For Hermès, the story of exceptional watches often begins with a design. The Vagues et Coquillages (Waves and Shells) motif was initially dreamt up by Pierre Marie for a bath towel. It now founds fresh scope for expression in gold and gives life to a pocket-watch cover protecting three unique creations: Arceau Pocket Vagues et Coquillages. Two of them are crafted in white gold – with a Grand Feu enamel iris or Prussian blue dial – while the third is made of rose gold with a “Hawk’s eye” toned enamel dial.
To unleash the magic of the cover, featuring an exquisite lacework of waves and shells, the master engraver begins the meticulous work of engraving with a previously openworked gold plate.
A first polishing is done using various erasers and wooden pegs, each increasingly softer as any remaining marks and rough patches gradually vanish. Once the surface of the gold is perfectly smooth, the artisan can move on to the engraving per se. The process begins with the waves, creating depth effects formed by shapes cleverly alternating between raised and hollowed surfaces. Then come the shells, which are individually traced with the scorper and feature polished and satin-brushed rounded finishes that play with the light. The centre of the cover is then hammered to give it a delightful curve and instil a sense of volume, thus further enhancing the graphic impact of the engraving adorning the rim of the cover. Tirelessly refining a wealth of tiny lines, the artisan creates tiny interwoven V shapes resembling a magnificent gold-thread embroidery.
Throughout the process, from modelling the waves to the fine border, the artisan carefully safeguards the parts already crafted in order to protect them from any accidental scratching. Once the cover is considered perfect right the way through to the smallest details, a final polishing is done to reveal its full radiance.
When the engraved cover of the Arceau Pocket Vagues et Coquillages opens, it reveals a dial staging another form of artistic craftsmanship particularly cherished by Hermès: that of Grand Feu enamelling. A series of firings in a furnace heated to more than 800°C will endow each of the three dials with a specific colour, thereby rendering each of them truly one of a kind.