Fashion

It's time to wear pocket watches again

Some watches are made for you to stare and marvel at. The Hermes Pocket Plein Cuir is one of them.
IMAGE Hermes
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It's a curious thing—why a pocket watch in this day and age? The transition from the pocket watch to the wristwatch came because of the need to tell time at a glance or as expediently as possible, without having to claw at one’s pocket, tug at the chain, and fob to pull the timepiece out, open the case before finally ascertaining where the dials are positioned on the watch face. Since we can now tell time with an economical lift of the wrist or swipe of the phone, why wear a pocket watch when it will just slow us down? Perhaps therein lies the answer. If the common humblebrag is a surfeit of busy work, pausing to take measure of time deserves more than a mere glance. With the pocket watch, it becomes a personal ritual.

Then again, there’s the simple fact that some watches are made for you to stare and marvel at. Hermès has created pocket watches since the early 1900s, and much like its predecessors, the Hermès Plein Cuir pocket watch showcases the leather-craft and watchmaking expertise of the maison. It’s all about layers for this one. Plein cuir is French for “full leather,” referring to the quality of full-grain leather in the sheath. This is accomplished by superimposing several layers of finely cut leather—supple cowhide on top of textured alligator—with saddle-stitching, to create a six-millimeter thickness of smooth encasement for the watch itself. One can wax poetic about a ballet of nimble hand movements: measuring (precisely 2.5 mm from the edge!), hammering, piercing, stitching, burnishing, or heat-smoothing—even parts unseen upon completion—using a technique called astiquage, dyeing, and finally coating the leather with protective beeswax. But such practices can be summed up in a single sentence: It takes six hours to complete the full leather treatment.

If the common humblebrag is a surfeit of busy work, pausing to take measure of time deserves more than a mere glance. With the pocket watch, it becomes a personal ritual.

The watch itself, also created in the Hermès workshops, is framed in a 750 white gold case with an anti-glare sapphire crystal and case-back. It has 193 components, including 28 jewels, and has its own layers to contend with: The watch dials are crafted through the Grand Feu enamel technique, where the glass powder—white for the base and black for the Roman numerals—is heated to 800 degrees Celsius and then allowed to set and bond to the metal surface. This is repeated several times to achieve the final brilliant, unalterable result.

The Pocket Plein Cuir is powered by the Manufacture Hermès H1912, a mechanical self-winding movement crafted in Switzerland, and has a power reserve of 50 hours. The caliber, particularly its oscillating weight, is adorned with the special Hermès decoration—the so-called “sprinkling of Hs” motif—made visible through the transparent case-back, simply because the stamp of authenticity makes this watch even more valuable to a collector. The 54 mm-diameter model may be attached to a 23 cm long chain, also in 750 white gold, complemented by an alligator bow available in burgundy, elegant gray, or sapphire blue.

Wearers of the pocket watch, some might say, look like villains or dandies. But it does add panache, doesn’t it?

Hermès is at Greenbelt 4, Makati City. 

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Johanna Poblete
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