Guillaume De Seynes discusses the rich history of Hermès and how it will help to shape the brand’s future in watchmaking.
As Executive Vice-President of Hermès, Guillaume de Seynes has a huge job on his hands. The great-grandson of Émile Hermès and a member of the sixth generation of the Hermès family he knows the brand inside out.
Along with his cousins, he is one of the key decision makers in the business, responsible for ensuring the continuous development and sustaining the legacy of the Parisian brand within the watch metiér.
De Seynes is responsible for the Manufacturing Division and Equity Investments. When Hermès ventured into the world of watchmaking there were challenges. Originally a leather goods and luxury fashion brand, Hermès was an outsider who fought hard to earn recognition as one of the big players.
This year Hermès exhibited at SIHH for the second time, to introduce new novelties and continue the transmission of the legacy with the rest of the world.
We were lucky enough to meet with Guillaume de Seynes to discuss how he plans to advance the brand within the watchmaking industry and ensure its craftsmanship.
What is your impression of the fair so far?
It’s positive. This is the second time we have been in Geneva and we are in a prime location – nobody can miss us which is great! I discovered what we put in the main entrance and the fact that we have strong novelties – it’s very positive.
The concept of exhibitions nowadays is fading out – what’s your impression on this?
I think it’s still very relevant. We are more challenged in this business as it’s not our original industry. We are faced with strong competition from beautiful brands and historical names, and I think with the visibility and the amount of press we get from these events, for a brand like Hermès it is still very relevant. I plan to continue exhibiting here.
What are we seeing at this year’s SIHH presentation from Hermès?
We have two main novelties in two different categories. One is a beautiful ladies watch name Galop d’Hermès. It is very original, very Hermès and everybody can see that. It’s a collaboration with a new designer, a very talented man who has a background in designing furniture, and this piece is inspired by the stirrup shape.
Of course, this means it remains true to the roots of Hermès but it’s more than this, it’s a modern, contemporary and very elegant piece that’s very Hermès – even more so because of the details of the numbers. This is a quartz piece as most of our feminine watches are, and it comes in stainless steel, steel with diamonds, pink gold and pink gold with diamonds.
We have had a very good response. I think the role of Hermès in the watch industry is to come with a strong idea of creativity and the idea of proposing something different and very well made of a high quality, and with a freedom of creation.
What is the strategy that Hermès uses to stay ahead of the competition in such a challenging market?
Creativity! Of course the pillar of this company, beyond watches is quality and craftsmanship. This is how we started in 1837. But in order for craftsmanship to be attractive and contemporary, you need creativity and the relationship between the creator, the technicians and the quality experts to push the limits. It’s the same dialogue we have in leather and in silk. The creatives are always there to inspire something new and to surprise the customer and bring something different.
I watched a video of my uncle Jean-Louis Dumas recently and he said “a craftsman is in a circle because he can always replicate what he knows, and in order to ensure that this circle doesn’t turn into a vicious circle, you have to have the help of the creator and then the circle becomes a sphere.” I like this image and we are doing exactly that. Of course, all our main competitors started out as watchmakers and they are mostly focused on quality and production, the difference is that we have the Parisian style and the style of Hermès.
What do you think are the prerequisites to creating an object of desire?
Firstly freedom – because you can’t have an interesting creation if you are told: “We want a square watch for ladies that sells at 2,000 Euro.” You have to have the freedom to create. Secondly, coherence – because you need to have a creation that makes sense for you. And thirdly boldness – because if you just imitate what others are doing or what has been successful in the past, it’s not your own creation.
To what extent do you think overcommunication kills desire and exclusivity?
I think one key quality of this company is that we are storytellers. Even if we are active on Instagram and Facebook we still need to tell stories, as behind each product there is a story. Why do we talk about the creator of the watch and why do we make him meet the customer when other brands don’t do this? Because it comes from him. He has a story and we consider it our responsibility to share this.
What do you still aim to achieve that has not been done yet?
I think what we need to achieve is an agreement between watch enthusiasts that we are on par with the best brands. I think we are gaining this recognition from the professionals and the journalists but when it comes to the public, we are still not there yet. It takes time.
How challenging is it to carry on such a huge legacy and still remain relevant and speak to the people of the present and the future?
Our brand remains family operated and it is a pleasure to work together with my two cousins. It is a big responsibility to come after five generations who have done a fantastic job, so of course, you always need to look at the long term perspective of any decision you make, because you don’t want to disappoint and threaten what has been built. They have done such fantastic work. When you imagine it was our grandfather who first designed the Kelly bag, and the destiny of that object is beyond any expectation he could have had at that time. So it’s a responsibility, but at the same time we have such strong foundations that we have the possibility to go far.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Don’t take it too seriously.
What do you say ‘no’ to?
To anything that can compromise integrity – either my integrity or the integrity of the company.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Be more daring when you are young. I was a bit too wise in the sense of being too disciplined.
How would you describe Hermès in one word?
Respect. Because I think in what we try to do there is a lot of respect – respect of the craftsmanship, of our customers, of the past and respect of everybody involved in the company.
Complete the sentence: I’m happy when…
…I see beautiful new Hermès objects.
How would you like the world to remember you?
As an honest man.