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Hermès takes time by surprise

Hermès takes time by surprise

Wednesday, 02 April 2014
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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3 min read

The Parisian firm introduces a new timepiece to its Le Temps de l’Imaginaire collection. After the Grandes Heures and Le Temps Suspendu, make way for the Dressage L’heure masquée and its playful perception of time.

Beyond any philosophical consideration, time at Hermès is personal. We all have our own conception of an environment that dictates biological rhythms to tempos which are invariably unique to each individual. Such is the thinking behind Le Temps de l’Imaginaire, a collection of watches which beautifully convey time’s poetic licence. The collection made its debut in 2008 with the Cape Cod Grandes Heures whose hour hand travels the dial at variable speeds.

Depending on the time of day, hours are counted adagio when devoted to pleasure and relaxation, or accelerando when the pace of life steps up and work must come first. Hour markers are unevenly spaced to correspond to this unique measuring of time. That Hermès should take such an unconventional approach to complications from its very first timepiece came as no surprise. Initially driven by an ETA base calibre hosting an additional module by the now defunct BNB Concept, a new version followed a few years later. Completely revisited and thinner, its module is the work of Dubois Dépraz.

Dressage L’heure masquée (Photo: Calitho)
Playful and poetic

Buoyed by such a promising start, in 2011 Hermès presented Le Temps Suspendu, a horological incarnation of Alphonse de Lamartine’s verses in The Lake (translated by Wilfrid Thorley): “Stay thou thy flight, O Time! and happy hours / Trail by with laggard feet! / Let all the savour of your delight be ours / Of all our days most sweet!”. Thanks to a novel triple retrograde mechanism developed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, founder of Agenhor, at the press of a button, hour and minute hands come to a halt on each side of midday to indicate an improbable time, while the date hand disappears beneath the dial. A second press, and date and time return, no matter how long they had remained hidden, whether a minute, a day or an eternity…

With these first two timepieces under its belt, Hermès comes to this year’s Baselworld with Dressage L’heure masquée, another delightful allegory of time. “The mischievous hour hand remains hidden beneath the constantly moving minute hand, solely deigning to appear at a deliberate press on a crown-integrated pushbutton,” says Hermès. This same pressure also reveals a second time zone concealed behind a cover in a window at 6 o’clock. When the pushbutton is released, the hour hand and second time zone disappear again, and time regains its air of mystery. The ingenious interaction of rack, pinion and gear trains behind this complication forms a patented module within the self-winding H1925 movement, this time the work of Vaucher Manufacture. “At Hermès, our starting point is that time is a friend,” commented Luc Perramond, CEO of La Montre Hermès, when speaking to Worldtempus at Baselworld 2014. “L’heure masquée is all about innovation and singularity. Innovation because this watchmaking module was created from scratch. Singularity because this is about playing with time, interacting with the display of its steady flow. I think that we are currently the only ones to show time in this way.” Who indeed would expect Hermès to come up with a perpetual calendar? It far prefers a poetic vision of time. And who are we to disagree?

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