Introducing The Exquisite Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

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by Elizabeth Doerr
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I have said it before, and I will say it again, this time even more strongly: the timepieces that La Montre Hermès now creates are top-of-the-line, aesthetically coherent, and mechanically interesting highly wearable watches.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu
Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

And this statement is now true in two watch categories: ultra-high-end, complicated haute horlogerie and daily wearer.

For the first time in its long history of retailing wristwatches, Hermès has entered a era of steadily producing beautiful, exceptionally crafted timepieces. I would pinpoint the beginning of this era as having begun with the Time Suspended model released in 2011.

Since that launch, Hermès has consistently demonstrated its unique ability to not only create engaging designs that allude to the brand’s long history, but also to create timepieces that appeal to the seasoned enthusiast who may be disinclined to take the brand seriously enough because of its ancestry as a “fashion brand.”

Rest assured, those days are over. Hermès now makes very serious watches.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)
Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)

Slim d’Hermès

At Baselworld 2015, the La Montre Hermès team, now under the direction of Laurent Dordet, introduced a new staple collection called Slim d’Hermès (see Introducing Slim d’Hermès: The Elegant New Backbone Of The Hermès Collection). This line was intended to be one for everyday wear wristwatches, an unpretentious companion exuding good taste and a special charm.

“As always, when I’m designing new pieces, it is really important to respect the DNA of the brand not to have a piece that is too ostentatious in the end,” Philippe Delhotal, artistic and creative director for La Montre Hermès, explained.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu
Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

And once again, Delhotal struck just the right balance in creating a timepiece displaying both its value and its roots, but retaining the understated look that an Hermès customer desires.

And even though Slim d’Hermès models are meant for everyday wear, they are by no means ordinary. Delhotal looked to create objects exuding aesthetic purity, elementary sobriety, balance, timelessness, and an elegance translatable to a multitude of case sizes, colors, and complication compositions.

View through the display back of the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu
View through the display back of the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

View through the display back of the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

The unique look of the ultra-thin Slim d’Hermès is largely achieved by the unique font — a typography so original you will never see it elsewhere. The reason is that Hermès decided to go the extra mile and hired a Parisian graphic designer to design a completely new font: Philippe Apeloig had already created graphical elements for the brand such as the visual identity of the Saut Hermès horse event. Apeloig was also the design consultant to the Louvre from 1997 through 2003, after which he became its art director until 2007.

A closer look at the enamel dial of the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu
A closer look at the enamel dial of the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

A closer look at the enamel dial of the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

Apeloig contributed a whole new typography for the numerals on the dials of the Slim d’Hermès, which is simple, elegant, and lively. The numerals also contain a tiny bit of white space, which adds an airy element and simultaneously gives the dial its own identity.

And, above all, this new font provides a sense of balance despite the large empty surfaces at times visible on the dial.

In other words: it’s simple and elegant, yet never uninteresting. Just like Hermés.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)
Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)

Enamel adds more than you’d think

The Slim d’Hermès collection became available in retail outlets as of October 2015. And at Baselworld 2016, Hermès returns to this beautiful line with a number of new variations. But for me, the biggest launch among these is indubitably the exquisite Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu.

When I heard that the dial was to be launched in the very pure white that Donzé Cadrans creates, I was doubtful that it would make all that much difference in comparison to the white lacquer dial of the original collection.

But I totally underestimated the effect that Donzé Cadrans’ amazing work has on a watch. Donzé Cadrans is the last enamel dial maker working in the traditional way — in other words, this small factory located in Le Locle creates dials the same way they were made 300 years ago.

Other dial makers have changed the process a bit to include modern concessions. But Donzé Cadrans has not done that, and the effect shows in the products.

Firing dials for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)
Firing dials for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)

Firing dials for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)

For fascinating information on how Donzé Cadrans, which was taken over by Ulysse Nardin in 2012, creates its enamel dials, please see Why Do Ulysse Nardin’s Dials Look So Good? Because Donzé Cadrans Authentically Fires Enamel.

To achieve the highly traditional art form, white enamel powder is dusted over a copper disk — the traditional metal used for enamel dial blanks because of its malleability and heat conductivity. It is fired in a kiln at a very high temperature of 830°C — hence the description “grand feu” (“high fire”); the powder actually catches fire before melting. The artisan repeats the process several times until the enameled surface is perfectly smooth and shiny.

The Slim d’Hermès numerals are added to the three-part dial by means of pad printing — which sees the artisan transferring the black enamel to the dial components using a silicone stamp (learn more about pad printing at Focus On Technology: Pad Printing).

Pad printing a dial for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)
Pad printing a dial for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)

Pad printing a dial for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)

The Hermès dial is made out of three separate parts that must be assembled to create the final three-part dial we see encased. “We manufacture each of them independently before gathering them into a set,” Claude-Eric Jan, production head of Donzé Cadrans, told The Watches TV.

“It takes 80 percent manual operations to create the appropriate angles that will ensure a perfect match of all the parts together. They are then welded together using tin. Once encased, the dial lasts forever; the white color will remain unchanged, while the color of lacquered dials will change slowly over time. A dial made out of enamel is like gold: timeless.”

Checking a dial for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)
Checking a dial for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)

Checking a dial for the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Sandro Campardo)

Just one of these enameled dials calls for a full eight hours’ worth of work.

But it is worth it: the result is a supreme balance of lively proportions on a very pure watch that makes the 4N pink gold case seem very light. And the difference to the standard lacquered dial is really astounding.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu
Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu

But perhaps most exciting is the contrast between the traditional manufacturing process of the dial and the ultra-modern typography of the numerals. Oh, so Hermès chic!

“This collection was born from encounters between our ‘maison,’ designers, and artisans,” Delhotal explains. “The singular blend of contemporary and classic elegance embodied in the Slim d’Hermès expresses the essence of Hermès. And enamel is an art form that is very much appreciated by collectors; this made our decision to do it easy.”

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)
Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu (photo courtesy Claude Joray)

For more information, please visit www.hermes.com.

Quick Facts
Case: 39.5 x 8.14 mm, 4N pink gold, transparent case back
Movement: automatic Caliber H1950, ultra-flat at 2.6 mm in height; micro rotor; 3 Hz balance; very fine finishing
Dial: white enamel, three-piece
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: €19,400 / 21,400 Swiss francs
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Originally published at Quill & Pad.