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The fantastical world of Hermes Time

Inspired by an Hermès silk scarf, the Grrrrr watch features the handpainted work of artist Alice Shirley

In approaching the concept of time, no one addresses the abstraction with as much inventiveness and imagination as the house Hermès. For them, time is an object. Rather than being limited to its character — measuring, ordering and seeking to control it — they dare to explore another time. The pieces are designed to arouse emotion, to create space for spontaneity and recreation.

The presentation of their latest timepieces in Singapore was fashioned for viewers to discover time as though exploring a playground. At the lobby of the Takashimaya mall, a scenography display allowed guests to walk through various stretches of time. The presentations disconcerted you with monolithic windows where watches appeared and disappeared with pulsating light. Interactive screens operated on sensors, so that a person standing in front of it would see their shadows vanish into smoke. Other videos became stretched, split and duplicated like a kaleidoscope, bringing to life the idea that time can also be played with: fast forwarded, reversed, or spliced.

Inside the Hermès store, the London-based company Gandini Juggling pirouetted apples and danced to the rhythm of comic sketches. In their act, they, too, played with the concept of time: Can they catch all the apples before they fall, even when the pace is accelerated? Hermès loves to pose such questions, looking at time from a different direction, and in that moment, it even feels like we are free from it.

Hermès Horloger CEO Laurent Dordet says, “We wanted to express why we’re different in the field of watches. And we said what is different in our vision of time is our philosophy of time, our relationship with it. Because for Hermès, time has never been a constraint, because we use as much time as needed to manufacture our objects. And as a result, time has never been considered as stress, but as an opportunity to have fun.”

So with every watch, the functionality of the piece is there, yes; but they always manage to have more fun with it. Style, too, is a factor; but the goal is to be more liberated from constraints. And they are successful at doing exactly this. Every piece serves its duty, but the wearer is also endowed with the opportunity to view time as much more than a thing we chase.

“Our roots are in fantasy, lightness, poetry. It’s not about having the best chronograph or precision. This one, for example,” Dordet says, pointing to a blue slim d’Hermès watch, “was created five years ago on the Baselworld elevator. The designers were talking about time, rendezvous and the emotion before the rendezvous. And they decided to create a watch that emphasized the last hour before the rendezvous. And they designed it on a piece of paper, and we kept the paper and I can tell you it’s very close to this one.”

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The watch he is talking about is the L’Heure Impatiente (the impatient hour) — endowed with an Hermès complication that invites the person to look forward to an upcoming moment. In this piece, they cater to absolute human emotion, allowing one to set the counter of the watch to a designated time in which the eagerly awaited event will take place in the next 12 hours. A first date? A much-awaited vacation? The first episode of the new season of Stranger Things? An hour before it occurs, the mechanical hourglass is set in motion, and its progress can be seen on the dial. This sort of prolonged torture of heightened excitement and anticipation culminates in a note that rings out from the watch. The impatient hour: It’s humorous and lovely and deeply personal.

“We had a crazy idea,” says Dordet, “And why did we do that? Just because we had fun doing that.”

 

 

 

 

“Our designers are mixed with the designers from the stores, the tableware, the shoes... as long as someone is making something interesting in the company, our ideas are always expanding,” he continues. Which is probably why the Grrrrr watch design — with a gruff bear on the face of the dial —  originated from an Hermès silk scarf. The artist Alice Shirley brushes in detail the bear on the face of this watch, creating a miniature enamel painting. Each pigment is applied to the white gold base, and comes with a smooth burgundy alligator strap.

To showcase also the way in which Hermès nurtures the creative process in their work, the Cape Cod Shadow reflects this. In 1991, the brief to the designer Henri d’Origny, a longstanding creative partner of the Maison, was to create a square watch. His response was that it was sort of a boring request, so instead, he made the Cape Cod Shadow, disconcerting observers with its full-on shadow and all-black matte look. Not exactly a square watch — but boxy enough. Its design is bold and authoritative, but also elegant and profound, and totally free from convention. For 25 years, this piece has withstood the ebb and flow of horological times.

The most impressive quality of the Hermès watches is that they first designed with complete awareness of entering the playing field as a new contender, while still approaching the battleground with out-of-this-world ideas intrinsic to the brand. It’s always been an absolutely brilliant strategy, and totally enjoyable for the consumer. Every timepiece is riddled with thought, complexity, and humor. They have taken something mechanical and created pieces that have versifications of their own. So that, one could say, if a wearer does not “get” the underlying message of the piece, maybe they don’t really deserve to wear one. With Hermès time, it almost feels like the artistry of the watch is so precious, it requires a sincere and deep appreciation for the craft in order to own one. In this case, it feels like the watch chooses its wearer, and not the other way around.

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In the Philippines, Hermès is located at Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center, Makati.

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