CEO OF LA MONTRE HERMÈS LAURENT DORDET DISCUSSES WITH A&E HIS PLANS FOR CEMENTING THE HOUSE’S POSITION IN THE MARKET AS A SOUGHT AFTER WATCHMAKER.
“I WANT A LADY TO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING DREAMING ABOUT A HERMÈS WATCH.”
Like any fashion house that decides to enter the realm of watch making, Hermès faces challenges when it comes to being taken seriously as a watchmaker. While the French Maison does have over forty years’ experience in women’s watch making, the men’s realm is a relatively new one for them. At the beginning of this year, for the first time, Hermès presented at SIHH. With the vision of becoming a powerhouse in watch making as well as fashion, being part of this prestigious event is a step in the right direction for them.
This year Hermès retuned with a new style of its Carré H timepiece. The square has been slightly enlarged and the brand has opted for light effects, playing across the steel case with its polished and microbead-blasted finishes, on the dial with its right-angled guilloché work, and on the facetted hands and numerals. This perfectly balanced use of light harmoniously accentuates the clarity of the design, the softened edges of the square, the curved profile of the case, and the cylindrical crystal. The exclusive font of the numerals – making use of the zero – contributes to the new aesthetic equilibrium of this watch.
The Arceau Casaque is inspired by the brand’s equestrian heritage, the dial represents an arena marked with hoof prints in the sand. Outlined against the background is the Cavale motif. The dial is crafted using champlevé, lacquer and transfer techniques. Hollows are first created in the dial base, then filled with lacquer. A matte tone-on-tone transferred chevron motif lends the final touch to this colourful composition.
The Arceau Pocket Mille ori is a luxury watch for men features a crystal dial the represents the pattern of alligator scales. The black colour, an alchemy of minerals whose composition is a closely-guarded secret, is mixed with incandescent crystal. Once drawn from the mouth of the pots in the furnace, the molten material is transformed into a crystal rod with the glass-maker’s breath. From the rod, a white-hot thread is pulled out, and then cut into sections. The resulting canes are then assembled to form the pattern. This unique creation is limited to just two pieces.
Presenting these watches and the new direction of the brand is CEO of La Montre Hermès Laurent Dordet. Laurent has worked with the Hermès fashion house since 1995, holding a number of roles within the company but most recently in the leather goods department. Dordet knows the Hermès brand better than anyone, but he is relatively new to the watchmaking business, so brings a fresh outlook to this growing sector. His close relationship to the Hermès Maison means he knows the vision and future of the company better than anyone.
Why did you decide to present at SIHH in early 2018?
We had to take a decision at the end of last year, as it was a year when we decided exactly the image and the special voice that Hermès wanted to assert within the industry. Of course it was just words and it has been fifteen years that Hermes has been making a tremendous effort to become a real manufacturer of watches. Last year at Basel World we asked the question – “Where are we now? And who are we now?” Hermès is first a Swiss watch maker after 15 years of investment. Then we are a watchmaker brimming with French creativity – and not only French creativity, Hermes creativity, which is different and shared by all aspects of our Maison. And then what we want to express is a state of mind, a relationship that is a qualitative time to take pleasure with. What we want to convey with our watches is of course quality, precision etc. but more than that, emotion, playfulness and fantasy through the communication and our designs. We think it is the time to close a page and open up a new page. The type of product we are doing now is much closer to the other products and brands we see each year at SIHH. So we feel more exclusive. It was not a negative decision to leave Baselworld, it was a positive move to join a new family. SIHH is a fair that is very open – to the public, to new and small watch makers, very innovative and very open minded to new functions.
What is your communication strategy to attract the non- Hermès clients or the watch connoisseurs?
First of all Hermès watches is not a brand, the brand is Hermès. We are part of a bigger brand, we are not a pure player. We have a specific media campaign for this. There is the corporate media campaign which is more fashion and lifestyle for all products, but there is a separate watch campaign that we launched two years ago. Not to promote the products but to talk about Hermès in a different way that is not fashion but more playful and highlighting the relationships we have with time. This campaign and the corporate campaign have one common goal which is to promote the Hermès brand and to drive customers to our stores. Once our customers are in our stores, it is the job of our retailers to sell the right product that fits the needs of the customer.
What are the challenges that you are facing today in the watch industry?
