Hermès Chain d’Ancre: Inspirational Origins

Date: 05/13/2022

Well, it’s certainly no secret that I have a special place in my heart (and closet) for Hermès bags, dresses, skirts and blouses. 

If I’m being honest though: it’s the jewellery that for me is truly to die for. There really are so many gorgeous collections from Hermès that range from classic to edgy.

There’s just something so unique about these timeless designs, from watches to bracelets to necklaces—and since I’m all about investing in pieces that will last you a lifetime and never go out of style, I would say that one of the most classic embellishments from the design house is their use of the Chain d’Ancre motif! 

But where the heck did this design come from? We all know that Hermès has hints of an equestrian air in a lot of their pieces, and many admit that the first of Hermès designers were inspired by the buckles, chains, and belts found in the stable. 

That’s why I think I like the Chain d’Ancre best…because it is a bit of a departure from the saddle-style designs we’re used to from Hermès.

It’s true! The original design inspiration for the Chain d’Ancre is hidden right in its name: a ship’s anchor chain. And being someone who likes to stand out from the pack, I have a ton of pieces from Hermès that use this symbol as a hallmark of the design house, and the designers who made it what it is today.   

Inspired to know more about the Chain d’Ancre, how it came to be, what it symbolizes, and how Hermès continues to use it in a ton of different pieces, I decided to write this short article to share a bit about the origins and inspiration that continue to excite me so much!

How did the Chain d’Ancre become a part of the Hermès trademark collection?

More than 100 years before the design would become a part of the Hermès brand, in 1809, a man by the name of Samuel Brown outfitted his vessel ‘Penelope’ with a chain to draw in the anchor, as opposed to the hemp rope anchor cables that had been used previously.

As it would happen, later in 1938, Robert Dumas was drawn to the now-established chain design started by Brown during a sea-side stroll around Normandy’s port walkways.

Remember, this was a man who had already set the stage for fashion design in the 1930s, having designed the handbag later known as the Kelly, the Sac à dépêches. He created the now iconic horse and carriage logo design, and was the first non-descendent to join the design ranks of the Hermès brand. His vision was unique, and may have in fact cemented the popularity of the Hermès line for more than a century to come!

Sketchbook in hand, sitting seaside on the docks, Robert Dumas drew the initial design for an anchor chain bracelet that was much narrower and more feminine than the one used on boats. When he went to have the chain made in silver however, he met some resistance from jewellers of the day who preferred to work in gold or platinum. 

Thanks to a metal worker named Dr Perçin, Dumas was able to finesse the silver version of the chain he was beginning to love so much. 

This also about the time that Dumas, and by extension Hermès, brought into their collection the iconic and playful clasp mechanism resembling an “H” with an interlocking chain pattern. The fact that both the clasp and the bracelet design itself have earmarked many Hermès collections through the ages stand as yet another testament to Dumas’ incredible mind for design.

How is the Chain d’Ancre used by Hermès today?

The Chain d’Ancre has now been present in the Hermès design house for about 75 years, and has seen a ton of variations through the ages—particularly in 2020 which was seen as a year for fashion innovation to the fullest. 

Now, moving far beyond the simple bracelet design that Dumas started with, the Chain d’Ancre can be seen in almost all of the products that Hermès currently offers: the Chain d’Ancre tote bag has sixteen links and takes about 20 hours of artisan cutting and polishing to develop. The Nantucket Anchor Chain ‘throw’ is a miniature watch that features the coveted links all across its dial, as well as the rectangular steel case used to hold the piece when not worn. 

Today, perhaps the biggest call back to Dumas’ original design is the Hermès Réponse, which is a cuff bracelet in the original silver, but with a more contemporary aesthetic—and I totally plan on adding one to my collection! 

In the meantime, knowing the true history of the Chain d’Ancre design has given me a whole new appreciation for the pieces I do have, and I hope the same goes for you! If you don’t have one of these pieces yet in your collection, I recommend starting with the original classic, and expanding out from there. You’ll be enjoying a fabulous, chic, yet simple piece of jewellery (for almost any occasion) in no time. 

Just make sure (as always) to send me photos of how you accessorize your Chain d’Ancre pieces—I love to see how you style your designs for a little reciprocal style inspiration from you to me!

Until then, with love,