Hermès Slim 25mm, steel with diamonds, ultraviolet alligator strap, photo courtesy of Claude Joray Hermès Slim 25mm, steel with diamonds, ultraviolet alligator strap, photo courtesy of Claude Joray

Hermès and its unique approach to the expression of time Featured

An interview with Laurent Dordet, CEO of La Montre Hermès, who talks about the success of the Slim collection, and why a watch is not merely an accessory.

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31 May 2016

For Hermès Horloger, this year is all about the consolidation of the Slim collection launched in boutiques in September 2015. The new pieces feature variations in materials, with some sophisticated métiers d’art watches. We spoke to Laurent Dordet, CEO of La Montre Hermès, at Baselworld in March 2016, and our first question was about how the Slim collection, based on the in-house H1950 movement, and a revolutionary typeface, had been received on the market.

CEO Laurent Dordet

Laurent Dordet: The reaction to Slim was very positive, in all segments, both the 39 mm watches with manufacture movements and the quartz versions. I am talking about sell-out, not sell-in, therefore sales to the final customer. Over the first five months during which the watches have been available on the market, results have been good even though times are not so easy. That’s why we are continuing to develop the collection in depth. (In the photo below, Slim, 39.5mm case in rose gold, havana alligator strap, photo courtesy of Claude Joray)

Slim 39.5mm rose gold, havana alligator strap, photo courtesy of Claude Joray

LUXOS: Slim is very different from L’Heure Masquée that you presented in 2014. That watch expresses an ironic approach to time, with an hour hand that remains hidden and only appears when you press a pusher. Would you describe Slim as a change in your direction?
Laurent Dordet: They both reflect the same philosophy, we are expressing our vision of time, one of lightness, fantasy, humour and elegance. But this is not enough in itself, so we offer something else, something unique, the Hermès approach to time. It can be expressed through ironic complications like L’Heure Masquée – there will be more like this in the future – or with our own visual designs, or again, our own interpretation of complications such as the perpetual calendar, moon phase, a second time zone. Slim is very contemporary in its typography, light and elegant, counter-current to the trend of heavy, masculine watches. (In the photo below, Hermès Dressage L'Heure Masquée)

Hermès Dressage L'Heure Masquée

LUXOS: Your 32 and 25 mm watches are aimed at women and have quartz movements. What is your opinion regarding the continuing debate about the identity of mechanical and quartz watches, and between “real” watches and accessories?
Laurent Dordet: I totally disagree with the dichotomy between “real” watches and accessories. The segment of men’s watches is more technical and so privileges mechanical timepieces, and the effort that we have put in over the last five years has produced our men’s manufacture movement collection, with three beautiful calibres that we developed with Vaucher. This won us credibility on the part of bloggers, influencers, people who know what we are doing and who assess our work, and we didn’t win the GPHG award [the Oscars of the watchmaking industry] twice by chance! Considering feminine watches, what’s the point of describing them as accessories? We have always produced top quality watches, using the very finest materials, the best steel, sapphire glass, gold and straps. A quartz calibre is simpler than a mechanical movement, but it is still a watch, not an accessory. We have developed some mechanical manufacture movements for our women’s watches, because some women are sensitive to this kind of technical content. (In the photo below, Slim, 25mm steel case with diamonds, strap in ultraviolet alligator, photo courtesy of Claude Joray)

Slim, 25mm steel case with diamonds, strap in ultraviolet alligator, photo courtesy of Claude Joray

LUXOS: I suppose that using quartz movements enables you to widen your price range, and reach a younger section of the market?
Laurent Dordet: Quartz watches are very Hermès. In jewellery, we have gold necklaces with diamonds costing 2 million euro, and we have silver rings at 300 euros. As long as there is no compromise on style and quality, why be ashamed of that? It’s not our philosophy to be elitist. It’s our philosophy to make beautiful objects that bring emotion and style to our customers. If we can do that at a relatively reasonable price, we are happy and proud. In the same way, if we are able to sell something beautiful made using the rarest materials, we are equally happy. The same is true for watches, as long as there is no compromise on quality, materials, and style. Even for bags, there are some inexpensive bags, but there is no compromise on quality.

LUXOS: Do you think that one day, we will see watches with a sapphire caseback revealing a beautifully-finished quartz movement?
Laurent Dordet: There is still a perceived difference in the level of prestige attached to manufacture mechanical movements, third party mechanical movements and quartz movements, but in my opinion, every segment has its role, and it’s not a bad thing to be in several segments.

LUXOS: Could you tell us about your work with the Apple Watch?
Laurent Dordet: This was a partnership between Hermès and Apple, two companies linked by mutual respect. The objective for both brands was simply to make a more beautiful object. We contributed the strap, they contributed the watch. We were happy to be seen where we were not expected. It brought many young people to our stores, and they discovered that Hermès is innovative in fields outside its habitual area. Both companies are happy with the result. Hermès has always been attentive to the times, and we could not ignore the arrival of connected watches. (In the photo below, Apple Watch Hermès with Double Tour strap, photo courtesy of Apple)

Apple Watch Hermès with Double Tour strap, photo courtesy of Apple

LUXOS: Regarding boutiques, how important is sales staff training for you?
Laurent Dordet: It’s key. The level of expertise in the retail network should be at the same level as in production. If you don’t convey the message to your final customers, you’re wasting your time. So there are plenty of things to do, we are working on customer experience which often begins on line, and continues in store, with the right displays. We have to listen to the purchaser and his or her expectations, and the display has to reflect this.

LUXOS: What is your priority for the immediate future?
Laurent Dordet: Last year was very positive for men’s lines thanks to the Slim launch. We have to build on what we have achieved, and reinforce the creative effort in feminine lines, which after all is still our core business.

Read more at http://www.hermes.com/