When Hermès entered the watch business over four decades ago, it had a lot to prove, from technical know-how to innovative designs, to fit in a universe dominated by centuries-old pure players. By marrying unconventional interpretations of traditional watchmaking with the unique Hermès aesthetic, it has managed to offer objects that not only indicate the time but also tell a story that stirs emotions.
Its H08, the latest collection for men that was unveiled last month at the Watches and Wonders 2021 fair in Geneva, is also a study in creating a simple style that is as sporty as it is sophisticated. Mint spoke with Hermès Horloger CEO Laurent Dordet about the new collection, which features five 39 mm references (four in titanium and one piece with a graphene-filled composite case), and the strategy to make the label No.1 watch choice. Edited excerpts:
What’s the idea behind the name H08?
It’s a somewhat mysterious name that gives an impression of motion, as well as of being in step with the times. These are also two numbers symbolizing the font used in this model and which embody an invitation to adopt mathematical thinking as well as evoking contrasts, such as the contrast of materials. It is a nod to “Hermès geometry”. The rigorous 0 was a recent discovery. The 8 stretches to infinity. The idea relates to “nothing mingled with everything”, which reflects the shape of the case.
Hermès is not particularly known for high-performance sports watches. What was the intention behind the new watch?
We wanted to create a contemporary watch, strongly anchored in the Hermès all-terrain, “multi-vital” masculine universe. It was a desire to express our values, to embody them. This timepiece embodies the Hermès take on “contemporary masculinity”. It is adaptable. We adorn urban, travelling men who go everywhere. They are involved in the heat of the action, while also seeking comfort and ease.
The Hermès H08 is a sports-inspired watch made for traveling. However, it is not a prowess-driven watch intended for feats such as climbing peaks or scuba diving. This version is a 39mm case which can also be interesting for women. We have not planned a specific version for women on the Hermès H08.
Has the pandemic played any role in the way it is designed?
We do not create and design according to the situation. We create objects that are not fashion totems. Our objects are shaped by the hands of artisans to make them true companions for those who wear them, conveying daily emotion to our customers. We like our objects to have rigorous and unique designs, uncompromised technique and quality, and also be practical and functional objects whether we work on gentlemen or ladies’ watches.
This is the first time Hermès worked with graphene for a composite for the case.
It had to be a beautiful object in which the materials, shapes and lines would give life to a unique expression of Hermès watchmaking. We wanted a robust, geometric, assertive and sensual object. There was also a quest for lightness through the materials. The case middle of the new Hermès watch is made of resin mixed with a hardener, graphene powder (carbon extract) to form a strong and ultra-light composite. Graphene is the active part of carbon. Its fineness and rarity make it a unique material. It delivers the properties of carbon: lightness, strength, colour.
Despite the stunning offerings, Hermès is still not the No.1 choice for watch lovers. What are you doing to change this?
We are seeing a growing interest from customers, and watch collectors, thanks to launches featuring singular designs and unconventional interpretations of traditional watchmaking: In 2015, for example, with Slim d’Hermès, born from a stylistic exercise around the purity of design and expressing a move towards essentials with a minimalist style; in 2018, with Carré H, a square-shaped watch designed by Marc Berthier, featuring a contemporary aesthetic; with Arceau, which suspended time in 2011 and began playing with moon phases in 2019. This new men’s line is also unique. Inspired by sports, it is strongly rooted in the Hermès men’s universe as imagined by Véronique Nichanian (men’s artistic director). All-terrain without being performance-oriented, and eminently contemporary, it facilitates travelling light. It’s a loyal, “multi-vital” companion at all times, offering time for oneself in a hectic world.
How many watches do you own?
A few…. Right now I’m wearing the Hermès H08 graphene version with a lot of pleasure.