Archer holds the first-round lead after a 9-under-par 60, having scorched the par-69 Celtic Manor Resort Roman Road Course for 10 birdies with just one dropped shot.
He set a course record and became the 13th player in tour history to shoot a 60 -- but that was little consolation for Archer, who had his sights set on history.
'It's never been done before, so I'm more disappointed at not shooting a 59 than I am happy at shooting a 60,' Archer admitted.
The 34-year-old Englishman leads by one shot over Robert Karlsson of Sweden, who carded a spectacular bogey-free 61 to stand at 8 under par. Karlsson, like Archer, covered his first nine holes (the back nine) in 29 shots.
'There were a lot of easy birdies out there, and on a day like today it is little surprise that there are so many low scores,' said Karlsson.
Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, the reigning Order of Merit winner, shares third place with Francois Delamontagne of France at 6-under 63. Montgomerie missed the cut last year after ending at 8 over par through two rounds. Like Karlsson, he shot a 29 on the back nine.
Englishmen Paul Broadhurst and Lee Slattery are knotted one shot further back in fifth place with Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey and Stephen Scahill of New Zealand.
Archer began his round with a par at the first hole -- his only par on the front nine. He followed that up with consecutive birdies, then bogeyed the par-4 fourth before stringing together five straight birdies to make the turn at 6-under 29.
The back nine for Archer was less spectacular, but steady. He carded birdies at the 11th, 15th and 16th holes to get to minus-9.
After battling for par with a 10-foot putt at the 17th, Archer split the fairway with his drive at the 426-yard 18th. He knocked a wedge within 6 feet, but missed the cup just left on his downhill birdie putt.
'I read the putt as being on the left edge and firm, but maybe I hit it a little too firm,' Archer said. 'It was nice to give myself the chance, but it wasn't to be.'
At the Moroccan Classic last week, France's Adrien Mork became the first player to shoot a 59 on the European Tour's Challenge Tour. It was a fate which eluded not only Archer, but those following his progress on the course Thursday.
'The last hole was great seeing all the people around the green waiting to see if I could do it,' Archer said. 'I just wanted to give myself a chance at it.
'It was a little bit bittersweet at the end there, but it was a great round. I was a little nervous, I would be daft to say I wasn't. I was shaking a little bit coming down the last, but not over the putt because everything was focused on it. You just try and distract the pressure as much as you can.'
Andrew Oldcorn, Marcel Siem, Johan Skold and Graeme Storm share ninth place at 4-under-par 65. Behind them, 15 players are tied for 13th place at minus-3.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez opened with a 1-over 70 to sit in a tie for 83rd place with 21 other players.