It’s the Birkin bag–in watch form

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HERMES Arceau Time Suspended, which won best men’s watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in 2011

If you’re a company that’s not traditionally known for the product you’re pushing, do you proclaim you’re just as good—even better—than other brands well-known for that product line?

La Montre Hermes, the watchmaking division of the revered French leather goods house, isn’t interested in such haughty claims, according to the managing director of its business in the region.

“We don’t want to position anything. We don’t want to be measured against anybody. We don’t want to be compared to anything else,” said Daniel Talens at the recent media launch of Hermes Arceau Le Temps Suspendu (Time Suspended) in Greenbelt 4, near the Hermes boutique.

 

Three fundamentals

Time Suspended won best men’s watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in 2011.

“In Hermes,” Talens added, “we have three very basic things: quality, craftsmanship and design. It’s up to the consumer where he or she will position our watches. What’s clear is that you will never find the same level of quality, craftsmanship and design as an Hermes watch.”

While it is known for leather owing to its heritage as a saddle maker, Hermes has been making watches since 1912. The ladies’ watches have particularly been quite popular. But it was only in recent years that it has been pitted against other prestigious watchmakers as it introduced its complication watches.

Apart from the award-winning Time Suspended, there’s also Cape Cod Grand Hours, and the new line of men’s Dressage watches with all in-house-made movements, unveiled at Basel World 2012.

A new women’s watch under the Arceau collection also sports all in-house-made movements. All the watches’ names are horse-related, in a nod to the company’s history.

Stepping stone

The new Dressage is the company’s “stepping stone to more exclusive, complicated movements,” said Jerome Souman, general manager of La Montre Hermes Southeast Asia.

Owing to its entry into the complication watch business, Hermes watch’s market is also shifting from a predominantly female one. “That’s no longer the case,” Talens said. “Since 2011, we’ve been selling 50-50.”

And because many women have been drawn to larger-size watches designed for men, Souman said Asian women have also been buying their complication watches.

“Women understand all about craftsmanship, that the manufactured movements are made by hand, just like the Birkin bag,” Souman said.

Time Suspended bagged the prestigious Geneva prize for its unique concept of taming time and stopping it on its tracks: push a button and time goes on a standstill, for those instances when you want to savor the moment. Underneath the dial, the watch mechanism continues to turn, such that another touch of a button and the dial would show the current actual time.

Grand Hours, meanwhile, comes in three dial choices, where you can choose which hours of the day move virtually faster or slower.

Unprecedented success

Time Suspended has been an unprecedented success, according to Talens, as they have had a wait list for the rose-gold version in Asia, a situation that, unlike the iconic Birkin bag, has never happened to an Hermes watch before.

JEROME Souman, general manager of La Montre Hermes Southeast Asia, and Daniel Talens,managing director of LaMontre Hermes Pacific

“We knew we came up with something special. It’s incredible that the critics’ [opinion corresponded] with the consumers’ reaction.”

Even as it has gone on to create its own in-house movements, the pride of every respectable watchmaker, La Montre Hermes understands that to lure customers, it’s all about the looks.

“The most important in a watch is aesthetics,” said Talens. “If you don’t like what it looks like, no matter how complicated the movement, you won’t buy it.”

The company is also making an effort not to be intimidating in its marketing tack.

“If you’re not a connoisseur, I will not tell you about the 250 parts of the watch that are amazing,” Talens said. “I’ll just tell you the philosophy behind so you can enjoy it. Ninety-nine point 99 percent of people who buy a watch don’t care about the movement, even though that’s the core of it… Aesthetics and brand [awareness] are the most important drivers for anyone to buy a watch. We adapt to the customer.”

Market share growth

In the last three years since his posting in the region, Talens said La Montre Hermes’ market share has grown five times. He expressed delight in the brand’s business in the Philippines, which launched only last year and where it has four points of sale: the Hermes boutique in Greenbelt 4, Resorts World Manila, and Rustan’s Silver Vault in Makati and Mandaluyong. It’s run and distributed by Luxury Concepts Inc.

“We never follow trends, we create trends,” Talens said. “We will create trends and open the industry to new ways of doing watches. If you measure time, why would you stop it? Why would you suspend it? Because we don’t think the same way as others. We don’t want to be the best watch, we don’t want to be the best in leather, we just want to have the best level of quality, craftsmanship and design, and then people can define it the way they want.”

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