In an industry of well kept secrets, it is still obvious to all that the demand for high-end mechanical watches has convinced most influential fashion houses to invest heavily in their own watchmaking divisions. But only few have been able to transition as seamlessly as Hermès. Set up in 1978, La Montre Hermès has impressed, combining French chic with Swiss precision through its manufacture in Brügg, Switzerland.
This year, watch journalists flooded the Hermès booth to discover the brand’s latest collection, and they were delighted to discover the expertly executed Slim d’Hermès and the Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar, two watches that show how far the brand has come in terms of developing in-house movements.
But those brave enough to venture inside the Hermès booth, designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, would discover the brand has also added delicate craftsmanship and artistic flair to its line-up with two limited edition enamel watches showcasing the Japanese Art of Aka-e. Also known as “red-painting,” this technique, developed with Buzan Fukushima, a 70 year-old Japanese master, uses different shades of red and ocher, as well as decorative gold, which is then fired up to three times to hold the motif. While Japanese artistry is not new territory for watchmakers, Hermès is the first brand to combine French porcelain with Japanese art.
According to the brand, Japanese porcelain was at one point being considered, but the brittle ceramic proved too fragile for the three firing operations that hold the motif together. Instead, La Montre Hermès turned towards the savoir-faire of the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres a 300 year-old Parisian atelier, for the base of Buzan Fukushima’s creations.
Presented in a white gold case, each watch portrays very different scenes underneath the hour and minute hands. The Slim d’Hermès Koma Kurabe depicts an early representation of the Kamigamo Shrine Japanese horse races, organized once a year in Kyoto since 678 AD. Meanwhile, the Slim d’Hermès La Femme Aux Semelles De Vent draws from a more familiar design, borrowed from Aline Honor, who introduced the motif on a silk Hermès carré back in 2009.
Both pieces are built around caliber H1950, the company’s new in-house ultra-thin movement. Visible through a sapphire caseback, this self-winding movement measuring only 2.6 mm has a power reserve of 42 hours and is beautifully decorated with a sprinkling of H symbols, while the bridges are hand-beveled in keeping with watchmaking traditions.
Building on the success of its watchmaking division, Hermès continues to enchant us by introducing the Japanese art of Aka-e in a watch built on Swiss precision. The Slim d’Hermès Koma Kurabe and the Slim d’Hermès La Femme Aux Semelles De Vent are both limited to a numbered production run of 12 models.