The Creative Director of Hermès Horloger reflects on how the Maison plays with the notion of time through its watch designs, notably the Hermès H08, showcased in this year’s Crafting Time exhibition.
Canvas: You designed the Hermès H08, which is presented in this year’s Crafting Time and has been described as bold, contemporary and innovative. How would you say it resonates with the current times?
Phillipe Delhotal: We created the Hermès H08 to embed it within the masculine universe of Hermès. As a ready-to-wear watch, we wanted it to be comfortable and with a very urban and casual character that evokes the sense of a big metropolis. We wanted the colours to be vibrant and to emphasize the shapes.
What are the design principles you apply to watches?
When it comes to designing a watch there are several questions you have to ask yourself, because a wide range of components comes into play. Is it a day watch or a night watch? Is it a sports watch? What is its message and what does it have to say? Who is going to be wearing it? The process is like preparing a meal – you put all the ingredients together and then start cooking.
How do you bring together aesthetics and function in your designs?
The two go hand-in-hand. When you create a watch, you cannot think of one without the other. For example, the Arceau Le Temps Suspendu introduced a new perception of time. This is what sets Hermès apart from the competition. Let’s take the example of our meeting today. We’re very happy to be here, and we’ve taken the time out for it. When you push the button at 9 o’clock, the time is removed from the display. Time doesn’t exist anymore – you literally eliminated it. However, the movement is still keeping time, so after we’ve enjoyed our discussion, you can push the button again and time comes back.
The H08 design also takes cues from the classic Hermès aesthetic. How did you ensure that it remained timeless?
This is a difficult question to answer, as only time will tell whether or not that will be the case with the Hermès H08. However, at Hermès, every object we create has an singular shape because it tells a story. The shape serves as a kind of vocabulary that we use to convey a message. The design of the Hermès H08 is particularly focused on its shape, which is a circle within a square.
As with other Hermès designs, the logo on the H08 uses original typography. How was this developed?
In our designs, there’s always a link between typography and form. The zero on the Hermès H08 is like an echo of its circular shape. Our designs are never created randomly. That’s why crafting a new piece takes time – a lot of consideration goes into giving it a certain identity.
How did you work with the scenography team and the sculptor Clément Vieille to bring the scenography to life?
The theme of the scenography this year is the finesse of time. Clément has taken the dragonfly as a starting point for his sculptures, which really evoke that ethereal movement. The Slim d’Hermès, which is featured in the exhibition, aligns perfectly with the theme because it was first created to be very minimalistic, elegant and refined, in terms of both form and typography. The Hermès H08 was also conceived to give that impression of lightness, particularly through the material. The watch is intended to embody the lightness of time itself.
How does the H08 engage in conversation with the other pieces in the exhibition?
The Hermès H08 is, of course, an unconventional watch. It stands out among the other pieces, in which the métiers d’art involve more jewels and very specific craftsmanship. The watch has a different personality, but it has still found its place within this beautiful collection.
Tell us more about the craftsmanship behind the métiers d’art pieces.
The design of every watch begins with a drawing, which acts as a set of guidelines to execute the aesthetics of the piece. Once the drawing is finalised, the next step is the development of the aesthetic solution through the use of different materials. For the Arceau Petite Lune, one of the classic designs on display, diamonds and mother-of-pearl were chosen.
What does the concept of time mean to you, and how do you incorporate this into your designs?
Time is omnipresent in each and every Hermès object. We express a unique perception of time through our designs, such as the Arceau Temps Voyageur and the Arceau L’heure de la lune. Time is often considered as a constraint, but we don’t perceive it as such, because if you want to create something beautiful and unique, you have to take your time.