Watch Insider: Hermès Unveils its First Tourbillon Watch

Hermes Arceau Lift flying tourbillonUp until very recently, Hermès was known more as a fashion brand than as a purveyor of haute horlogerie. However, its watchmaking subsidiary, La Montre Hermès, has been challenging those assumptions as of late with many of its new watches and proprietary movements, and has now released its first tourbillon watch, called the Arceau Lift.

In this article from my blog,, I give you the details on this significant new timepiece and show you some photos I took at the watch’s unveiling at the Hermès boutique in Paris.

Hermès is not a newcomer to watchmaking; one can find Hermès-branded timepieces dating back as far as the 1930s. But today’s La Montre Hermès, based in Switzerland, is taking its business more seriously than ever and is not interested in mass-producing watches just for the sake of multiplying the brand’s famous “H” logo. (Click here for WatchTime’s Q&A with La Montre Hermès CEO Luc Perramond.)

Recently, La Montre Hermès bought a 25 percent share of the well-known movement producer Vaucher Manufacture, located in Fleurier in the Swiss Jura and part of the Parmigiani Group, in order to procure made-to-order movements, both manual-wind and automatic. Future plans also call for a new chronograph caliber.

The company is also cooperating with independent watchmakers to produce special projects. The most recent notable example was its successful cooperation with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his Geneva-based company Agenhor to create the Hermès Le Temps Suspendu. This gorgeous watch enables its owner to, essentially, suspend time. When the button at 9 o’clock is pushed, the watch’s hour and minute hands move to a neutral position and remain there rather than continuing to move with the passing of time. When the owner wishes to leave this “timeless” state, he may simply push the button again and the watch will immediately jump to the correct time. The sales of the Le Temps Suspendu have exceeded Hermès’s expectations, and the watch has won several international awards.

Following up on that watch’s success, the new Arceau Lift flying tourbillon watch is inspired by the historical headquarters of Hermès, at 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. The double “H” topping the tourbillon carriage and the barrel bridge of the Arceau Lift reproduces one of the emblematic motifs featured in the interior design of that Paris boutique. Testifying to the enthusiasm for wrought-iron work in the early 20th century, the motif appears in a number of areas, including the entrance, the handrails and bannisters, and above the door of the “Lift” (elevator), installed in 1923, which gives the watch its name.

Hermès Arceau Lift flying tourbillon
The double “H” motif on the tourbillon (above) comes from the design on the famous Lift at Hermès’s Paris boutique (below).

Hermes Boutique - Lift

The double-H pattern is a symbol of the union between the Hermès and Hollande families, which were united in 1900 through the marriage of Emile Hermès, grandson of the fashion house’s founder, and Julie Hollande (no relation to current French President François Hollande). Hermès chose to use this motif in its most challenging and demanding watchmaking reinterpretation, as part of a so-called flying tourbillon.

The tourbillon at 6 o’clock does, indeed, appear to be flying, with its elegant rotations accompanied by those of the double H, whereas the second “Lift” motif, above the barrel bridge in the upper part of the watch, remains fixed in place.

The movement in the Arceau Lift, Calibre H1923, represents an authentic technological feat for Hermes, and is named for the year when the elevator was installed in the Paris boutique.

Certain parts of the multi-layered movement form the dial, with a raised chevron motif. The finishes alternate between purely decorative and more specifically horological.

Hermès Arceau Lift flying tourbillon

Hermès Arceau Lift flying tourbillon (back)

Some of the finishing on the components of Caliber H1923 (which is produced in cooperation with La Joux-Perret in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland) include bevelling on the bridges, wheels and screws, all done entirely by hand; and a mirror-polishing technique called specular polishing used for the 12 o’clock jewel surround as well as the double “H” topping the tourbillon carriage.

This complicated movement may be admired from the back as well as the dial side; the gold caseback, bearing a Hermès engraving, features a small, round window to the inside of the watch.

The Arceau Lift is fitted with an alligator strap crafted in the workshops of La Montre Hermès, and each of these 176 limited-edition watches has an engraved series number. Above are Hermès’s photos of the new watch. Below are some of the original photos of it that I took in Paris.


Let me know what you think of Hermes’s first tourbillon watch. And for more news, opinion and updates from the world of watches, visit my blog,


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  1. Neil Kirby

    One can never question the quality of Hermès products, and this tourbillon further cements their watchmaking position, as has been said, was already well-established; one hopes that Hermès can remain an independent concern, and resist the tentacles of the fashion conglomerates.

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