One thing of which I am sure is this. In the next five years, what the world’s most established watch brands will realize is that their greatest competition will not come from small independent brands, but from the world’s most established luxury houses. And when you say the word “luxury”, the one brand that your mind instantly conjures up, is the French maison, Hermès.
In fact, such is the power of Hermès that it would be woefully insufficient to say that Hermès is one of the greatest luxury players on the planet. The truth is that Hermès, more than any other brand regardless of genre — more than Rolls-Royce, more than Dom Pérignon and more than Baccarat — defines the essential values of luxury as we know them.
Amusingly, when I asked the maison’s creative director and descendant of the brand’s founding family, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, what Hermès’ secret was, he simply said, “We make necessary objects.” While this may sound like some kind of Zen deflection, if you think about it, it cuts to the essential quality of Hermès objects that makes them unique. While the majority of luxury objects on earth begin to diminish with each wearing — the sheen of their fabric becomes less resplendent, their polished facades become marred with scratches — it is the Hermès object that becomes more beautiful the more it comes in contact with its owner.
As the years pass and as the Hermès product becomes endowed with that most glorious of qualities known as “patina”, which is a unique pattern of wear that results from the interaction between owner and object that can never be reproduced or replicated, you realize that an inseparable emotional bridge has formed between human being and object.
It is precisely this understanding of how things should look, not when they are new, but when they’ve been worn innumerable times, or even passed from one generation to the next, that is on the mind of La Montre Hermès’ CEO, Luc Perramond.
The first thing I ask him upon seeing him at BaselWorld is, “How is an Hermès watch a necessary product?” He replies, “An Hermès watch is an essential product because you develop a special relationship with it. There is an element of trust because if it is from Hermès, you know it will last and it will function well and it can always be repaired. Emile Hermès said that a luxury object is something you can repair. This is luxury because it means that object can endure forever. How do you achieve this? You use the best craftsmen and the best materials for everything you make. This is the same for our watches. You will be able to pass them on to the next generation. They will stay with you all your life and become a part of you. This is how our watches are necessary or essential.”