Ex­hibit­ing at SIHH for the first time, Her­mes brings a de­gree of play­ful­ness to the ta­ble with its lat­est nov­el­ties, writes STEPHANIE IP

#Legend - - SIHH -


THERE ARE COUNT­LESS peo­ple who as­so­ciate Her­mès with leather bags and equine ac­cou­trements, but the French maison has, since 1978, delved into the horol­ogy world. Jean-Louis Du­mas, the fifth-gen­er­a­tion de­scen­dant of founder Thierry Her­mès, took over the small fam­ily busi­ness that year and turned it into the in­ter­na­tional lux­ury com­pany we know to­day. It was also he who de­cided to cre­ate a proper watch di­vi­sion within the house, es­tab­lish­ing La Mon­tre Her­mès in Bi­enne, Switzer­land. By the 1980s and ’90s, Her­mès be­came known for its fem­i­nine watches, with sim­ple steel and quartz pieces fea­tur­ing highly recog­nis­able shapes. The first watch – the Arceau – was cre­ated by Henri d’Origny, a de­signer at Her­mès since 1958, who wanted to move away from the con­fines of clas­si­cism and so fit­ted the watch with asym­met­ri­cal lugs in a shape in­spired by stir­rups.

In 1991, d’Origny de­signed the

Cape Cod. “At that time, it was the UFO in the uni­verse of fem­i­nine watches in the Swiss in­dus­try,” ex­plains Lau­rent Dordet, the head of Her­mès’ watch di­vi­sion. “Else­where, women’s watches were very stan­dard­ised; they were men’s watches re­duced to women’s sizes. When we came out with the Cape Cod, it was the first square watch within a rect­an­gle, which was based on the iconic anchor chain mo­tif cut into two. We also in­vented the dou­ble-tour strap. Now ev­ery­one is copy­ing it.”

Her­mès has been a long-time ex­hibitor at Basel­world, but this year made the piv­otal de­ci­sion to ex­hibit at SIHH. To mark this sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone, the brand re­vealed up­dates to the Arceau and Cape Cod – two of the core col­lec­tions that Dordet be­lieves can be at­trib­uted to La Mon­tre Her­mès’ suc­cess to­day. “The suc­cess of Her­mès was fem­i­nine first, and it was fem­i­nine be­cause of style, be­cause of the crazi­ness, be­cause of mo­tifs,” he says. “You would say the Cape Cod and the Arceau were more game-chang­ing at the time they came out.”

The new Arceau Casaque comes in a play­ful ar­ray of colours in­clud­ing yel­low, red, green and blue. The Cavale mo­tif on

the dial is set against hoof­print-like lines and is crafted us­ing cham­plevé, lac­quer and trans­fer tech­niques. The new Cape Cod ver­sions come in more sub­dued colours. One fea­tures a rhodium-plated dial, pol­ished to cre­ate a mir­ror­like ef­fect, and is avail­able in a large model and a small model, and on a sin­gle or the dou­ble-tour Mi­lanese mesh bracelet. The sec­ond ver­sion comes with the anchor chain mo­tif ap­plied to the dial, and is avail­able with a blue lac­quered dial and Malta blue grained strap, or a black gold-treated dial and a calf­skin strap.

Even though the Slim d’Her­mès was cre­ated fol­low­ing La Mon­tre Her­mès’ ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion (fol­low­ing its ac­qui­si­tion of a 25 per cent stake in the Vaucher man­u­fac­ture in Fleurier in 2006) and even if Her­mès was awarded a Grand Prix d’Hor­logerie de Genève cal­en­dar watch prize in 2015 with its Slim d’Her­mès QP, Dordet doesn’t be­lieve the Slim is the watch that has so­lid­i­fied the brand’s place in the watch world. “No, Slim isn’t at­trib­uted to that,” he says. “Slim is re­ally the line that is go­ing to help us take off on the men’s line, but it is a very re­cent de­vel­op­ment – only seven years ago.”

In fact, given the choice, Dordet would rather bet on the Carré H, which has been given a new up­date this year. The Carré H was in­tro­duced in 2010, a square time­piece cre­ated by Marc Berthier. This year’s ver­sion has been en­larged by a few mil­lime­tres and comes with dif­fer­ent fin­ishes – pol­ished and mi­crobead­blasted – that gives the watch a won­der­fully bal­anced play on the light. The ty­pog­ra­phy used is also ex­clu­sive, mak­ing use of the zero in front of the sin­gle dig­its to bring a new aes­thetic to the watch. Avail­able in two ver­sions, the steel-cased time­piece comes with a dark grey or black dial and a yel­low or red sec­ond hand, re­spec­tively. In­side, the watch is pow­ered by the self-wind­ing Her­mès Man­u­fac­ture H1912 move­ment.

“Jour­nal­ists told me about the 10 me­tres ef­fect,” ex­plains Dordet. “The Slim is very nice. I love it. But from 10 me­tres, you can’t tell it’s an Her­mès watch be­cause the de­tails are in the ty­pog­ra­phy and it’s very sub­tle. It’s more of a selfish ex­pe­ri­ence. You know you have an Her­mès watch, but no­body else knows it. But the Carré H, even from far away, you know it’s an Her­mès watch. It’s a 2010 re-edi­tion and it’s a square; a square, for Her­mès, is em­blem­atic.”

Her­mès was born as a fash­ion brand and is keen to high­light its de­sign-fo­cused DNA. “Our fash­ion back­ground is not just an ad­van­tage, it’s a con­di­tion to sur­vive,” says Dordet. “We are not rac­ing for the lat­est mas­cu­line com­pli­ca­tions. At Her­mès, it’s ei­ther a clas­sic com­pli­ca­tion that we twist in our own way, or we in­vent our own – for ex­am­ple, the Sus­pended Time.”

The Arceau Le Temps Sus­pendu watch was re­leased by the brand in 2011; it came with a pusher on the left that stops the hands on the dial. The move­ment con­tin­ues to run and keep track of time, and when you press the pusher again, the time re­turns to nor­mal. “We did that be­cause the story was to re­flect the way we see time,” ex­plains Dordet. “The ul­ti­mate lux­ury for us is to take time for your­self – to have time, to stop time. It’s not re­ally some­thing that is ex­pressed through­out the rest of the in­dus­try. They have their bat­tle­fields and we have our own. It’s bet­ter not to be on the same one.”

Left: The new Her­mès Carré H

Clockwise from above: Arceau Casaque watches in three bright hues; Cape Cod GM; Arceau Chrono Ti­tane

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