite captivating as well. The moon-phase complication in any form always has a whiff of the whimsical and pleasantly otherworldly about it, and the version of the complication used by Hermès is no exception. We’ve covered the complication, which was designed for Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune by Jean-François Mojon (the founder of complications specialist Chronode SA), in-depth in our previous coverage, but a quick review is probably in order. The basis of the complication is a satellite system with two dials mounted on the opposed arms of a carrier; the carrier rotates clockwise once every 59 days. The dials are geared from underneath so that they stay “right side up” as they rotate (the 12 on the dial for the time is always at the top, in other words). The movement is the same as in previous versions of the watch, of course – the caliber H1837, on a Vaucher base, running in 28 jewels at 28,800 vph. As we’ve seen in earlier versions of the watch, the two Moon disks are labeled Nord and Sud (north and south) as each represents the Moon as seen from the northern and southern hemispheres. The Sud disk, rather counterintuitively, is up top (north conventionally is at the top of most maps), but the reason for this is that to an observer in the southern hemisphere, it is the leftmost side of the Moon which falls into shadow first after a full Moon, and vice versa in the northern hemisphere. The special and unusual feature of this version of the L’Heure De La Lune is the dial. This isn’t the first time this model has gotten a meteorite dial, but the specific meteorite used for this dial is the so-called “New York” meteorite, of which Hermès says, “The Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune New York meteorite was originally discovered by a fishing boat, purely by chance. The captain sold it in 1965 to a private individual in New York harbour and it fell into oblivion for several decades. In 2008, meteorite hunter Luc Labenne was contacted by Mark Grubb, son of the man who had bought the meteorite in 1965. Mr. Labenne decided to purchase the meteorite, which weighed 2.95 kg at the time. He had it analyzed and officially declared it. It was subsequently acquired by Hermès and used for this limited edition piece.” The meteorite in question, when cut, exhibits a cross-hatched pattern of very large iron-nickel crystals which form what is called a Widmannstätten pattern (named for Count Alois von Beckh Widmannstätten, who described the pattern in 1808. As an aside, some people also call it a Thomson pattern, for the English scientist William Thomson, who discovered the same pattern four years earlier after treating sections of iron-nickel meteorites with nitric acid to remove surface oxidation). The pattern can only be formed when an iron-nickel meteorite has slowly cooled, over a period of millions of years, and as they cannot be duplicated in a lab, or industrially, the crystals and the patterns they form are definite proof of the extraterrestrial origin of the material. The Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune 43mm case is platinum (you might recall we took a close look at the origin and properties of platinum not long ago) which is a sufficiently heavy element that it is thought to be formed only in very powerful hypernova stellar collapses, or in the collision of neutron stars, so you’re getting some additional celestial bang for the buck in the case material as well. This will be a limited edition timepiece, consisting of 16 pieces, and priced at $69,950. As I said at the outset, I’m a big fan of these watches. They have all the elegance you could want from something from Hermès, and the execution of the moon-phase complication gives a sense of drama, coupled with serenity of the evolutions of motion of the heavenly bodies, not easily found elsewhere. That, coupled with a dial which underwent a journey of untold eons through the vast and silent darkness of interplanetary space, and a case made of a metal born in some of the most violent events in the known universe, makes for a watch that seems to reach up from your wrist for the stars themselves.