Founded in Paris in 1837, the Maison Hermès acquired its reputation for excellence in making horse harnesses, before broadening the scope of its expertise in the early 20th century, particularly through creating belts, apparel and bags.
The brand’s watchmaking tradition goes back to the 1920s, when its saddle-making talent was applied to making watch straps. In 1928, the first Hermès watches were presented. From that point on, Hermès began creating timepieces in cooperation with the greatest names in the Swiss watch industry, before the 1978 founding of the Ateliers de la Montre Hermès SA in Biel, Switzerland.
|Ateliers de la Montre Hermès SA, Biel, Switzerland|
In 2003, La Montre Hermès began developing its own haute horlogerie movements. In 2006, the Ateliers welcomed the Hermès leather strap production unit, thereby uniting the two main skills of La Montre Hermès. Together, they continue to give rise to rare watches testifying to the spirit of a House in which each object conveys a love of fine materials, the nobility of craftsmanship designed to last, and a taste for innovation.
- 1912: Marked the start of this longstanding history. A photo in the company archives shows Emile Hermès’ four daughters including Jacqueline, who is wearing on her wrist a pocket-watch for which her father had a special strap made by the in-house saddle-making and leather craftsmen.
- 1928: The historical Hermèsstore at 24, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris opened up to the field of watchmaking by offering the first timepieces bearing the Hermès signature, equipped at the time with mechanisms from the greatest Swiss watch brands.
- 1978: 50 years later, In 1978, the company set up the watchmaking division of La Montre Hermèsin Bienne (Brügg), at the very heart of the Swiss watch industry. Since them, it has developed its collections while progressively integrating horological skills.
- 2003: Since2003 with the launch of the Dressage watch equipped with a movement from the Manufacture Vaucher, La Montre Hermès has been actively involved in developing and producing its own movements.
- 2006: In 2006, it created a workshop specially dedicated to the making of leather watch bands, thus becoming the industry’s only brand to craft its own straps. The quest for excellence is the trademark of the Maison Hermès, particularly in the field of watchmaking where it has been enlisting the support of the finest artisans for the past century.
Special partnerships have been created and reinforced in recent years. In order to secure a long-term supply of essential components, La Montre Hermès made a financial commitment to two specialised companies, Vaucher Manufacturein Fleurier (for movements) and Joseph Erard SAin Le Noirmont (for cases), acquiring a shareholding in both. It also bought up the Natéberdial-making firm based in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The link between Hermès and watchmaking goes back over a century and has been expressed over the decades in countless different ingenious, elegant and unique ways.
Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier
The movement is the beating heart of the watch – a complex miniature “engine” composed of several hundred components that are machined and finished according to extremely demanding quality criteria, all of which are indispensable. Vaucher Manufacture is one of the rare Swiss manufacturers capable of mastering the conception, development and production of these “engines”.
The company has been established since 2003 under the name of Vaucher Manufacture, in Fleurier, Canton Neuchâtel. It is heir to a longstanding watchmaking history that began in the 18th century. Since 2009, it has been installed in an all-new industrial facility regrouped within a 6,700 square-meter building. This modern and functional setting enables it to manufacture around 18,000 mechanical calibres a year comprising five major product families: self-winding, hand-wound, ultra-thin, large power reserves, and horological complications such as chronographs, perpetual calendars and moon phases. It has 200-strong personnel mastering around 20 different professions in the field of watchmaking and micromechanical engineering.
The company, which is organised in such a way as to be able to meet the most diverse requests, has divided its production into two main flows. The first handles the production of socalled movements, while the second deals with personalised products that require a different development process for each client.
For La Montre Hermès, Vaucher Manufacture developed a mechanical self-winding base calibre that has given rise to two movements of different sizes: the H1837, which currently equips the Dressage watch; and the H1912, which drives the Arceau watch. These two movements are composed of 193 parts, beat at a cadence of 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations per hour) and derive their energy from a twin barrel ensuring a 50-hour power reserve. They will serve as a basis for future developments.
The majority stake in Vaucher Manufacture is held by the Sandoz Family Foundation. In 2006, La Montre Hermès invested 25 million Swiss francs in acquiring 25% of the company’s share capital.
Natéber, La Chaux-de-Fonds
If the movement is the heart and soul of the watch, the dial can be said to express this inner nature, as Natéber has been ably demonstrating since 1972. The company located in La Chauxde-Fonds has relocated several times in order to be able to develop and increase its production capacities. Since 2006, it has been installed in its current 1,700 square-meter premises.
From the raw material to the finished part, no less than 60 different operations are involved in the process of making a “simple” dial. In the workshop of a dial-making craftsman, industrial logic is not the primary consideration: each new model requires new technical solutions putting in place – an approach that demands a blend of versatility and adaptability from the staff members involved.
A dial-maker is a ‘Jack of all trades’; a kind of alchemist who must know the properties and secrets of a broad range of materials including brass, gold, aluminium, carbon fibre, mother of-pearl and sometimes also enamel, wood and precious stones.
The making of a dial begins in the mechanical workshop, which develops the necessary tools, the swages and the specific supports. Each part travels a long journey from the first to the last stage, not to mention various to-and-fro steps along with different testing procedures. It visits at least seven other workshops: assembly, polishing, finishing, galvanic plating, varnishing, transferring as well as a last one that has no particular name at Natéber. It is indeed in this “nameless workshop” that various artisans set the diamonds, prepare the mother-of-pearl, facet certain parts and perform a number of small manual operations that cannot be done elsewhere, but that will make all the difference to the finished product.
Natéber currently employs over 60 staff. In April 2012, La Montre Hermès acquired the firm’s entire share capital.
Joseph Erard SA, Le Noirmont
Case: This essential part of a watch exterior must be robust and shock-resistant, since its role is to shelter and protect the movement, as well as expressing the aesthetic design of the watch. Joseph Erard, a family business based in Le Noirmont, has been making watch cases since 1880.
In 2009, the company moved into a modern and spacious 2,000 square-meter premises that currently houses a 80-strong staff and a fleet of machinery in the vanguard of technology. This recent construction has been entirely designed in accordance with the demands of sustainable development.
Making a case is first and foremost the art of working with noble metals: steel, gold and titanium, and even such rare materials as tantalum and palladium. Then comes the work of the engineers, who transform ideas into production plans. It also calls for a mastery of this production that may involve different routes – meaning machining or stamping/swaging depending on the object. The latter path is for example taken by the case of the Cape Cod, which features a distinctive curve and rounded shapes that imply several different passages beneath the merciless hammer of a huge swaging press. These operations are interspersed with regular firings in the kiln so as to let down or slacken the material.
Finally, the various parts of the case thus produced need to be finished before being ready to house the watch movement. This involves a number of treatments including drilling, welding or cementing, cleaning and polishing, along with final quality control and water-resistance tests. In March 2013, the longstanding cooperation between the two firms was further consolidated when La Montre Hermès acquired a 65% controlling stake in the share capital of Joseph Erard SA.
Website : https://www.hermes.com/us/en/