Well there are a lot of changes. I would say our challenge is to really emerge as a watchmaker. We are currently a small department within a large House whose awareness is more about bags and fashion and silk. So for us it’s a huge chance to be behind this big name and very desired brand, but my challenge is to motivate everybody and emerge as a key player in the industry. For this the product is key. As long as you get the right product, everybody is motivated. The product has to convey a story if we want to make people dream.
Do you think people still dream in this industry?
Oh yes. I was taking care of leather bags before. Of course people know Hermès for bags, but each time you convey something authentic related to the life of the product and what meaning and history it has, then the person feels it is not only a luxury product, it is a personalised product which has a mystery and a supplement of soul. So yes it’s very important for us to provide not only a product but a real story – not a marketing story but a real story.
There is a lot of diversity amongst your products – how challenging is it to convey one message which has the perfect equilibrium between maintaining loyal clients yet attracting the younger generation?
For all of our portfolio we have a wide range of products. The common point between all our products is firstly, no compromise on quality, and no compromise on creativity. But as long as we have those two legs, it’s not a problem for us to have products to accompany our customers who might be 20 years old or who might be 40 or 50 years old. We do this in our bag collections with very expensive and very affordable bags, and we do the same with watches. We are mainly focused on women’s watches and have been well known to customers for this for 40 years. Men’s watches is more a start-up for us and is a growing segment. Our goal is to offer a wide range of feminine watches from fashion accessory watches to high end jewellery watches, to accompany our customers from where they want to start to where they want to go.
What’s your vision and direction for Hermès watches?
I want to be one of the aspirational brands for feminine watches. I want a lady to wake up in the morning dreaming about an Hermès watch. Whether it’s a jewel or a more simple watch. And I want to emerge in the masculine industry. We have already done this as a legitimate player when the experts and our competitors judge us. The next step is to have the same legitimacy from our customers. When men are choosing a watch, even though they hear Hermès is now a watch manufacturer, Hermès for them is too associated with fashion, and that is why our sales are not at the level I wish to be. Which is normal because it’s a relatively recent story, and our challenge is to emerge.
To what extent do you think being made in Switzerland counts today?
One of the key values for Hermès is authenticity. And when we say made in France or made in Switzerland, it is made in France or made in Switzerland. We don’t play the game that a lot of brands are playing which is to be 60 per cent Swiss and say it is Swiss made. Which means that in fact a lot of the components are made in China or somewhere else, and they are then assembled in Switzerland. This is not our philosophy. This is why we are proud to be Swiss made, or sometimes French made. It’s also homemade – because 95 per cent of what we do is done internally. So I like this authenticity. It has proven a real success for Hermès as people know that when we are telling them something we do what we say. For us that is really important. When one of our best assets is the trust our customers have in our brand, we have to honour the trust and be totally authentic.
In the digital world, to what extent do you think over visibility and over communication kills desire of a product?
One of our difficulties is that our competitors are communicating massively. Whereas Hermès is very discreet. Because our watches are only a small material within the big ensemble we are often even more discreet with our watches. We are part of the global game of Hermès so we have a certain budget to communicate – social media is within this. We digitalise a lot of our communication now. We have a new integrated site for Hermès. So our watches will be much better presented and our communication will benefit from this. Is it creating desire? If we want to target younger people we have to be there. We have to talk to the people where they are and that is where they are.
Which watch are you wearing now and why?
I’m actually wearing the slim d’ Hermès watch that we launched three years ago. Because I like it. First of all because I think it is very classic and very contemporary. Secondly because it means something to me – this is the first watch that was launched when I came to Hermès watches. At the time when we launched it was not following trends. The trends were for more show-off and sparkling watches, and this one was on the contrary very discreet. I think it’s visually very nice. At one point I decided to change the strap and commit to the blue one, and I think when you change the strap you change the watch.
If you want to sum up Hermès watches in one sentence what would it be?
A high end qualitative watch that is conveying a lot of fantasy and a lot of emotion to its customers because it has been done to bring pleasure to the people that were creating the watch, so we hope to bring the same pleasure to the customer.
What’s your personal motto?
I don’t have a motto! I think you cannot resume life with one motto so I‘m not addicted to that kind of habit.
Are you currently reading a book?
It is a book written by a French advocate explaining how he defends guilty people and why he has been doing the job for fifty years. It goes back to the 1950’s in France when they used to give out the death penalty. It’s a very interesting read.
If you were to invite the readers to come and discover the world of Hermès, what would you tell them?
I would say come and visit us because we have nothing to hide. If you want to understand us please visit us!