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Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

The Hermès Arceau 78 is an interesting watch that it isn’t easy to position in the universe of luxury watches. The dial says Hermès on it, which on its own would classify it no higher than “Fashion Brand’s Luxury Watch Attempt No. 24392.” However, fans of Hermès — and watch industry insider trivia — will know that the company has invested tens of millions of Swiss francs in its movement-, case- and dial-making facilities, and so the Hermès Arceau 78 reference W047360WW00 actually is an entry-level, yet uniquely styled, watch from a company that has, since 1929, loved its watches.

Humor me a personal note — or just skip it, if you wish. I am sharing only because I feel a large number of watch-lovers might approach Hermès similarly to how I do. You see, I do not dislike the brand, but I am certainly not a wired-up fan of Hermès watches either. In the way of communication, design, and openness, the company has not yet done much to convince me, as a watch-lover, to investigate it more closely. Outside its artistic, high-end watches (like the fantastic Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune), Hermès watch designs, though stirrup-inspired, have not stirred me up in a world where there are hundreds upon thousands of watches begging for attention. Now that I am covering the Hermès Arceau 78, I do very much take the task seriously, and that has naturally resulted in my taking a closer look — and I am glad I did.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

Hermès launched the asymmetrical Arceau back in 1978, when Jean-Louis Dumas succeeded his father as head of the family-owned firm, immediately creating the new subsidiary of La Montre Hermès, in Biel, Switzerland. The goal with the original, quartz-powered, competitively priced Arceau was to create an affordable timepiece to attract a younger clientele worldwide and to gain traction in quartz-watch-crazed Japan. The strategy worked, and although between 2006 and 2012 Hermès had purchased a 25% stake in Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier, a 32% stake in case-maker Joseph Erard Holding (a long-term supplier of Hermès) and the Swiss dial-maker Natéber in its entirety (that’s a lot of money invested into watchmaking pedigree), the Arceau 78 remains a competitively priced quartz timepiece.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

The Hermès H1950 movement by Voucher found in the Slim d’Hermès watches.

Competitively priced and quartz-powered does not equal an absence of Hermès DNA. The Arceau has, for over 40 years, been part of Hermès and, indeed, watchmaking in general: with its distinctly unbalanced, stirrup-shaped case, with long, arched lugs on top, and stubby, curved ones below, it is very much an Hermès accessory that happens to tells time. It isn’t without its horological merits, though.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

The case itself is polished stainless steel, while the perfectly round and curved bezel is in micro-blasted titanium. The difference in color, texture, and proportions between the flashy steel and the rugged titanium indicates Hermès is willing to go the extra mile — the absolute majority of fashion companies would have (and indeed they do) clad their watches in all-polished steel, hoping that the brand name and some minor design tweaks will carry the watch. I applaud Hermès for having access to its own case manufacturer and utilizing this access to create something that is, in its shape and combination of materials, unique.

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Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

Hermès calls this 40mm-wide Arceau 78 a “very large model” — which reminds me a lot of Cartier’s inconsistent classifications for its watch sizes. Established fashion brands struggle with consistency when it comes to sizing their shirts and jeans — so how about not messing up watch sizing as well? What I do appreciate is how, on the official product page, Hermès bluntly notes the following: wrist circumference: 6.3″ – 7.3.” Not even Rolex or Omega does that.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

What we are missing, though, is a note on case thickness, which is a pity, as that figure would certainly be something to be proud of. Still, our quickly snapped hands-on images from SIHH help indicate how impressively thin the Hermès Arceau 78 is — yet again highlighting the fact that quartz-equipped, two-hand watches truly need not be thick at all. The domed, AR-coated sapphire crystal is a very nice touch, as it curves upwards and away from its titanium frame. Very nicely done, and so is the finishing on the rather complex lugs and case profiles.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

Oftentimes, it really is the little things that help highlight whether a component is Swiss-made or not:

The notches on the crown, the depth of the polish, and the complexity of the shapes of the case, or the refinement of the date window cut-out, these all indicate that, for $3,350, Hermès has put together one of the most competitively priced, genuinely Swiss-made watches on the market.

I have seen worse hands and cases and a whole lot worse crowns on much more expensive watches from much more renowned “manufactures,” which is quite ironic — in line with what the Swiss watch industry has been, lately. As more big names, rumor has it, are moving a lot of their manufacturing “overseas” when it comes to the cases, bracelets, and dials for their cheaper watches, here we have a “fashion brand,” Hermès, showing that high quality, Swiss-made components can, indeed, be used throughout a watch for around three grand.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

No caseback shots this time, as the SIHH piece we looked at had some additional markings that covered the view — but expect to see an embossed, solid caseback covering up the Swiss-made quartz movement. The grained, dark gray dial features Hermès’ traditional skewed Arabic numerals and thin, leaf-style hands with some lume thrown in there for good measure. The date window is small and difficult to read — we’ll have to trust Hermès that it knows its customers need a date window on their watches. I just wish it had its sides skewed a bit to go with the indices, or that the cutout was round — but, really, I’d rather just see it gone altogether, and while I’m at it, the Hermès Paris logo could certainly be moved a bit further down.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

The Hermès Arceau 78 comes on a “long, single-tour strap in natural barenia calfskin” — a description a large portion of which will only make sense to avid Hermès fans. For the rest of us, it’s going to be a supple leather strap on a tang buckle. Although the quality is there, I feel the overall design of the watch head leaves lots of opportunity for the use of some rather more bonkers straps to be used — other strap choices would only enliven this piece, and I’d recommend considering other options.

Hands-On: Hermès Arceau 78 Watch Hands-On

If the absence of a mechanical movement is the dealbreaker for some, worry not, as Hermès has its own proprietary calibers it assembles from parts it obtains from Vaucher (and probably its two sister companies, the much lesser-known, but equally important, specialized watch movement component maker Atokalpa and Elwin).

The thinness of the case, the quality of the execution, the likeable and unique design, and the creative combination of aesthetics and materials render the Hermès Arceau 78, priced at $3,350, a very competitive product. You can find more Hermès watches on the official website.

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  • H.S.M.

    $3,350 for a quartz movement, every day dress watch?!
    One could get a Grand Seiko for that amount of money, if you want to stay in quartz territory that is.
    And I hardly believe this could even compete with the precision and execution of a Grand Seiko.

    This is just French Designer Fluff regardless of the ‘swiss made’ text on the dial.

    • David Bredan

      Playing the GS card applies to us watch nerds. People who like Hermès and want Hermès won’t give a damn about it — but will want to know the length to which the brand has gone to produce the most important components (in a quartz watch where the movement is largely irrelevant) in Switzerland and to a quality standard that is better than so many other offerings from established Swiss brands at this price. Personally, I wish Grand Seiko had some of of this french designer fluff in its designs; it could help with all the physical and aesthetic bulk.

      • H.S.M.

        Personally I like the cold precisionist look of a Grand Seiko.
        I agree, it would be an interesting amalgamation of Hermés-esque style together with Seiko.
        On the other hand, looking at the watch a bit longer it just doesn’t feel right to ask for this price with such a clean and simple look. I know that simplicity is king, but if I am not paying for the movement and I am not paying for a design that would turn heads, surely I must be paying for the brand then.
        So in Laymen’s terms, for that amount of money I expect more fluff. At least on the outside.
        Diamonds, gold, platinum, ceramic, engraving… anything.
        Give me something that makes this watch stand out.

      • DanW94

        If I’m reading your response correctly you think that people who purchase Hermes watches actually care where the components are produced and are comparing the quality to other Swiss brands? I doubt that. As long as it’s a “real” Hermes I don’t think they care if the compoments were made in Timbuktu. I see the purchase of this watch as an impulse buy by the wife who is picking up the latest Hermes bag and decided to get the husband a watch because she thought it’d be cute that they match with accessories that have Hermes on the label.

  • cluedog12

    I dislike the date window, but the colour and font match with the rest of the dial. You can’t say that about some of the mid-aught products that came from the esteemed house of Audemars Piguet.

    While an entry level product, it appears as though this watch was designed and manufactured with quality in mind. You’re only as good as your worst product, after all.

    Hermes is on its way towards earning a positive reputation amongst watch enthusiasts, but certain publications (not this one) are mixing their positive coverage with collaborative projects.

    I commend ABTW for (mostly) keeping the collaborative projects away from the blog.

  • SuperStrapper

    The Arceau range doesn’t really offend me, but I have no interest in owning one. This one in particular is pretty boring, and I have no love for 2 handed watches. To me it’s a waste of a nice mechanical movement.

  • mach2guy

    And the battery goes where?

    • Mikita

      For typical Hermes clientele it’s a throwaway watch. So no battery concerns.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      It’s an Automatic. A 2.6mm movement, self-winding through micro-roto ( Top left )

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Don’t quote me, but I’m guessing in the back somewhere.

  • Mikita

    $3,000 strap and $350 watch value here.

  • Mikita

    So there doesn’t exist any more watches between $8,000 Hermes and Seagull?

    • H.S.M.

      Apparently not. Either you go cheap with a Seagull, or you go all in with a Hermes. Everything else is an imitation of these two.

  • Mikita

    I see what you did here 🙂

  • Mikita

    They’d think it’s a wall clock.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    This is more a fashion accesory. Something nice to go with a nice scarf or handbag.

    • H.S.M.

      Really? You like a quartz watch for 3K?
      Surprised, to say the least.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        I’m not part of the ladies who lunch circle that don’t really care what makes the hands of my watch go round. Is nice and like the same thing?

        • H.S.M.

          I didn’t mean any offence. Just seen you criticise other watches for less. That’s all.

      • Independent_George

        Why would that be?

        • H.S.M.

          Maybe he is a poseur as well. Just like you and me.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        As it happens one of my favourite watches is the Cartier Santos 100. Frighfully common i know, but i love it.

        • H.S.M.

          Whatever floats your boat.
          I would certainly pick that Cartier over this Hermes that’s for sure.
          This one feels too “Modern French Fashion” for my taste. And for that money there are a couple of grails for me I would buy instead, even if I would like this one.

