At BaselWorld 2015 Hermès unveiled a brand new collection of watches under the banner of Slim d’Hermès. Both men and women were catered for but the really big news was the in-house, ultra-thin automatic movements packed into the 39.5mm models. Those watches immediately pegged our interest, so we were excited to receive the rose-gold Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm for review.
When Hermès unveiled the collection, it was spearheaded by the Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar (read our story here). We’re quite eager to strap that model to our wrist but until then, the time-only model is a very welcome alternative. Since it was first introduced, Hermès has continued to update the collection with hand-painted dials (story here), and has just announced that it will show off new models at BaselWorld 2016 (read that story here).
The collection is obviously a focus for the brand, and is being driven by Philippe Delholtal, Creative Director of La Montre Hermès. With this collection, Delholtal and Hermès wanted to create watches that were aesthetically pure and focused only on the essentials, so that they could be worn everyday by their owners. Have they succeeded? We certainly think so but before we get into the watch as a whole, lets start by looking at the in-house H1950 movement, which powers the time-only model, and serves as the base calibre in the perpetual calendar model.
The calibre H1950 is an in-house, ultra-thin movement that was developed specifically for the Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm watches. The movement offers 42-hours of power reserve, and is made for the brand by Swiss-based Vaucher Manufacture, a company that Hermès has a stake in. We know there are purist out there who’ll throw up their hands and say that isn’t what they consider in-house, but that’s perhaps being a bit too pedantic.
Hermès tells us that the movement took four years to develop, which meant that Vaucher began work on this project back in 2011. To fit the dainty proportions of the Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm models, the movement itself had to be ultra-thin, and Vaucher certainly delivered on that mandate.
The movement has a diametre of 30mm, and measures a scant 2.6mm thick (perhaps height is a better word for something as thin as this?). The incredible thing is that this is an automatic movement, and given that the watch – as a whole – was meant to be a slim model, a full-sized rotor would perhaps add too much height.
To get around this, Vaucher turned to a micro-rotor and, as you can see from the picture, the company has integrated the free-spinning weight neatly into the calibre. On this time-only model, where – as we said earlier – the calibre measures 2.6mm in height, the micro-rotor itself measures a minuscule 1.53mm in height.
The movement features hand-chamfered bridges, and speaking of which, did you notice the ‘H’ decorations on the bridges? Hermès doesn’t actually have a name for this, they just say it is ‘Special Hermès decoration’, and we quite like it. We’re used to seeing Geneva stripes and the sort on bridges, so this is a refreshing departure from the norm.
Since the movement is so slim, its individual components are thin, and this obviously includes the bridges that you can see. Because they are thin and therefore delicate, Vaucher had to actually bring a laser engraving technique in-house, to ensure that the bridges were properly finished to a high standard.
The case and dial
At present the time-only 39.5mm models in the Slim d’Hermès men’s collection are offered in steel or rose-gold. The model we received featured a rose-gold case, a matt havana (chocolate brown) alligator strap, and a silvered opaline dial. The dial is standard on both 39.5mm time-only models.
Visually, the watch comes together as one cohesive and beautifully elegant piece. The dial is ultra-clean with minimal text and there’s a few different levels to it. The first is the chapter ring (marked with the hour indexes) closest to the bezel, the next is the second central disc, which has the markings for the minutes on its circumference, and at the six o’clock position, you find the small seconds subdial.
For the hour indications, Hermès has used an interesting font that was created by graphics designer Philippe Apeloig. Apeloig says he designed the markers like geometrical shapes, and each number is drawn in a single stroke. He further says that, just as rest accentuates the melody in a musical score, the lines are sometimes interrupted, representing silent areas in the design that depict the cadence of time.
The Arabic numerals are unique, and give the watch a distinctive look. 4N-gilded Baton hands are present (on our rose-gold model), and distinguishing between the hour and minutes hands isn’t a challenge, as the minute hand is noticeably longer. Overall, the dial is supremely legible but because Hermès has opted against using lume, you’re going to have to rely on your phone for the time, when there’s insufficient light.
The watch case has classic proportions and the angled lugs, which we’ve not seen on other Hermès timepieces, puts us in mind of the wire-style lugs seen on certain vintage wristwatches.
Wearing the Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm
On the wrist, the Slim d’Hermès is handsome. It wears and feels its size, and considering its elegant and classic looks, it’s almost a full fledged dress watch. We say almost because classic dress watches would be slightly smaller, in terms of diametre, than the 39.5mm Slim d’Hermès. That said, we consider this a dress watch for younger men because the size is more in line with the tastes of younger people (at least at present).
On a day-to-day basis, the Slim d’Hermès was very comfortable to wear throughout the day. The strap, which is also made by Hermès, is thin and flexible, and working with the angled lugs, the watch sits beautifully on the wrist. As a result of its dainty proportions and almost non-existent weight (we’re used to 42mm chronographs), we sometimes forgot we even had the watch on our wrist – thankfully we aren’t too animated, so our sample wasn’t forcefully introduced to anything that could cause it harm.
When we were showing off the watch to friends and colleagues, a lot of them assumed the watch was using a quartz movement. Of course these assumptions were dashed when we showed them the movement, but when we asked why they thought it was a quartz, almost everyone said it was because of how slim it was. A few even pointed out that it did not have the ‘automatic’ text on the dial. Fair enough in terms of point two but we wonder how many people might be missing out on tasteful, elegant pieces like this, because of a preconceived notion that slim watches aren’t mechanical watches?
Hermès is keen on these timepieces being everyday watches and we reckon they could be but we’d like to offer some suggestions in that respect. Our sample, with its rose-gold case and brown leather strap, is perhaps a bit too dressy for us for everyday use – we tend to wear polo neck shirts and trousers or jeans, so in our case, the stainless steel Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm model would be a better fit.
If, however, your everyday attire consists of either a long sleeve shirt or a suit, we reckon this rose-gold model is perfect everyday wear. On the other hand, if you have a taste for more complicated watches or you want to make more of a statement, you could opt for the rose-gold only perpetual calendar model.
To buy or not to buy…
In stainless steel with a matt black alligator strap, the watch carries a retail price of approximately USD $8,700, whereas our rose-gold model with a matt havana alligator strap costs about $19,500. We’re off the opinion that Hermès has done a fantastic job with the Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm. It’s a watch that we enjoyed wearing, and one that we think is reasonably priced, when considered alongside similar watches – let us explain here because we know a few of you will be thinking ‘Hang on, I can get into a Lange or Vacheron dress watch for that money!’.
For about $20,000 you can certainly purchase dress watches from A. Lange & Söhne (Saxonia), Patek Philippe (Calatrava) and Vacheron Constantin (Patrimony). Those brands are well respected in watch circles, so if you want a beautifully crafted dress dress watch from a dedicated watch brand, those watches may be more to your taste. The Slim d’Hermès’ trump card however is that for your cash, you’re getting a thin, automatic dress-watch with a micro-rotor.
With the watch brands mentioned above, you’ll have to make do with a traditional, manual winding movement. Don’t get us wrong however – those are great, impeccably finished movements but the ultra-thin H1950 calibre is a far more interesting proposition for someone that knows and cares about what is sitting inside the case. If you also consider the overall aesthetics of the Hermès timepiece, and add in the fact that you can buy this piece in stainless steel, we reckon the Slim d’Hermès 39.5mm is a fantastic proposition for anyone in the market for an everyday watch.
To learn more about Hermès, click here.
Our thanks to Sandra and Sara at Schneider PR for providing HME with the Slim d’Hermès for review.