New Hermès HO8: A Square Take On The Casual Sporty Watch
It isn’t likely to come as a surprise that many brands today are putting their own twist on the sporty spirit of modern watchmaking. However, it may come as a surprise that Hermès is joining the ranks.
It is important to note, though, that the Hermès H08 is not a reaction to today’s prevalent in the watch market currents. The H08 has taken three years of development and was originally planned to have launched in 2020, but then came COVID-19.
We saw Hermès’ first modern exploration of the sporty casual market segment in the Carré H of 2018, a so-called limited popup collection according to La Montre Hermès CEO Laurent Dordet. The Carré H was a slightly redesigned reboot of a watch that debuted in 2010.
I recently had the chance to enjoy a week with the three variations of the new Hermès H08 at home, which, while aimed at the men’s market, could easily be unisex.
This is Hermès’ third collection for hosting future complications – set to follow the same trajectory of functionality as the Slim d’Hermès of 2015 – and it makes a casual but elegant statement for the modern man with a contemporary yet timeless style.
“Our goal was not to make a deep-sea diver’s watch or one for climbing Mount Everest,” explained Philippe Delhotal, creative director of La Montre Hermès in a Zoom interview.
Delhotal’s goal was to make a watch that could as easily go swimming, jogging, and mountain biking as be worn with a suit jacket – and, stunningly, fit under the cuff in the spirit of Hermès’ prêt-á-porter fashion. Lightness, modernity, freedom, comfort, leisure, and elegance were the leading thoughts Hermès focused on.
This watch is not about sports performance or breaking records, but rather about participating comfortably in an active lifestyle.
Hermès HO8: sporty by design
Hermès has an uncanny flair for detail: every detail on every item I have ever handled has been meticulously thought through and of the highest quality. And so it is with the H08.
Like the Carré H, the base design of the H08 is a circle within a square, though here the square is much softer with flowing lines, angles, and curves merging into one.
The case’s shape is sensual though at the same time robust and ready for anything a regular day throws at it. It has a heft but is not overpowering.
And it’s worth noting that in an industry where 80 percent of all new timepieces are round, it’s not all that easy to forge a new dimension. These two shapes interact with each other to create a new feel.
The dial of the H08 is unique for Hermès, almost deconstructed on two levels – when you inspect it you can really see the individual parts it’s made of. The titanium base dial is coated in black gold, while the applied Arabic numerals are coated with a black nickel alloy and enhanced with Super-LumiNova for visibility at night. The same goes for the hands.
And there’s an unusual detail in plain view that isn’t easily noticed: the second hand is shorter than the minute and hour hands. On most watches, the second hand is the longest. This reverse length emphasizes the watch’s intended main functionality – reading the time – rather emphatically, relegating the seconds to a secondary position in importance.
The second hand has an orange arrow tip on one end that skirts the track and is balanced on the other side by a zero, playing off the unique shape of the “8” and providing the origin of the watch’s name (more on that below).
Additionally, the zero and the 8 echo the shape of the bezel.
As were have come to expect from Hermès, the typography of the H08 is original. “We create original fonts for each of our new lines, it’s a key element,” Delhotal explained. “Sometimes we work internally, and sometimes we engage outside designers like we did with the Slim d’Hermès. We pay a lot of attention to this and it’s an important, strong signature element.”
The date at 4:30, was slightly adjusted to make room to express the entirety of the numerals and not disturb the architecture and geometry of the shapes within the dial. The colors chosen for the date wheel and numerals also reflect this concept.
As a squarish watch with distinct geometry, the 39 x 39 mm size is perfect: that’s a goldilocks size for me. Delhotal explained that geometry is an important part of the Hermès vocabulary, as are lines and proportions. “It was challenging to find the right balance here,” he emphasized.
Stylistic consistency and making a graphic link between all components are also important to Delhotal – which explains why there are no visible screws holding the bezel or any other part to the case band. The H08 is designed to be sporty, but not too technical. It creates its own world, but one that you can easily enter and remain in all day and night without ever feeling uncomfortable or like you wandered too far from your comfort zone.
Design to the ideals of Véronique Nichanian
“The Hermès H08 watch is firmly embedded in the men’s universe of the house that Véronique Nichanian has been shaping,” reads the brand’s official press release on the H08. Nichanian, now at Hermès since 1988 (31 years!), is the artistic director in place the longest in the fashion world. Nichanian is known for making discreet, straightforward collections for men.
Nichanian’s creations, however expensive they may be, are also grounded in reality and reflect an honest point of view. She expresses her truth and is not interested in mass-market products. She also works with splashes of color – expressed here, for example, in the bright orange-tipped second hand of the H08.
While Nichanian had little to do with the actual design of this watch – it is entirely attributed to La Montre Hermès’ chief creator Philippe Delhotal and his team – it is her contributions to the Hermès men’s universe that inspired it.
And, as CEO Dordet explained, “We consider each and every one of our objects part of the entire Hermès universe. For this watch, Philippe wanted to have a close reflection from the beginning of the brief to the first drawings with Véronique – probably because Véronique always combines elegance, quality of materials, specific styles, and trendiness it was even more important for them. So this object is really part of a collaboration even though Philippe was the creator.”
