Review: Hermès Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes – with video and hands-on of an unusual tourbillon minute repeater

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Perhaps Hermès is better known for their beautiful aesthetics, the métiers d’art creations, and of course their supreme mastery of leather craft. But while photographing their new (and very beautiful) H08, review coming soon, we managed to spend some time with their Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes, and could not resist to bring this to you first. Here is our hands-on review. Video of how it sounds within.

Designed by Henri d’Origny in 1978, the Arceau watch is a staple of the Hermès catalog since. It is not hard to understand why. The proportions are almost perfect. The curves, and lines are very pleasing to the eye. And for the first time, it now houses a tourbillon minute repeater.

The Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes is offered as customizable one-of-a-kind model. The featured watch is in white gold with an Abyss blue-lacquered dial.

Review: Hermès Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes

Retail price is set circa SGD 394,100 inclusive of GST and will vary depending on customizations and special finishes.

The Arceau silhouette’s timeless is retained in this new watch. And visually, it cuts an aesthetic which is imposing while at the same time, elegant, understated and distinctive.

The case, dial and hands

The form of a round case with stirrup-like asymmetrical lugs is still very visually pleasing as it was in 1978. The white gold case is 43mm in diameter, though it feels and wears smaller. Perhaps its the shape of the asymmetric, ring like lugs which allows it to hug the wrist better.

A horse shaped cutout on the dial allows a peek into the striking works, a mechanism, though beautiful to look at and a wonder when it activates, which is normally hidden under the dial. This equestrian profile cut-out is framed by a white gold edge, and hugs the curves of the case. Within, the double gong of the minute repeater mechanism is visible, as is some of the racks of the striking works. A flying tourbillon, below the curve of the horse’s neck is visible through a round aperture at 6 o’clock. It too is framed with a white gold edge.

The dial itself is metal, Hermès does not specify the material used, but it is textured with a bark like pattern (our wording), and lacquered in a deep blue. The texture catches the light in different angles, and provides additional visual interest to the dial, while the blue lacquer is dark enough that at some positions, it looks black, while at others, a deep, layered blue comes through. A rather beautiful aesthetic.

The flying tourbillon takes center stage below the horse’s neck, and the cage forms the double H emblem of the Hermès boutique on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. This design of crowning the tourbillon cage and barrel bridge (visible from the case back) picks up the pattern of the artistic wrought ironwork adorning the entrance, railings, staircase and lift at
the Parisian establishment.

The hands are leaf shaped, with open-worked so as not to obstruct the spectacle of the dial. Indices are Arceau-styled sloped Arabic numerals for the hours, transfer printed in brilliant white. A row of dots, also in brilliant white is printed on the peripheral to act as minute markers. Interestingly, the print of the numerals 8 to 12 and the Hermès logo with their Paris hallmark is printed on the underside the sapphire glass, the portion over the horse motif cutout. And the other indices are on the dial itself. Due to the closeness of the space between the glass and dial, parallax is minimal, or not noticeable at a glance

The sound

Any minute repeater worth its salt is judged by the sound. And the Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes does not disappoint, though there is room for improvement. Here is a recording for you to judge.

In our books, and when compared to the best minute repeater sounds in our experience, the Arceau is not quite in the top tier. The sound of the strikes are clear, distinct, well spaced, and the regulator is very quiet. But we feel perhaps there is a lack of overtones to the base note, and the decay of the notes are not as long and pleasing as we would have preferred. But overall, this is still a respectable sound, and better than many others.

The movement: Hermès H1924

Hermès has made great strides in the use of manufactured movements in their watches. These are made by Vaucher, a company which they co-own with Parmigiani Fleurier. They do still use third party movements, but the plan is to transition to self sufficiency (via Vaucher). However, as even Parmigiani do not make repeater movements for their watches themselves, these are supplied by either AP Le Locle (Renaud et Papi), or Christophe Claret, Hermès would have no design nor manufacturing expertise in repeating mechanisms in-house. This movement is thus outsourced to a specialist watchmKER Pierre-Laurent Fire who used to head up the independent complications manufacture in Geneva – Manufacture Haute Complications (MHC). Favre is an alumni of the now defunct BNB Concepts, and as we understand it, the MHC’s financials are not very healthy, and have been for some time. We understand that Hermès continue to work with Favre as an independent consultant to realise this movement. After sales support will be ably provided by the current network in association with Vaucher and Parmigiani.

As we understand it, the entire movement is conceptualized and manufactured by Favre with the flying tourbillon and minute repeater fully integrated to the base movement. This same movement is also supplied to H. Moser for some their tourbillon minute repeater offerings.

Movement finishing is rather interesting. The plates and components visible from the case back look like the upper surface is straight grained to a matte finish. A rather simple finishing, normally subject to further work to embellish the movement decoration, but in the H1924, this seems to be the final finish. The aesthetic is quite unusual, but we can see some of its benefits as it lays in stark contrast to the other components which achieve a high polish.

Note the gaps between plates are very even, a sign of high quality. Also the presence of sharp outward points on the bridges, though it would be even nicer with some sharp inward angles, especially around the canon jewel pivot. We particularly like the shape and polish of the wheel teeth as well.

The watchmakers have demonstrated that they are highly capable of fine haute horlogerie finishing as can be seen in the virtuoso performance of the anglage on the plates and cocks. As well as the magnificent black polishing performed on the hammers which also feature beautiful anglage.

The beauty of black polish, seen here on the striking hammers. From the angle of the camera, the lower hammer reflects no light and looks black, while the upper hammer looks like a mirror.

Overall, the movement finishing is judged to be rather unusual, but certainly not lacking in visual appeal. The decisions to leave the top plate finishing in a rather austere straight graining, while other components exhibit high finnissage is interesting and provides an unusual aesthetic.

Concluding thoughts

On the wrist, as mentioned, it the Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes wears smaller than the 42mm case diameter would suggest. This is a very beautiful watch, with good breeding. The proportions are excellent. The aesthetic highlights subtle, but brings a new dimension to the visuals. The mechanical aspects of combining a flying tourbillon with a minute repeater is a good combination, and will appeal to Hermès fans as being a complicated timepiece worthy of a good brag, and of the asking price. In the world of high complications, the value proposition of these twin complications seem fairly good.

Photo notes

Photographed at the Hermès Singapore office. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 Macro, and HC 2.8/80 with H28 extension tube. Profoto strobes. Video was recorded on iPhone 8 Plus in 4K mode with external lavalier microphone.

Hermès Arceau Lift Tourbillon Répétition Minutes Specifications

Manufacture Hermès H1924 movement
Mechanical hand-wound, crafted in Switzerland
Diameter: 30 mm (13 ¼ ‘’’)
Thickness: 6.1 mm
Power reserve: 90 hours
Frequency: 21,600 vph (3Hz)
Functions: Double gong, minute repeater, hours, minutes
Decoration: Mirror-polished tourbillon carriage topped
with the Lift motif. Hand-chamfered and polished bridges
Distinctive feature: flying tourbillon
Shape / dimensions: Round, 43 mm in diameter
Material: White gold
Crystal: Sapphire crystal and case-back with anti-glare treatment
Water resistance: 3 bar
Blue-lacquered dial.
“Horse” cut-out motif
Abyss blue alligator