    • Listen to me, Raymond, I tell you as a friend: this Hermès is not your cup of tea, believe me. 🙂

    • DanW94

      Remember to coordinate the color of your handbag with the watch strap. Bracelet goes with anything so match the dial color with your handbag if sporting a steel bracelet. Scarf should be a whimsical color but still matching with the handbag and watch. Make sure it doesn’t clash. Don’t even get me started about your shoes….

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Dan!…………………..Who knew?

  • H.S.M.

    As a Timex quartz is not going to cost 3K just because it’s Timex.
    And sorry if I am not going to bend the knee just because it’s Hermes.

    • Independent_George

      That’s makes absolutely no sense.

      • H.S.M.

        As this comment.

  • H.S.M.

    If start talking about horological heritage, I think you can get better deal then a quartz watch for the same amount of money.
    And it could be Rolex as much I care, if they try to sell something way beyond what it’s worth, I am going to criticize it.

  • H.S.M.

    I poo-poo as much as I like as this is an overpriced quartz. End of story.

    • Independent_George

      You are such the horologist. Poseur.

      • H.S.M.

        Says the guy with a profile picture only poseurs would choose.
        But hey, if being a horologist means that I have to take my whole head shove it up in a brands arse and lick it from the inside out just because they have some history on the market, then I don’t want to be called a horologist.
        Anyway, I never called myself that in the first place.
        So keep on talking, at least you get some recognition from poseurs like myself. Pat yourself on the back.

        • Independent_George

          Oooo, tough talking about watches! I guess you are speaking truth to power, or brands, or whatever.

          Poseur.

          • H.S.M.

            Uh oh. I haven’t realised I am dealing with a REAL connoisseur of fine horological equipment. Should have known as soon as you came in to my life, out of nowhere and called me a poseur without a proper introduction.
            Only the finest gentlemen are capable to do so without looking like a complete fool.
            So when are you going to buy this fine timepiece from such a reputable brand?
            I bet the boys in the Poseur Club will be in awe when they see you sporting this masterfully crafted watch. And when you start boasting about that prestigious Titanium case, and the exquisite quartz movement…
            Man, oh man!
            I wish I could be good enough of a poseur to be a part of that. Standing there with the boys. Cheering you on as you hold your cigar in one hand and a glass of the finest rye whiskey in the other, whilst sporting this masterpiece.
            I just go and stay outside on the street selling Timex’s to people walking past me, whilst I sneak a few looks through the pristine window of Your clubhouse, just to fill my heart with jealousy.
            So I just take off my dirty, torn hat for you, good Sir and show myself out.

    • Tony NW

      Just FYI: “End of story” is something said by immature petulant people generally on the left. Mature adults never say that.

      • H.S.M.

        So we are getting into politics now? Nice to see someone guessing my political stance by one sentence. Maybe you should do your research?
        As you may now, immature people on the left usually call other people names before they would actually get to know them, or they political stance on issues. Mature adults never do that.
        But just for your information, I am not on the left. I never liked the left and never will.
        But I wasn’t the first one flinging the first “poo-poo”, so I just responded appropriately.
        To agree with you on one thing, I will admit that I am not familiar with the brand and it’s heritage that deep (especially on straps). But even if I would be, I would still call it as I see it. An overpriced quartz watch, riding the French Fashion trend with some brand heritage thrown into the mix.
        It’s not worth my time and money regardless of what the leather strap is.

  • David

    Possibly the worst watch I’ve seen featured on ABTW.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Well done folks a nice decent amount of comments.

  • H.S.M.

    People tend to spot and remember the negative more often.
    Or maybe when you criticise a watch, it comes off more stronger then when you praise one.
    You know…
    Saying ‘fugly’ compared to ‘nice’. Stuff like that.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      I call it like it is.

  • SuperStrapper

    ??I laughed

  • Marius

    The pricing is certainly absurd in watch terms, but this is Hermes. A firm which charges $1,500 for a simple wallet and more than $2,000 for a tablet case.

  • Meir Weiss

    Nicely done Ariel – I thought this was a fair and balanced analysis. “Hermès watch designs, though stirrup-inspired, have not stirred me up in a world where there are hundreds upon thousands of watches begging for attention” – cute! 😉

    It’s fair competition with the other luxury house quartz models: Cartier men’s tank solo = $2,550 but the Santos-Dumont is $3,650(sm)/$3,900(lg). Tiffany East West is $3,750. Expensive? Yes! But if you want this design, with these details, from this brand, welcome to the pains of luxury.

    Personally, I love the design, though I wish it was 37mm.

  • David Bredan

    How on Earth is a Patek with Breguet (!) numerals *and* Breguet (!) hands, straight lugs and a round case truly unique?
    This example is telling me that you have a very, very different idea of what “unique” is in watch design, which is great. But it doesn’t convince me about me being wrong in what I said about this Hermès above. Also, check out any number of Ariel’s or my articles, I am willing to make a bet that I have some of the highest hit rate in critical articles — and I’ve never been afraid of saying what I think is right, even if that has always meant the very alienation of some companies (temporarily, until they understood that this is how we operate). Just because every once in a while I dare write about a watch I like doesn’t in my mind rectify your concerns and criticisms.

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