How closely did Delhotal work with Nichanian? “It was more about brainstorming – finding the right balance and discussing the sporting spirit. We had many discussions together,” the designer revealed. “We had many doubts during the process, we questioned ourselves frequently, but at the end we arrived at what we really wanted to achieve – also together with Pierre-Alexis Dumas.” Dumas, a member of the Hermès family, is the artistic director for the whole company.
“It was about combining the Hermès men’s universe with the watch division, bringing the discrete elegance to the watch creation. I’m quite satisfied with the result.”
And while it may seem that Delhotal and Nichanian could have started to design from where the Carré H left off, Delhotal assured me they started from a blank page.
Considering recent public discussions within the watch industry, I’m not sure how much I am in tune with marketing a watch to a specific gender – in particular one like the H08 that is broadly unisex in size and feel – but I respect how Hermès fits this timepiece into its existing world of high-quality fashion.
Hermès HO8 case and strap materials
I love how Hermès is unafraid to experiment. Both in the past and today, the brand experiments with new concepts, original complications, and unusual viewpoints. In the H08, Hermès experiments with case and strap materials, which for the design team is part of the “resolutely masculine” theme.
The Hermès H08 comes in three variations, all fitted with screw-down crowns and water resistant to 100 meters. The most forward-thinking of them is the graphene-charged composite case with a polished and satin-finished ceramic bezel, which comes on a black rubber strap with titanium butterfly clasp.
You may remember the first use of graphene in a watch case from Richard Mille’s RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1. Graphene is basically a type of carbon made of a single layer of carbon atoms formed into a two-dimensional hexagonal lattice. But more importantly for watch cases, it is the strongest material ever tested.
Here graphene looks very cool in combination with the black ceramic bezel and makes the watch extremely comfortable and light to wear. “Indeed, our goal was to have something light and robust,” Delhotal confirmed. “Not to mention contrast.”
The second variation is crafted in black DLC-coated titanium and comes on a blue or black textile and black or orange rubber strap. The water-resistant woven polyamide textile strap veers a bit from the Hermès standard we have come to know – meaning there is no leather, Hermès’s signature element anywhere to be found. But the textile was developed to be tough yet offer impeccable standards of comfort. The styling is sporty and sophisticated at the same time.
An added bonus, the printed pattern on the rubber strap comes straight from the Hermès men’s ready-to-wear collections.
The rubber strap is very comfortable, but also appropriate for business casual. This watch can take you through your whole day, accompanying you from morning to night without missing a beat.
The third variation is natural titanium on a titanium bracelet. The design of this comfortable bracelet is very Hermès in that it is stylish and modern.
The two-tone titanium and DLC-coated titanium variation was the family favorite in my household thanks to the variation in finishes and contrast.
Looking closely, you’ll see that the lugs of the unusually shaped case are short, allowing both the strap and bracelet to appear integrated and furthering the goals of comfort as well as design.
While the dial is usually the “face” of any watch, I would argue that the dial and case together make the visuals so successful here. One would not exist as promisingly without the other to express the goals of the watch’s makers: to ring in a new era in which men can perhaps express a certain sensibility to design without worrying about risking any sense of masculinity.
Hermès HO8: the name
The name – Hermès H08 – is one that smacks of graphics, mathematics, and physics. Or perhaps it’s a secret agent. Its meaning is not immediately discernible.
Upon asking, I learned from Delhotal that it is like a dynamic code that comes right from the original font created for this watch, in particular the 0 and the 8 as shown on the dial, which echo the shape of the bezel. The eight is still a symbol for eternity/infinity, while the zero can symbolize emptiness, ready to be filled with your time – even though Delhotal explained that those were not the concepts influencing the watch. That is just interpretation on my part.
By now you may be wondering why I haven’t written even one word about the movement. That is because the Hermès calibers produced by Vaucher (which Hermès owns 25 percent of) are now of a standard that is of such a high quality they hardly need to be mentioned.
The H08 is powered by Caliber H1837, which is also used as the base movement of 2019’s breakout success Arceau L’Heure de la Lune. It was introduced in 2012 as a robust base movement following a long-term strategy at La Montre Hermès to slowly, carefully, and methodically improve quality and move things in house as far as possible. The number 1837 refers to the founding date of Hermès; the movement was introduced in 2012 in honor of the brand’s 175th anniversary.
The H08 is Hermès’ version of the everyday watch. A companion. But I suppose there is one question left: will the H08 ever see the addition of Hermès leather? “Never say never,” was Delhotal’s knowing reply.
Quick Facts Hermès H08
Case: 39 x 39 mm, graphene composite/ceramic bezel; natural titanium; black DLC-coated titanium with natural titanium, 100 meters water resistance
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1837 with twin spring barrels; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: €5,400 (titanium/titanium bracelet); €4,900 (titanium/rubber or textile strap); €5,100 (titanium with DLC-coated titanium); €8,000 (graphene composite/ceramic bezel)