Laurent Dordet has been with Hermès since 1995 and has worked within many of the luxury firm’s executive offices. He was most recently general manager of the Hermès leather goods division prior to assuming the top spot at La Montre Hermès in 2015, replacing Luc Perramond, who held the position for the previous six years. International Watch spoke with Dordet earlier this year about his vision for the future of Hermès watchmaking.
Can you tell us about the development of the new Hermès Carré H?
About fifteen years ago, Hermès creative director Pierre-Alexis Dumas and Marc Berthier, who is a designer but not a watch designer, wanted to create a watch. In 2010 we debuted the result, the first Carré H, which was a limited edition in titanium. At that time it did not include our own movement but instead used a movement by Girard-Perregaux.
Two years ago we thought we needed a very identifiable new watch, and because so many people love that edition we decided to contact Marc again to develop a new version of that watch to place into our collection.
This time we worked with Vaucher using all of our own components, and we are quite happy with the results. For Marc Berthier, shape has always been a game, and here it’s a round shape included in square. Square is an emblematic shape for Hermès, and we are not referencing any trend.
Given its early adoption of the double strap, is Montre Hermès a trendsetter?
It would be a bit arrogant to say that we are a trendsetter, but I can say we do try to follow our own path. We have our own vision of style and elegance. We certainly don’t want to follow general trends. We are now a genuine Swiss watchmaker, more so than many brands, and we employ 300 people in Switzerland alone.
We are a French creator, and our creativity is a combination of many métiers (arts and crafts expertise). We are happy if we present our own trends and our customers follow that. We don’t care if other brands follow us or not.
We started our watches in Switzerland forty years ago, and at that time we subcontracted within Switzerland. We started back then with relatively simple watches, steel with quartz movements. Now that we have been an integrated manufacturer for the past ten years, we have kept those simple watches but have extended all of our ranges toward automatic mechanical and complicated watches for men, as well as jewelry and precious stone watches, with mechanical movements too, for women. We focus on only the highest quality for all of these.
Do you seek new collaborations with watchmakers as you have in the past?
We have several projects in the works. One with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and some with other technical and creative geniuses.
How would you characterize Hermès watches since you started as Managing Director?
We have not had any drastic change in our strategy. What we have built up over the years we continue. We upgrade our collections with know-how and quality on one side and creativity on the other. This has not changed. We have become a higher end watchmaker.
I have changed two things however. One is our retailer mindset. Our wholesale is over, and we now think ‘sell-out’ not ‘sell-in.’ That was the first mindset revolution I wanted to implement.
The second one is really to be clear on our priority between masculine and feminine watches. Our business priority is feminine watches, which is why we revamped all of our core collections, especially Cape Cod, Arceau and Heure H, which have been our worldwide pillars since we began. For women we want to have Hermès as one of the watch brands every woman dreams of when waking up in the morning.
For our masculine collections, we are newer in this segment, and each year we come out with two, three or four nice novelties with complications.
Is Hermès cautious about gray market sales of its watches?
We are one of the few brands that never focuses only on sell-out rather than sell-in. As a result, eighty-five percent of our distribution is made only within our own stores. We still have fifteen percent external retailers selling Hermès, and most of them are playing by the rules. But some of them don’t play by the rules, not respecting our lines. That’s why we chase after them– and why we close many of them each year.
Vasken Chokarian is the director of iW Middle East.