The Edge Singapore
An expression of time
Guillaume de Seynes, executive vice-president manufacturing division and equity Investments and sixth-generation member of the Hermès family, speaks about the new watch collection and the success of the house
To access the private room at the back of the Hermès pavilion at Watches and Watches in Geneva is via a maze of suspended sculptures that sway in perfect unison, creating a mesmerizing sight. The journey is a playful one, as we become entangled in a web of various forms that ultimately reveal the Hermès H08 chronograph. The experience is a celebration of the fusion between human craftsmanship and the creative spirit’s ingenuity, which can interpret forms and textures in new and exciting ways.
This concept was created by French artist Clément Vieille, who is passionate about exploring new materials. He leverages cutting-edge technology to achieve exceptional precision and accuracy in the design and production of intricate shapes and complex components. His design complements the Hermès H08 chronograph perfectly. The collection features a blend of textures and details that come together to create a cohesive and refined aesthetic.
At the end of the captivating and immersive journey, Options arrive in a room to meet Guillaume de Seynes, the executive vice-president of the manufacturing division and equity investments, as well as a sixth-generation member of the Hermès family. As the conversation began, de Seynes shared his thoughts on the Hermès H08 chronograph, “We launched H08 in 2021, and I must say that it was an important novelty for us because the idea was to build a new pillar after the Hermès collection with a masculine, sporty watch. It’s quite Hermès in style, but also contemporary at the same time.”
Furthermore, de Seynes noted that although the Hermès H08 chronograph has already been well received, the demand has increased significantly. As a result, the Maison will gradually be increasing production to meet the growing interest. The collection has been expanded to include vibrant hues such as blue, orange and yellow. During the interview, de Seynes proudly wore the Hermès H08 chronograph in titanium, paired with a blue fabric strap.
At the time of this interview, de Seynes hinted that he is quietly happy about the house’s performance. Recently Hermès released this: Watches (+25%) confirmed its outstanding performance, displaying creativity, style and remarka
ble watch-making savoir-faire, in both the complication models like the Arceau Le temps voyageur, and the house’s classic models. The H08 line, which this year welcomes a new complication and coloured versions, was given a tremendous welcome at Watches and Wonders international exhibition in March.
To find out more about the Hermès H08 collection, Options had a chat with de Seynes in Geneva.
The Hermès H08 is described as a “sporty spirit with an urban look that echoes the masculine universe of the house”. Is there a clear line drawn for the Hermès collection between male and female?”
Recent years have shown that some women are attracted to men’s watches or even complications. We have defined this new line as a masculine line, and we won’t introduce a smaller version, in order to maintain its masculine image. However, we are sure that some ladies will be interested in purchasing it, and that’s perfectly fine. Personally, I have one from the previous generation, and I wear it a lot. I must say that the versatility of the piece, for weekends or even with a suit, is fantastic. The comfort of the watch on the wrist is also impressive due to its lightness.
Most watch brands have recorded higher sales during the pandemic. Is this the same for Hermès? Which countries recorded the best sales?
We had a fantastic year last year, which was a boost for Hermès, and especially for the watch business, as we experienced a growth of 46% from 2021 to 2022, we had a strong year for Hermès, as every market was growing, including the United States, Europe, and France. There were also a lot of tourists coming back from the US, with many of them visiting Paris.
Moreover, Asia, including Japan, is still a very strong market for us, and Southeast Asia also experienced growth. So, it has been a really good year across the board, not just for watches, but also for fashion accessories, shoes, fashion, and leather goods. Everything seemed to be going strongly, making it a record year for Hermès.
What are some of the significant design trends you have seen in the world of watch designs over the last 10 years?
Globally, I think that the watch industry, and particularly the Swiss industry, has seen success by focusing more and more on the high end. Although the value has continued to grow, the quantity hasn’t increased as much. The Swiss industry is really perceived as the ultimate in this category and product.
What’s interesting, and is also true for Hermès, is that there was this revolution with digital watches and all this technological phenomenon. After a few years, of course, a lot of customers are interested in these types of instruments but we feel at Hermes that there is a strong demand and interest for either precious watches, jewellery watches, or on the other hand, innovative complications.
Hermès Arceau Le temps voyageur, with its very original way of putting the GMT functionality, won us two Grand Prix d’Horlogerie Genève awards. We sold the pieces immediately or they are on reservation with a deposit from customers who may be purchasing their first complication watch. So, if you are able to surprise people, make them dream, and propose something unseen, there is a lot of interest, which is exciting for us.
Is e-commerce the way forward even after the pandemic?
At Hermès, we were pioneers in this area, although many people may not know this. As early as 2001, we had our commercial website in the United States, Hermès.com. At that time, my uncle was the chairman of Hermès, and he was not convinced about the Internet. However, he believed that if we opened a website, it should be to sell products because we are merchants and retailers.
Our website was purely commercial, with no information about the brand or nice pictures, just products. It was successful, and we learned that having an omnichannel strategy is essential because often it’s the same customers who shop online and in stores. For example, when we started in the US, we thought that we would sell in cities where we didn’t have a store because people did not have access to our products. However, we found that we were more successful in cities where we were already known and had a store.
While I’m not sure about watches, we have seen that selling online is more successful for fashion accessories, such as bags, silk, and perfumes, but not so much for high-end watches and jewellery. However, I still believe that direct contact in our stores remains essential. You need to touch and try on products, and for Hermes, this is particularly important for our high-end watches and jewellery. While the website can provide information and pictures, there is no substitute for the experience of visiting a store.
About five years ago, in an online interview, you said: “Mechanical watches represent 30% of our business today. Not all of them are equipped with in-house movements, but I believe that all of our mechanical watches will come with in-house movements within five years.” Has this happened?
When I talk about the in-house movement, I am referring to the movement made by Vaucher Manufacture, in which we have a 25% stake. All of our mechanical watches currently use Vaucher movements. For example, the H08 is fully equipped with a Vaucher movement and all of our complications
are based on the Vaucher movement.
You are the sixth generation of the Hermès family, what are some of the key lessons about the business that has been passed down from generation to generation?
I have witnessed the work of my grandfather, father, and my uncle Jean-Louis Dumas, who was a charismatic leader of Hermes. I think it is important to highlight a few things.
Firstly, I have always seen them working passionately in the field of fashion, with a strong focus on developing, creating, and trying to produce the best possible products. They were always committed to promoting craftsmanship and showcasing the talents of artisans. I would also use the word “integrity” to describe their approach, as they always aimed to create the right products and pursue the fantastic project of Hermès, which is to offer the best-made objects in the world, without looking at what others were doing. This ambition is very strong, and I believe it is essential for my cousin and me to learn some valuable lessons from past generations.