The watch designers: Marc Berthier and Philippe Delhotal on the Carré H
In 1996, Jean-Louis Dumas, then artistic director of Hermès, met with industrial designer Marc Berthier to discuss what an Hermès men’s watch might look like. They imagined ‘a watch for explorers, for heroes, for brave men and keen travellers’ and they settled on the idea of sports watches. The result of their vision, the Hermès Carré H, launched in 2010. This year, Hermès launched a second iteration of the Carré H. We ask Berthier and Philippe Delhotal, the current artistic director of La Montre Hermès, what’s changed?
W*: Why a new version of the Carré H?
Philippe Delhotal: The first Carré H in 2010 was a limited edition of just 173 pieces, so people asked us to present a new one. Our idea was to return to the original, but in a simplified version with a sportier touch.
W*: What new elements have you introduced?
Marc Berthier: The new Carré H has more references to watchmaking than the first. This one is more dynamic and we’ve played with references to measuring instruments, such as compasses and pendulums.
W*: Did working with a product designer – as opposed to a watch designer – inform the design process?
PD: This is not the first time we’ve worked with an expert in a field outside of traditional watch design. We see collaboration as bringing a fresh perspective to present something new and original.
W*: Did designing a watch add to new ways of thinking in other areas of design?
MB: Geometry represents the foundations of my work, so I really enjoyed applying my knowledge of geometry to a watch, which is a living object.
Carré H watch in stainless steel, with grey dial and Barénia calfskin brown strap, by Hermès
W*: How did you decide on the dial font?
MB: To enhance the aesthetic appeal and legibility, we returned to Arabic numerals. Thanks to their reflective effect and graphic geometry, we were able to achieve a coherent whole. The numerals font, exclusive to this watch, uses the number zero to contribute to the aesthetic balance of the design.
W*: Were there any compromises?
MB: Of course. Some had to do with the length of the hands and the position of the lugs, but none jeopardised the completion of the project. As designers, we have a sensorial and intuitive approach that is also reasoned and controlled. The complexity of the watch lies not in its horological complication, but rather than its overall perfection. §
As originally featured in Precious Index, our Watches & Jewellery supplement (see W*230)