Hermès stands apart in the watch world.
Not for esteemed French fashion house the idea of licensing its name to a third party manufacturer, to be sold in airport concessions and department stores like some other boldface fashion brands.
Nor is it forging into some cyber-future with a kaleidoscopic LED smartwatch complete with an animated face running its own version of Google’s OS software, as is absolutely on-brand for Louis Vuitton
Instead Hermès has ploughed a great deal of money into establishing its own haute horlogerie watch manufacturer. Since 1978, it has concentrated on producing mechanical watches intended to compete on the same stage as the Swiss greats.
It has done so using the DNA familiar from Hermès clothing and accessories – playful, chic, reassuringly French – and given us a portfolio of watches unlike any other.
The Heure H, with its face that’s a square inside a rectangle and its mirrored dial. The Carré H, a circle inside a square, its dial referencing a compass and a pendulum. The Cape Cod Grandes Heueres, its hours marked at irregular intervals, giving the impression time is accelerating or slowing down.
These efforts have not gone unnoticed. It has won multiple prizes at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the awards that all media is contractually obliged to refer to as ‘the Oscars of the watch world’.
In 2021 it launched the H08, a new collection of easy-wearing but elegant everyday watches, that came in three options: titanium, a black DLC-coated titanium model, and one with a graphene case. The H08 – the name represented Hermès’ eighth collection – was also distinguished by high-end finishing, custom off-beat typography and an unusual cushion-shaped case. It featured a mixture of straight lines and curves, as well as a mix of surface finishes. It was sporty. It was dressy. It was really a very nice watch.
According to Morgan Stanley last year Hermès watch division announced a rise in profits of 73 per cent, making it ‘the fastest-growing Swiss watch brand’ of all. Watches now represent the fastest-growing division within Hermès.
It launched a further H08 in a dark blue, PVD-treated titanium case topped off with a sunburst satin-brushed black ceramic bezel and screw-down crown – blue being traditionally a strong seller for men. In January it followed this with a version in a black DLC-treated titanium case back, and a rose gold case.
Now Hermès has doubled-down on the success of the H08, releasing four new versions in blue, green, yellow and orange. As per previous models the rubber straps match the coloured accents, second hand and chapter ring. The cushion-shaped case again measures 39mm x 39mm, and the watches are powered by Hermès own movement, the H1837, which comes with a 50-hour power reserve.
One the one hand, this is not Hermès busting out any bold new moves we’ve come to expect from a brand known for busting out bold new moves. On the other, it knows it has a hit on its hands. And as the wider men’s watch world embraces bold and adventurous colours across its dials and straps, you can hardly blame them for joining the party.