Hermès Carré H: The Perfect Square To Round Out A Hip Homme
When Hermès uses “H” in the name of its watches, we generally take it to be standing for “Hermès.”
And it is no doubt true that that’s exactly what the H does stand for. However, I think it could also stand for “homme” (man), or “horlogerie” (horology), or even in this case “habillement” (exterior). For it is the exterior of Hermès’ latest timepiece that is so fantastic: a perfect square, albeit one with rounded corners, a shape that is rarely used in serious watchmaking – and make no mistake, that’s what this is.
While it might seem natural for the observer to want to ascribe this new watch to the influence of today’s smartphones and even smartwatches, it has quite another form of inspiration: a watch by the same name that originally appeared in 2010 in a very limited edition.
The original Carré H of 2010
The original Carré H was a product of Parisian architect and designer Marc Berthier and Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of the house of Hermès, who began discussing the project in 2006.
“A few years ago Jean-Louis Dumas, then at the head of Hermès, asked me to think about ‘what an Hermès timepiece for a traveling dandy might look like’,” said Berthier in 2010 when the original Carré H was launched in a limited edition of 173 pieces (signifying the brand’s 173rd anniversary).
While today we are more used to seeing a shape similar to this thanks to the Apple Watch, in 2010 a squarish case wildly stood out.
When the Carré H was was originally launched, both the color and the bead-blasted titanium material were new for Hermès. “Pierre-Alexis was looking for a new iconic shape at the time,” Berthier remembered. “The idea was to find a very pure, essential, minimalist way of expression. The only requirement was to put the seconds in a subsidiary dial.”
Marc Berthier: architect and designer
Visiting Berthier’s “workshop” is like walking into another world, one that both disturbs us and puts us at ease. The nondescript building in Paris holds a large apartment that serves not only as Berthier’s office but also his home. And it is chock full of items that he has designed over the course of his 60-year career.
Perhaps most famous for designing the Tykho radio, he is behind the appearance of a multitude of furniture, lamps, and machines used by millions of people on a daily basis. His creations are on display at Moma and have won a variety of Red Dot awards.
The 2017 Carré H
“It was an unusual and challenging watch,” the 82-year-old Berthier laughed before going on to express how successful the original 2010 version was for both him and Hermès.
Despite its unexpected character, La Montre Hermès creative director Philippe Delhotal had thought many times over the years about re-issuing this watch, which he found a pity to only have been released in an edition of 173 pieces in its original titanium case.
So now the extraordinary design returns in a refreshed state and a slightly bigger stainless steel case – and most of all in an unlimited edition. “This is a fully Hermès watch for men,” Berthier said. “I discovered after asking myself ‘Who is the Hermès man?’ that he is casual and sporty.”
And like many watches that are comfortable to wear and just possibly a tad on the unisex side, the Carré H’s stainless steel case possesses a counter curve on the back that makes it easy on the wrist, even a small one. It fits very comfortably despite being slightly bigger at 38 x 38 mm than the original (which was 36.5 x 36.5 mm).
Berthier explained that this watch was basically born of a love of pure geometry. “Its harmony and symmetry is perfect despite it having been so hard to find the right balance,” the architect remembered of working to fit a circle inside the square to achieve the complicated, layered dial.
“The idea was to focus on minimalist expression,” said Berthier while demonstrating that its design allows instant legibility – it is a design that is dynamic, giving the charcoal gray or black dial an instrument-like character, which is partially found in the sweep seconds that were chosen to replace the original subsidiary dial. This sweep second hand is available in two colors – red or yellow – depending on whether the black or charcoal-colored dial is chosen.
The dial has more of a compass style now with distinguished cardinal points, which plays extremely well with the exclusive font. Its mirror effect matches the polished-and-bead-blasted stainless steel of the case, both of which play with light in a very expressive way.
Hermès Caliber H1912
The original Carré H was powered by a Girard-Perregaux Caliber 3200 movement. But now Hermès is in the fortunate position of having its own manufacture movements.
Caliber H1912 was introduced in 2012, 100 years after young Jaqueline Hermès inadvertently created the brand’s first wristwatch (see The First Wristwatches From Breguet, Hermès And Patek Philippe Were Made . . . For Women), a timepiece her farther called the porte-oignon.
Hermès owns 25 percent of movement maker Vaucher, and the modern caliber made in Vaucher’s factory is exclusive to the brand – essentially making it a manufacture caliber. Comprising 193 components, the movement measuring 23.3 x 3.7 mm is finely finished and embellished with Hermès’ signature H pattern.
The Carré H comes on a sumptuous Hermès strap, in a choice of natural-color or black Barenia leather.
For more information, please visit www.hermes.com/us/en/watches/men.
Quick Facts Hermès Carré H
Case: 38 x 38 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Hermès Manufacture H1912, 4 Hz/28,800 frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds