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Hermès’ new equestrian-inspired watch has a SoCal connection

Hermès’ new equestrian-inspired watch has a SoCal connection
At left, one of the new Galop d’Hermès timepieces ($3,650). At right, designer Ini Archibong, who took inspiration for the watch from the world of equestrian tack. (Hermès)

French luxury label Hermès chose its Rodeo Drive boutique in Beverly Hills as the place to celebrate its newest women’s watch and as a way of paying homage to the man who designed it, Ini Archibong.

The Galop d’Hermès (pronounced “gallow”; the “p” is silent), is the first timepiece designed by the Neuchâtel, Switzerland-based Archibong, who grew up in Pasadena and attended the ArtCenter College of Design there.

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“My background is architecture and interiors and furniture,” Archibong said before an intimate rooftop dinner for high-profile clients and friends of the brand. “Most of the stuff I’ve put out into the world is furniture.”

The biggest challenge in the process, Archibong said, was scaling down from larger-sized projects to one meant to fit on a wrist. “As soon as you jump down [in scale], you realize the normal stroke of the previous scale is too expressive,” he said. “I knew that was going to be a challenge because I went from architecture to interiors to furniture. So I embraced it and got through it pretty quickly.”

One challenge Archibong didn’t have? That would be finding inspiration for the design, which he said came to him very shortly after he spent time exploring the storied brand’s archival holdings.

“After my trip to the [Hermès] Conservatoire and museum, I got on the train and I knew that the stirrup was going to be the first silhouette,” he said, explaining that the collection of stirrups from different cultures housed in the museum showed that the shape was universally recognizable. Archibong added that other pieces of equestrian tack, particularly the leather carriage harnesses that were key to the company’s business in the mid-1800s, guided more subtle aspects of the watch as well.

“I realized that when Hermès started [in 1837], it was actually all about speed. The beautiful lines and curves [of the harnesses] lent themselves to aerodynamics even before the conversation about aerodynamics were happening,” Archibong explained. “They’d noticed that horses moved fast because of their shape and their musculature so all of these sinuous lines came from reading [that].”

In the Galop, that inspiration can be seen in the shape of the gently curving caseback that hugs the wrist and the Arabic numerals on the watch face that telegraph a sense of speed by growing ever-so-slightly larger toward the bottom and leaning in almost imperceptibly toward the top. In addition to influencing the overall shape of the watch, the stirrup inspiration crops up at the 8 o’clock hour where the numeral appears as a stylized stirrup-turned-looping infinity symbol. In a further departure from tradition, the crown, which is most often located at the 3 o’clock hour, has shifted to 6 o’clock.

The 40.8 x 26 mm watch cases are water-resistant to 3 bar, house Swiss-made quartz movements, and are available in either stainless steel or rose gold versions (with or without the added bling of 150 tiny diamonds), with a variety of strap options.

Available starting Thursday at Hermès boutiques (including the 400 Rodeo Drove location) and online at hermes.com, the watch’s retail prices range from $3,650 for a stainless steel version with a calfskin strap to $15,400 for a rose gold, diamond-encrusted version with an alligator strap.

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