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Hermes - Historic Alliances Now Include Atmos
Worldtempus - 13 March 2013
It was 1928 when Hermes began offering wristwatches in its legendary store at No. 24 Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris. Coincidentally, 1928 was also the first year that Jaeger-LeCoultre offered the Atmos, a unique clock that came as close to a perpetuum mobile as it comes. Though Hermes did not offer the Atmos in its storied retail location in 1928, it did offer wristwatches, many proudly wearing Hermes' own label and many of which were powered by the Le Sentier-based manufacture's reputable movements. The collaboration between the two houses was a long and fruitful one, lasting until 1972, just six years before Hermes founded its own subsidiary in Switzerland, La Montre Hermes, to manufacture wristwatches.
Hermes collaborated throughout the years with a number of watchmakers to produce its instantly recognizable timepieces. The first collection of 1928 called Ermeto was exquisitely uncommon - and created in conjunction with Movado: a pocket watch ensconced in a case hidden within leather-covered sliding shutters that automatically wound the movement when they were opened to show the time. The dial showed both signatures: "Hermes Paris" and "Ermeto Movado."
Though Jaeger-LeCoultre appears to have been Hermes' favored associate watchmaker up until 1972, other collaborators included Vacheron Constantin, Lip, Universal Geneve, Minerva (which today belongs to Montblanc), Audemars Piguet, Tavannes, Angelus, Mido, Cyma, Baume & Mercier, Andre Wyler, Ulysse Nardin, IWC, Juvenia, and Piaget. There were even Hermes world time wristwatches that utilized Louis Cottier's system, which was also adapted by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and Agassiz (later Longines). Oftentimes such clever movements were worked into accessories like belts, money clips and desk clocks, which were so typical of Hermes' style throughout its history.
Hermes' Arceau line was born after the subsidiary La Montre Hermes was founded near Biel in 1978. The line's name and design, created by the quintessential Hermes designer since 1949 Henri d'Origny, refer to a stirrup element. D'Origny went on to create the Cape Cod line in 1991, which boasts a maritime theme. Hermes' most recent "collaboration" prior to the Atmos clock was with Agenhor founder and resident genius Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, who created a never-before-seen complication. The Arceau Time Suspended is playfully true to Hermes' own style: all it takes is the press of a button to have the time and date disappear. The date hand leaves the dial completely, while the hands showing the hours and minutes take on a strange position that could be 12:00 - or not. When the button is pressed again, the time and date magically reappear in the right place as if nothing had happened in the meantime to interrupt their laps around the dial.
Two years later, Hermes has returned to its "old" habit: collaborating with Jaeger-LeCoultre. Except this time, Hermes has brought even more to the table. The "bubble" design of the crystal globe housing the Atmos weighing around ten kilograms is hand-blown and hand-cut using the excruciatingly precise technique of double overlay, which sees layers of glass coated on top of one another, including one colored one - in this case white - after which the top two are cut away without touching the third. The precision and beauty of this Atmos case could only be created by Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis, who has been producing exquisite glassware in the Alsace region of France since 1586. Acquired by Hermes in 1989, it produces the company's handcrafted crystal objects - and now 176 crystal bubbles within which 176 examples of Jaeger-LeCoultre's singular Atmos movement is housed. The clock that lives on air thus finds an artistic soul mate, and an old friend returned to the fold. The Hermes Atmos Clock will be sold only through Hermes and Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques.