Today, while touring the leather workshop at La Montre Hermès watch manufacture near Neuchatel, Switzerland, I learned why it takes two hours to make one leather strap the Hermès way.
After checking out the leather vault and witnessing the choosing, cutting and shaving of the leather (a one-hour process), I was led to a work bench and treated to a lesson on the intricacies of finishing a barenia leather strap (another one-hour process). This will be easy, I thought, as I watched the artisan do a couple of saddle stitches, an Hermès specialty, and then finish an edge in a series of procedures involving wax, dye, glue, sand paper, a hammer and a cutting instrument that looks like a mini scythe.
When I tried it, among the things I learned is that it is anything but easy. In attempting the saddle stitch I split the thread. Then I punched the remaining stitch holes far too big. I also learned how easy it can be for untrained hands to over-glue, over-buffer and overheat the seam on an artisanal strap. My work provoked a chuckle from the quality control lady stationed at the front of the workshop – it was not even close to Hermès standards.
When you look at an Hermès watch band, you can trust it was created with the same attention to perfection as that of a Birkin bag, and that nobody like me will ever be hired there.