Hermès Created a Shape for Its New Women’s Watch


It was shape that drove the development of the Cut, the women’s wristwatch recently introduced by Hermès.

“The transformation and the creation of the shape was really the starting point for me,” said Philippe Delhotal, director of creation at Hermès Horloger. “We didn’t want to go back to an icon of the maison — the stirrup-shape lugs for Arceau or something obvious with the anchor chain link on the Cape Cod.

“We really wanted to have something special and singular with its own personality.”

So Hermès created a shape all its own by taking four slivers off the sides of a round case, and then emphasized the result by polishing the bevels.

“We have this ambiguity between a circle — which is really perfect geometrically — and what is round,” Mr. Delhotal said. “When you ask a child to draw a round shape, it will also be very naïve and approximative and intuitive. It’s really this balance between the precision of the circle and this round shape, which is a bit intuitive with the cut edges.”

The 36-millimeter timepiece, which took three years to create, is the initial model in what Hermès intends as a new collection. It debuted at Watches and Wonders Geneva in four versions: stainless steel or a mix of steel and rose gold, both of which can be purchased with or without diamonds (from $6,725 to $21,900, and available in stores worldwide and online).

In recent years the French luxury house, founded in 1837 as a harness maker, has been developing its watch division, including the purchase of the dial maker Natéber in 2012 and the case manufacturer Joseph Érard in 2013. Its women’s timepieces include the dainty Faubourg, which debuted in 2014, and the Galop d’Hermès, created with the designer Ini Archibong and introduced in 2019.

Mr. Delhotal said the Cut, powered by the in-house mechanical H1912 movement, fills a segment that was missing from the line: a sporty steel watch for women with a mechanical movement.

However, he added, the watch was not designed as a high-performance sports model. (As he said in 2021, “Sport at Hermès is not about sweating.”)

It is more to complement a sporty lifestyle, Mr. Delhotal said — the kind of watch that could be worn to work, picking up the kids, then sailing and, later, out for cocktails. “It was really important for us to create one object that will be comfortable, easy to wear and adapted to any kind of moment,” he said.

That emphasis is underscored by the watch’s lack of a leather strap. The timepiece comes with a metal link bracelet, but a patented easy-change system allows the wearer to exchange it for a rubber strap with a supple, satin-like finish (starting at $250, in eight color options).

Hermès’s latest foray into the luxury steel sports watch sector will be closely watched by the industry, which is starting to worry that what seemed like a never-ending demand for steel may be slowing.

The February report from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, for example, noted that the value of steel timepieces was down 10.6 percent year over year.

But Hermès’s sales have been strong. According to the annual Morgan Stanley report, released in February, the house has “dramatically outperformed” the Swiss watch industry overall: In 2023, its sales were up 13.8 percent, while the industry’s were up 7.7 percent.

Driving that growth was the 2021 introduction of the Hermès H08 men’s sports watch, a design available in several unusual materials, including a glass fiber composite.

Hermès’s 2023 annual report, published in February, called the H08 “a great success,” and noted that the brand’s total annual watch sales had been 611 million euros (about $663 million), an increase of 23 percent year over year.

Both the H08 and the Cut play with form — “The vocabulary of shape in the house leads a lot of our creations,” Mr. Delhotal said.

Describing the Cut in particular, he drew parallels with a pebble that water and sand had shaped into a special form over time. “There is a kind of complexity in its simplicity,” he said.

The concept also influenced some specific elements of the watch’s design, such as the crown being placed at 1:30 o’clock rather than the traditional 3 o’clock position. That way, he said, the crown “melted into the case” and “did not impose itself on the creation and the polished bevel on the side.”

Typography has become a kind of Hermès signature, so it came at the start of the creative process — unlike in the process at other houses, where the dial font may be an afterthought. “Typography really underlines a watch’s identity,” Mr. Delhotal said. If it’s not right, he added, that “can kill the design.”

“It’s a lot about proportion, balance, size,” he said. “It’s very subtle.”

On the dial of the Cut, for example, the zero in the number 10 copies the shape of the watch. But then many details on the dial mirror elements throughout the timepiece: The barely noticeable spiral pattern, called snailing, on the circular track that measures minutes matches the pattern on the movement’s mainplate, visible beneath the transparent caseback.

And the steel version of the watch has tiny orange accents on the dial and an orange H on the crown, both nods to Hermès’s signature color.

Watch experts say that such details make the house stand out among its competitors.

“Hermès is one of the most creative companies in the watchmaking space, with a lot of freedom that is given to the creative directors,” said Erwan Rambourg, global head of consumer and retail research at HSBC in New York.

He said the market should be receptive to the new watch, thanks to the good will and powerful brand equity that Hermès has cultivated.

“Their brand equity is so strong,” he said. “Beyond selling across generations, Hermès can also sell across verticals, with the premise that you’re not actually buying a product.

“You’re buying a story — and buying escapism.”



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