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The Hermès Arceau by Henri d’Origny

The Hermès Arceau watch refects the exuberant spirit of its designer, Henri d’Origny.

FROM HIS earliest childhood, Henri d’Origny had two passions: horses and drawing. His fascination with the equestrian world (“I love everything about horses—the animals themselves, saddlery, leather…”) led him to propose his services as a designer to Hermès. Impressed with his enthusiasm, Jean Guerrand and Robert Dumas, the directors at the time, decided to give him a chance, and he left their offce with his frst commission. It was 1958 and he was 25 years old. D’Origny soon scored a success with the Mors et Gourmettes (“horse bits and chains”) scarf, the frst of a long series. He began turning out scarves and neckties that became worldwide bestsellers, followed in 1978 by a masterpiece: the Arceau watch.

The Arceau was a timepiece like none other. Its asymmetrical horseshoe-shaped lug and slanted numbers gave it an eye-catching look and made Hermès a respected force in watchmaking, producing limited-edition wristwatches as well as clocks in collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre and Paul Dupré-Lafon. That same year, the house founded its watchmaking subsidiary, building on the reputation of the Arceau. The horseshoe is of course an emblematic shape for the label, and the “italic” numbers were so distinctive and appealing that they gave rise to a tradition of creating a new typeface for each Hermès watch: inspired by the Chaîne d’Ancre (“anchor chain”) bracelet for the Cape Cod, developed by the graphic designer Philippe Apeloig for the Slim model, etc.

The Arceau was an instant hit, destined to be updated and rereleased over the years. Its timeless look still captures the essence of the Hermès style, and stands as a monument to the talent and vision of Henri d’Origny. As energetic as ever, the designer can still be seen striding the corridors of the brand’s offces, always with a Hervé Borne drawing in hand. Quite possibly a sketch of the next Hermès icon. 

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