Haute horology can be a slightly po-faced business at times. But Hermès continues to add teeth to its watch collection, not to mention a sense of quirky fun, through its collaborations with Alice Shirley. The British artist has worked with the French company since 2014 with her zoological designs featuring everything from zebras to tigers adorning the brand’s colourful scarves. Increasingly, however, these animals are escaping their silk confines and appearing on Hermes’ watches, too. First, a gruff bear was transferred onto an enamel dial for the Slim of Hermès Grrrrr! This wrist-bound bestiary was later bolstered with the howling visage of a wolf on the Arceau Awooooo! Now, raising the ferocity stakes even further, comes the Arceau Pocket Aaaaaargh! that delivers an alarming close-up of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the case of a pocket watch.
Sure, there’s a certain light-heartedness to this concept, but Hermès clearly take their jokes seriously. The T-Rex design showcases the brand’s leather craftsmanship with the dinosaur’s head made from thousands of hand-cut leather fragments that are conjoined to form a multicoloured mosaic with an authentically scaly texture. The domed eye of the beast meanwhile is made from cabochon-cut Grand Feu enamel. Its beady gaze peers through on both sides of the watch case to literally give it eyes in the back of its head and ensure it’s never confused for a Do-you-think-he-saurus.
Behind this madcap design, the pocket watch itself offers a contrasting masterclass of refined classicism. The white-gold case is based around the Arceau watch, created by Henri d’Origny in 1978, with its distinctive round shape and asymmetrical stirrup-inspired lugs. From a technical perspective, the watch is souped up some very serious complications in the form of a minute-repeater plus a tourbillon that peeps out through the white enamel dial.
There’s a certain delicious irony in the decision to decorate a pocket-watch – one of the more anachronistic forms of timekeeping – with a creature that hails from the distant past. But the Arceau Pocket Aaaaaargh! is a true original. That rarity value as a one-of-a-kind piece is reflected by the price tag of $490,000 that’s perhaps more deserving of the exclamation mark than the watch’s actual name. Yet there’s no denying that Hermes’ leather artisanship combines with the mechanical mastery of the high-end watch complications to singular effect. This is watch in which every detail is executed with joyful precision, right down to the matte green alligator leather cord-strap, a nod perhaps to the T-Rex’s recent descendants.