Designer watches are often seen by serious collectors as a bit contrived and always placing style over substance. But it should be remembered that every time-telling device contains some degree of design, and when it is lacking, and someone with aesthetic sensibilities has not been the one to pen the overall look, it can be painfully obvious.
No more is this true than in time-only watches, where it is not possible to hide behind the excuse of text having to be in a certain position, or spacing has to be a particular way due to the incorporation of one or more complications. When it comes to a time-only watch and there are only two or three hands, it is a chance for someone with a strong appreciation of proportions, finishing, and typography to have some fun.
There have been a few great examples of this in the past, including the Chanel J12, which was originally designed by Jacques Helleu; in recent times, the champion for taking designers outside the world of horology and giving them a blank canvas to work on has been Hermès.
The Slim d’Hermès was original launched in 2015, having been penned under the watchful eye of Philippe Delhotal, Creation and Development Director at La Montre Hermès. Delhotal’s time as creative director at Patek Philippe, with access to their expansive archives of important, historic, time-only watches, appears to have been a great resource on how to create a new generation of models for the sector, as the Slim d’Hermès is well-balanced in so many ways.
From its Goldilocks proportions at 39.5mm in diameter and 7.9 mm thickness, making it wearable for a wide range of wrist sizes, to its beautiful, well-considered and legible typography, thanks to designer Philippe Apeloig’s custom typeface, the watch was clearly designed by a team that wanted this to be a pleasure to wear, and a joy to read the time on.
While the Slim d’Hermès has previously been offered in a more conservative array of dial colours such assilvered, black and dark blue, this execution in titanium shows a bit more personality. With splashes of the signature Hermès orange in a few places, including the hour-markers at six and 12, the subsidiary seconds hand and the edge of the strap, combined with the grained crystal subsidiary seconds gives the watch a sense of joie de vivre that is so often lacking in the watch industry.
The treatment of the titanium case and crown is another example where extra effort has been applied. It would have been straightforward to simply polish the whole structure, or brush it, as has been done with the bezel; instead, it has been micro-blasted to give it a tactile and sporty feel, which also mitigates the effect of scratches. It’s a nice balance between an all-black PVD or DLC finish and something more formal such as the aforementioned polishing, making the Slim d’Hermès Titane wearable in a wide variety of circumstances, further increased by the overall lightness of the watch, thanks to the material choice.
The complex dial construction is another fine example of Hermès’ attention to detail. Made up of three components, it creates an illusion of depth that contradicts the actual thickness of the watch, and is achieved by using the main base with its circular ridges to the centre and the luminous applied to the numerals, the outer ring that creates the sandwich effect with its cutouts for the hour markers, and the grained crystal subsidiary seconds to create multiple layers.
The movement could, at a stretch of the term, be classified as in-house due to Hermès’ ownership stake in Vaucher, and the customisation with its repeating ‘H’ motif, but fortunately the term is avoided by the great maison. With its micro-rotor winding and attractive, if minimal, finishing, the calibre is an appealing choice, and suits the application well.
As the Slim d’Hermès is a product of a company that is best known for its leather goods it should come as no surprise that the strap is excellent. For a while, they have been a high water mark in the industry as supple and comfortable on the wrist, with many vintage watch collectors trying to game the system to get them for their own watches. The one fitted to the Titane is nicely suited to the piece, with its orange accents to the edges, grey stitching to match the dial and case colour, as well as a titanium buckle in the frequently imitated but never matched Hermès double bar style.
With a price point of 65,800 HKD at the time of publishing, it feels like remarkably good value for money given the titanium case and well-regarded movement, especially given the dearth of comparable watches at this price point. Overall, the Slim d’Hermès Titane is a great complement to the current model lineup, with a combination of material and colours that will inevitably make it an attractive offering for a younger, more casual client looking for a carefully considered, design-led time-only watch.