“After 100 years of Hermès watchmaking, we are taking a big step this year with the first Hermès Manufactured in-house caliber,” says Luc Perramond, CEO of Hermès. The movement, Caliber H1837, was five years in the development process with Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier movement maker, of which Hermès is a 25 percent owner (along with Sandoz).
The new caliber, named in honor of the year of the brand’s creation, offers fifty hours of power reserve and features double barrels, equipping with the power it needs to add on small complications in the future. The automatic caliber has been adapted so as to offer either a central seconds hand and date at 6 o’clock or a small sub-seconds hand, also at 6 o’clock. The 193-part caliber features an oscillating weight adorned with the special Hermès H decoration and beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour.
“This is the beginning of a new family for the manufacture that underscores our watchmaking expertise,” says Perramond, who explains that the watch was developed three years ago, but the brand was not happy with certain things when they saw the prototype.
“So we went back to the drawing board and made a lot of changes. The pursuit of excellence takes time; quality standards at Hermès are very high. We are Hermès after all, so what we create has to be the best; it has our label on it. This movement is the springboard for more complications to come.”
The caliber is housed in the Hermès Dressage case, which celebrates Hermès’ rich heritage as a saddler and leather goods maker. Dressage was first created by Henri d’Origny, and was modernized in 2003. The tonneau-shaped case features an inner round dial – giving it an unusual and curved demeanor. The perfectly ergonomic design of the case, and the curved, extended lugs reflect a long-standing tradition at Hermès for comfort in sporty or dressy use. The dial features original Arabic numerals at 9, 12 and 3, inspired by the early Hermès watchmaking.
Created in stainless steel or in gold, Dressage makes its debut with ten models. The watches are offered with either a large central seconds hand or date in the Simple Calendar model, or a small seconds hand in the Small Second watch. Dial choices include black or opaline silver.
There is also a special limited edition piece in rose gold with a matte graphite dial made in 175 pieces (for the 175th anniversary). Naturally these editions boast padded and saddle- stitched leather straps of Havana alligator, as leather is the heritage and forte of Hermès. In fact, since 2006, the brand has had a factory in Biel that is dedicated to making leather straps, and is the only brand that can create such straps in house from start to finish. There is also the option of a steel bracelet on the steel models.
The 40.5mm cased watch features a sapphire crystal and case back and is water resistant to fifty meters. Dressage is a fine addition to the already strong Hermès timepiece lineup that includes Cape Cod, Clipper, H and Arceau.
Meanwhile in Paris
Also to celebrate its 175 years of heritage and 100 years of watchmaking know how, Hermès has also opened a superb historical museum in its flagship store in Paris. The museum is an eclectic mix of saddlery, timepieces, and travel related objects from around the world, as collected by Emile Hermès, grandson of the founder of Hermès.
Emile actually started collecting at age twelve. He had an inspiration for things with innovation and function—such as a men’s walking cane that cleverly hides a silk umbrella for shading one’s companion on a sunny day. In fact, this artifact inspired Hermès to create a similar dandy stick.
Among other important items in the museum is the original drawing from 1923 of a horse-drawn carriage that served as the inspiration of the Hermès logo. Emile also appreciated a balance between shape and function and so travel cases with hidden boxes and treasures represent a strong portion of the collection in the museum – which is not open to the public, but rather to designers and creators who are looking for inspiration.
Additionally, Hermès has on display upstairs in its Paris boutique a number of significant timepieces from the early 1900s through the 1940s, when the brand was moving into a host of different realms with watches.
In 1912, Hermès created a watch for Emile Hermès’s young daughter, Jacqueline. It was a “porte-oignon” or pocket watch held to the wrist in a leather holder. The leather comes from the company’s workshops and is the brand’s first wristwatch. It deftly brings together the brand’s equestrian past (the watch could be worn while riding), its leather expertise, and its avant-garde foresight for the highly technical porthole design.
Other intriguing pieces on display include a pocket watch in a leather holder from 1912 for soldiers, the brand’s first leather clock (1935), a watch with interchangeable bracelet (1930) that was the inspiration for an updated interchangeable watch collection unveiled in 1972, a golfing watch, a 1930 belt buckle watch and several tiny table clocks.
“All of the pieces offer great inspiration and help us move forward to the future without denying our rich past,” says Perramond.