The 24-hour city-ring is a part of horological vocabulary that immediately makes you think of the world time complication. Indeed, it is an expertise of the highest order in watchmaking, one that is mastered and practiced by some of the best names in the industry.
It was Louis Cottier who, at the age of 46, developed and filed a patent for the world time complication in 1931. The patented mechanism consisted of an inner dial with hands and 12 hour markers, a 24-hour ring and a second ring with cities printed on it. The way it worked was straightforward and highly intuitive. The 24-hour ring was synchronized to the central hour and minute hands. While the main hands turned clockwise, the 24-hour ring turned counterclockwise. Each of the 24 hours would align with the cities representing their respective time zones.
But the true genius of Cottier’s complication was that each time you traveled to a new city, you set your watch to local time ensuring that the 24-hour ring corresponded correctly to AM or PM hours. And then presto! You would be able to read the time in all 24 zones on the planet. To aid in clarity, Cottier would demarcate the day and night hours in different colored parts of the 24-hour ring and transform 12 noon into a sun icon and 12 midnight into a moon icon.
Having established that bit of information, let’s now switch gears to speak of La Montre Hermès and their approach towards reinterpreting classics and challenging watchmaking norms. Says Laurent Dordet CEO of La Montre Hermès, “We seek to share with our customers and friends, a qualitative time rather than quantitative time. Which means that, of course, we target to create reliable and technical watches, but our watches must evoke fantasy, humor and nearness. And this complication that we have just unveiled, which is called Arceau Le temps voyageur — traveling time — will address exactly how Hermès thinks about time, specifically conveying the idea of time and travel, as it stands for Hermès.”
Says Philippe Delhotal, Artistic Director of La Montre Hermès, “We started this project three years ago, just about the time we launched the Arceau L’Heure De La Lune Models. And this new watch today is an invitation to travel, it is really a way for us to pay tribute to the importance that travel holds within RMS Hermès.
Delhotal continues, “We could say that this a new expression of the World Time, an alternate technical and aesthetic take on the complication. The starting point for us was really to consider how we can display time in motion. We wanted to have an interpretation which runs a bit counter to what you see in the industry. So we really pushed ourselves to take this horological challenge and take it on with a sense of playfulness that takes us around the globe.”
The Arceau Le temps voyageur features a subdial that holds the local hours and minutes, and seemingly hovers over a fictitious planet. Hermès states that this imaginary place was dreamt up first by Jérôme Colliard for the Planisphere d’un monde équestre silk scarf. Representing a metaphor of the ties between horses and the House of Hermès, the design was inspired by a giant globe created by the French graphic designer for the 2016 Saut Hermès showjumping competition in Paris.
Fiction aside, the city-ring is very much real and lists 24 major cities, each representing one of the 24 major timezones. The subdial has a little red pointer incorporated with it, such that when the pusher on the left side of the case is pressed, the subdial moves to show you the time at that representative timezone.
When setting the watch, the wearer is first meant to use the pusher to move the subdial to a city from the city-ring that coincides with their home. Pulling the crown out to the second position now, and setting the time, will allow the wearer to sync the time on the subdial with that in the aperture at 12 o’clock, which is meant to indicate home time. Note that the home time indication is a 24-hour ring, so you would have to take into consideration AM/PM hours.
Once the crown is secured, using the pusher again, shift the subdial to a city on the city-ring that coincides with your local time. The timepiece will now show the time in the locality you are at right there and then. Traveling again to another city? Press the pusher again to your next destination and the subdial will travel this new timezone to display the correct time. The pusher moves the subdial in one-hour increments.
What is fascinating here is the literal and poetic sense of “traveling time” conveyed by the Arceau Le temps voyageur’s unique complication. Developed in partnership with Jean-François Mojon, the exclusive 122-component module is not just a technical feat, it is as well beautifully executed. Take, for instance, how the dial with the fictitious map has no screws or visible pinions and remains completely stationary as the subdial glides over it. Or that little red arrow that’s meant to point out the city for local timezone — it too has to move and change its orientation around the subdial as it glides across the city-ring. The watch is effectively a dual timezone watch rather than a classic World Time watch.
Explains Delhotal, “It is important to understand again that, when we take on a complication — a traditional complication — we always try to bring something different to it. Otherwise, we have no reason to pursue it. If we were to present the complication the same way as do the rest of the industry, that would not make sense to us. It is really key, for us, to bring a new idea to this multi-timezone concept. But we also kept ourselves constrained to create something that will be very easy and intuitive to use.
“We have a certain expertise established with the idea of the floating satellite, it is really an Hermès signature now. We used this approach, technically speaking, with the Arceau L’Heure De La Lune. It still took us three years to develop the traveling time module with Mr Mojon, but at least we have this experience, and it has become a real signature for us.
“What I personally love about the Arceau Le temps voyageur is that floating dial which gives a mystical feeling to the timepiece. I love this idea when you can’t really see what lies beneath and what makes it all work. It’s also about triggering our curiosity, you know? You’re thinking, ‘How is it showing the time? How is it floating over the imaginary planet?’ This is something I really love because it is really this wonderment that brings brings La Montre Hermès’ storytelling intentions to life.”
Hermès Arceau Le temps voyageur
Movement: Mechanical self-winding, Manufacture Hermès H1837 movement; 40-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, second time zone with city names; home time
Case: 41mm platinum case (roughly 21.48g) and bezel in bead-blasted matt black DLC-treated grade 5 titanium (Ti 88%); 38mm steel case 316L; water-resistant to 30m
41mm black version: “Planisphère d’un monde équestre” motif designed by Jérôme Colliard; galvanised dial, light grey transferred continent names and contours; sandblasted mobile counter with black gold-lacquered gradient rim; sandblasted black city flange; silver-toned powdered transferred city names | 38mm blue version: “Planisphère d’un monde équestre” motif designed by Jérôme Colliard; galvanised dial, blue transferred continent names and contours; mobile counter with blue-lacquered gradient rim; circular satin-brushed blue city flange; rhodium-plated hands coated with Super-LumiNova; black gold hands coated with Super-LumiNova
Strap: 41mm black version: Matt graphite alligator strap; black Barénia calfskin strap; slate grey Swift calfskin strap; 17mm pin buckle in black DLC-coated bead-blasted grade 5 titanium (Ti 88%) | 38mm blue version: Smooth sapphire blue alligator strap, navy blue Swift calfskin strap; 17mm pin buckle in 316L steel