Hermes always makes a big splash at BaselWorld, with perhaps the most important and striking booth on the first floor. However, the brand continues to be known more for its leather goods and scarves than for its fledgling watches business. But this year at Basel, Hermes impressed with two timepieces in particular. Both involved clever complications that Luc Perramond, chief executive officer of Hermes Watches, said were emblematic of the Hermes philosophy of time.
“The idea of these watches is to give our customers an experience of Hermes time,” Perramond told Mint. “Hermes time is dream time. Our philosophy of time is to make our customer see it as a friend and a resource, and not a constraint. It is to allow him to dream, to change it and stretch or squeeze time as he wants.”
Perramond spoke with enthusiasm and conviction. But it does sound like an esoteric concept and philosophy to turn into watches. That is until he walked us through two interesting watches.
Timeless classic: Hermes Watches chief executive Luc Perramond
The first was the Time Made To Measure watch from the Cape Cod Grand Heures range. First unveiled in 2008, Perramond showed us a couple of new pieces using an eccentric dial concept. While the watch looks like any other piece from Cape Cod range, the Time Made To Measure concept inserts an elliptical gear into the movement that makes the hand move with varying speeds across the dial, speeding at some points, and slowing down at the others. “Suppose you like a luxurious lunch between 12 and 2 each afternoon. There is one model that slows down the hands during this period giving you the illusion of much longer time to do what you like.” explained Perramond.
The model comes in multiple dial options and is a simple, but clever implementation of the idea of flexible time.
This year’s flagship model, the Arceau Le Temps Suspendu, takes this idea of bending time one step further. “Many people dream of stopping time,” Perramond explained, “and this watch lets you do just that.” The Le Temps Suspendu, or suspended time watch, is iteration on Hermes’ round-dialled Arceau collection. The elegantly designed watch, with signature Arceau tilted numerals, uses a triple retrograde mechanism to allow you to suspend time at any point with a press of a button at the 9 o’clock position. The hour and minute hands jump to the 12 o’clock position and the date indicator drops out of view.
Meanwhile, the watch constantly keeps time out of view inside the mechanics, later press the button again, and the watch immediately goes back to the right time and date at the very moment. “At first it is an elegant, simple watch,” said Perramond, “but then it has this interesting complication inside.”
The Time Made To Measure watch.
Perramond said that while watches account for only 5% of Hermes revenue, the division is among the fastest growing. The company is investing heavily in product, manufacture and communication. Timepieces such as the Suspended Time and Made To Measure, he said, are an indication of the brand’s commitment to making complicated mechanical watches of the highest quality.
The brand could have taken one of two routes, Perramond told Mint. One was to simply make standard watches emblazoned with the Hermes brand. And the brand does make and sell quartz watches for ladies and standard mechanicals for men. But the second route, that aspires to make exceptional timepieces, is what Hermes has chosen to take. “To reflect the Hermes brand, philosophy and commitment to quality, we need to make timepieces like this,” explained Perramond.
The two timepieces are complications with a certain high-concept behind them. There is a certain element of playfulness about them that makes the watches softer and less intimidating than the complications made by any other traditional brands. But, most of all, they make one look forward to future products from the Hermes stable and philosophy.