In addition to a long tradition of creating fine leatherwork _ amounting to an impressive 175 years, Hermes is also celebrating a century of watchmaking this year plus the reaching of a significant milestone _ the development of its very own mechanical movements for timepieces.
The new collection of Arceau watches features the H1912 calibre.
"Our roots in watchmaking are deeper than what I thought before assuming this position," said Luc Perramond, who has been CEO of La Montre Hermes since 2009. "We really have a true heritage, which is one of the ingredients for success in the watch industry."
An old photo taken in 1912 shows Jacqueline Hermes, (a great-granddaughter of the company's founder, Thierry Hermes) wearing a pocket watch strapped to her wrist with a leather band. The first Hermes wristwatch dates back to that very year.
"Hermes is not a newcomer in watchmaking and this part of our history needs to be communicated," Perramond said. "At first, in the 1920s, we applied our saddle-making talent to making leather straps and other leather elements for watches. Over the years, collaborations with leading manufacturers such as Movado, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin resulted in many collections of what are now historic timepieces.
Luc Perramond, CEO of La Montre Hermes.
"Today, we pay more attention to what's inside a watch and we want to develop our expertise in mechanical movements." Hermes has been designing and manufacturing its own mechanical calibres in partnership with Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier since 2003. Three years later the company acquired a stake in Swiss Manufacture to strengthen its mastery in the field, and earlier this year celebrated the launch of its first in-house mechanical movements.
"It took six years and a long and detailed process to develop the H1837 and H1912 calibres," Perramond revealed. "Along the way we were faced with challenges that even had us going back to the drawing board.
"We finally perfected these two basic movements and are now working on more of them with complicated functions such as the chronograph and the perpetual calendar."
The self-winding H1837 calibre drives the Dressage timepiece, which debuted in 2003. Hermes' new collection consists of the Simple Calendar and Small Second Dressage models that feature a retro-style, pillow-shaped case revealing a black or opaline silver dial with open-worked dauphine hands.
To mark the firm's 175th anniversary, a special edition of the Small Second Dressage has been brought out in a rose gold case with a dark grey dial and rose gold-plated hour markers.
"We chose the most elegant and prestigious designs to house the new movements. The Dressage model is a classic timepiece for men in the same way that the Arceau is for women," he said.
Both watches have an equestrian theme _ the name Dressage referring, of course, to the acrobatic routines that a highly trained horse is capable of, while Arceau was inspired by a detail on stirrups.
Launched in 1978, the Arceau can be recognised immediately by the absence of lugs on either side of the round case, which has been replaced by two asymmetrical, curving, stirrup-shaped attachments. The dial features sloping numerals and a stamped radiating motif centred around the second hand.
The new line of Arceau watches house a H1912 calibre, the latter name being a reference to the year in which the first Hermes wristwatch appeared. To celebrate the Hermes watchmaking centenary, a 100-piece limited edition timepiece has been produced. In a case set with 74 diamonds, it has a silvered and white, natural mother-of-pearl dial. The new collection also includes models in gemset steel, rose gold and gemset rose gold with a matt black, havana or blue alligator strap.
"We offer quality and craftsmanship in watchmaking, drawing on our proud heritage in the crafting of leather. Hermes is the only watch brand that makes its own straps," the CEO said. "In the past, our timepieces may have been perceived as fashion accessories like our handbags. And so it's been a challenge for me to transform our watches into sophisticated and prestigious timepieces and that process involves developing more of our own [mechanical] movements."
The H1837 calibre was named after the year in which Thierry Hermes, the firm’s founder, made his first leather harnesses.
The Dressage Small Second steel model for men.
The Dressage Simple Calendar comes in a retrostyle, pillow-shaped case.
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- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram