Timepiece Brands Tap Equestrian Roots
by roberta naas
The Hermès Arceau ($3,000) features a dial inspired by the path of horses in a manege, indicated by the sloping numerals directed toward the center. From Ralph Lauren, this elegant Stirrup Steel Link watch ($2,500) is crafted in a stirrup-shaped steel case a supple stainless-steel link bracelet. Fendi’s Selleria watch cases (from $850) and stainless-steel bracelet ($300) or interchangeable straps ($125) can be mixed and matched for versatility; this model features the horse motif and saddle-stitching strap.
Before the advent of automobiles, many of today’s luxury watchmakers were saddlers and leather goods specialists. Others simply evolved in a world where equestrian endeavors were an important aspect of their clients’ lives, and so they created designs to help outfit the rider and the horse aficionado. By providing specific designs and functions to aid a rider, as well as styling that reflects the tradition of being in the saddle, these brands have become synonymous with the sport of kings.
From the time of its inception, Hermès was recognized first and foremost as a leather goods manufacturer with a specialty in saddlery. Today the regal house continues that tradition with a full line of equestrian goods and equipment bearing the Hermès horse and carriage logo. The brand created its first wristwatch in 1912, when Emile Hermès helped put a strap on his daughter Jacqueline’s pocket watch to hold it on her wrist. He quickly began incorporating saddle-making skills and stitching accents into the brand’s leather straps—a design touch that is today regarded as iconic.
Another brand that has taken to the paddocks is Fendi, which opened on Rome’s Via del Plebiscito in 1925. The well-heeled of the city piloted their fine horses and elaborate carriages along this thoroughfare to the doors of the leather goods maker, and an equine tradition was born. Similarly, Ralph Lauren has long embraced and captured the equestrian spirit in his designs. In homage to his own love of riding, Lauren honors the distinguished sport in his Stirrup collection of stirrup-shaped wristwatches.
photography by jeff gale; prop styling by terry lewis