Feature: 3 Dress Watches You Hadn't Considered
When you’ve seen as many watches as I have, things can start to get a bit repetitive. Rolex this, Rolex that—it’s fine, but sometimes it’s nice to take a bit of a break and try something different. Who knows, if you do, you might find something you really love.
Hermès Arceau AR8.67AQ.222/MHA
There are a lot of high fashion brands trying to break through into watchmaking right now, such as Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Dior and, of course, Hermès. You may sneer, perhaps, but truth be told, these companies are taking their efforts very seriously. You’ll find proper watches here, fitted with proper movements, finished properly.
Take the Hermès Arceau—Arceau is French for “hoop”—and already you’re presented with something different, an asymmetric case with short lugs at the bottom and longer, hoop-like ones—hence the name, I guess—at the top. It’s actually a design that’s been around a while, since 1991, penned by famed Hermès designer Henri d'Origny, who’s been furnishing the luxury giant with designs since 1958.
It’s a pleasing aside from the many watches that default to channelling the Patek Philippe Calatrava, and does so without being wacky for the sake of it. Breguet-style numerals are a familiar touch, although executed in a unique way between a mix of a printed and engraved minute markers, all set on an opaline silver, herringbone-guillochéd dial. It has a distinct personality of its own, something Hermès has long been exceptional at across the fashion industry.
But don’t think the Arceau is all about appearances, because the calibre of watchmaking here goes all the way to the … well, the calibre. It’s not well known, but Hermès has been dabbling in the watchmaking game since the 1920s, collaborating with a few Swiss watchmakers—you may have heard of them—like IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet along the way.
And in 2012, Hermès made a commitment—a sizable commitment. Having purchased a 25% stake in Swiss movement manufacture Vaucher—the remaining 75% is owned by one of the world’s most renowned watch and movement makers, Parmigiani—the Parisian fashion house now had access to everything it needed to create a movement all of its own, and that’s what it did for the calibre H1837.
And for that 25%, Hermès got a heavily customised version of the Vaucher VMF 3002, a high-quality time and date movement that’s decorated with a striking ‘H’ pattern, as the brand is often wont to do. You won’t find anything else that looks quite like it, and the same can be side of the Arceau in its entirety. The trick Hermès has really managed to pull is achieving that without sacrificing on elegance.
Piaget Gouverneur G0A37110
If the Hermès and its calibre H1837 don’t quite warm the cockles of your heart, then how about this instead: the Piaget Gouverneur. If you found yourself wrinkling your nose at the thought of Hermès buying into a movement manufacturer to get at its calibres, then the Piaget will have your face muscles relaxed once more, because it and the calibre 800P inside are as in-house as in-house gets.
And the place Piaget makes them couldn’t be any more traditional. We’re talking about a location in the shadow of the snow-topped Jura mountains, specifically away from the hustle and bustle of Geneva to give its watchmakers the peace and quiet they need to work. That’s not a joke, that’s true. This is a place of quiet tradition, one where watches are logged into books whose pages are dog-eared and yellowed from centuries of use. This is a place where watchmakers make the tools they need to do their job. This is a place where in-house means taking raw metal stock and turning it into something beautiful.
It’s the reason the company has been able to challenge and win so many ultra-thin records—when you have everything at your disposal to be the best, then why wouldn’t you take advantage of it? The Gouverneur may be a little more restrained than the trailblazing ultra-thins, but nevertheless it is crafted with the same attitude and attention Piaget watchmakers give every watch. You’ll see a glasslike finish where the watch is polished, uniform texture where it’s not. You’ll be rewarded for exploring under magnification, see things that were never expected to be seen yet have been executed to perfection anyway.
And by now you’ll have noticed that this isn’t a complete inverse of the Hermès, pushing movement first and design second, because the Gouverneur has a unique take on the dress watch all of its own. The ellipse is a bit of a Piaget favourite, and the Gouverneur is no exception, the calligraphic bezel seating the stretched dial inside a round, rose gold case. It’s an unusual aesthetic to get used to, but it’s got a neat party trick: when viewed at an acute angle, the dial doesn’t get squashed, it looks round, a bit like the painted writing seen in the road.
The Gouverneur does what anyone deviating from the main crop of brands would want it to do, offering exceptional quality and a look that stands out as different. With this on, you can be sure that no-one will ever ask you if it’s a Rolex.
H. Moser & Cie. Monard Centre Seconds 343.505-013
If you’ve made it this far, then chances are you’re the kind of person who’d gladly wear an F. P. Journe. Sadly, that’s a dream many of us will have, but never realise—but don’t give up just yet, because there’s a consolation prize: the H. Moser & Cie. Monard.
It seems hardly fair to call a watch like this a consolation prize, but in the wake of an F. P. Journe there’s very little that doesn’t fall into that category. For the Monard, however, coming second is no bad thing, especially at half the price of an entry-level F. P. Journe. Think of it rather than a silver medal to F. P. Journe’s gold, more like eighteen-carat to F. P. Journe’s twenty-two.
That’s because what’s attractive about an F. P. Journe—unique styling, innovative movements, beautiful finishing—is evident in the Monard as well. If you’re new to H. Moser & Cie., perhaps you’ll be wary, but rest assured, there’s no need to be. It may have been revived in 2005 after a quarter-century’s hiatus, but unlike other examples of latent rejuvenation which appear to be nothing more than an attempt to stand on the shoulders of giants, H. Moser & Cie. is the real deal.
The brand was actually resurrected by founder Heinrich Moser’s great-grandson, and while the cynical among you may think of this as an opportunity to make a quick buck—well, let me show you why that’s very much not the case. If anyone wanted to cash in on an old name, the first thing to do would be to source a movement, a cheap one. H.Moser & Cie., it makes them in-house, and properly—the plates, the bridges, the escapement—even the balance spring, and there are only a handful of manufacturers capable of doing that.
And the reason that H. Moser & Cie. makes its own movements is because that’s what the brand has always done; even the unique, unmistakable styling of a modern H.Moser & Cie. calibre reflects the designs of the watches built over a century ago. That’s not the attitude of a company trying to cash in—if anything, it’s playing the game on hard mode. In fact, with screwed gold chatons, a seven-day power reserve and a pallet fork and escape wheel in hardened gold, it’s more like playing on hardcore.
So, runner-up to F. P. Journe it may be, but you’re still getting a work of art from an award-winning brand that looks as good from the back as it does from the front. Never mind standing on the shoulders of giants—H. Moser & Cie. is looking pretty tall all by itself.
Every now and then you come across a watch that makes you wonder, “What if? What if I spend all the savings, what if I put it all on a credit card, what if I sell my child’s insulin just to have it?” Financial and parental responsibility aside, it’s that feeling of panicked excitement that tells you when you’ve found the watch that’s right for you. Who knows, maybe one of these three will have done just that.
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