Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

Laurent Dordet, CEO of Hermès Horloger, Talks about the Impressive Growth of a Discreet Giant of the Industry

Without making useless noise, Hermès’ watch division is becoming one of the industry’s heavyweights.

| By Xavier Markl | 7 min read |
Hermès H08 Chronograph Monopusher

Hermès, a French powerhouse of everything luxury that is still mostly owned by the direct descendants of the founder (the Hermès dynasty and the Dumas family), is in a class of its own. The same goes when it comes to the Group’s watch division, Hermès Horloger. A discreet giant of the watch industry, Hermès has maintained an impressive growth trajectory over the past years. With over EUR 600 million in sales in 2023, up 23% at constant rates, Hermès is once again outperforming the industry… and now ranking close to the top 10 largest Swiss watch brands (according to Morgan Stanley’s estimates). The release of the Group’s 2023 results was the perfect opportunity to interview Laurent Dordet, CEO of Hermès Horloger.

Laurent Dordet, CEO of Hermès Horloger – Image: David Marchon

Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – At EUR 611 million (and up 23.2% at constant rates), Hermès watches are delivering pretty impressive results, clearly outperforming the market. Which have been the drivers of this growth? 

Laurent Dordet, CEO Hermes Horloger – Hermès watchmaking has indeed performed very well for the past four years. In 2023, our métier has confirmed a nice performance, with a growth of 23% compared to 2022, based on singular creativity and exceptional watchmaking expertise, both for complication models (e.g. Arceau Le temps Voyageur) and for the house’s iconic designs, such as Cape Cod. The Hermès H08 line, which welcomed several new models recently, has been a great success.

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We follow our path and our long-term strategic vision, keeping at the core the Human, the crafts, the creativity, and the quality of all products we create. We can only achieve such figures by remaining faithful to our values and our origins.

What makes Hermès Watches stand apart?

Hermès watches offer a different interpretation of time: time is not a constraint and doesn’t necessarily need to be measured. Instead, time is full of fanciful touches, that go beyond style; time is a friend telling stories and stirring emotions. We often say that at Hermès we do things seriously without taking us too seriously.

This singular interpretation, which runs counter to the industry trend, is supported by our watch models, such as the Arceau L’heure de la lune or, more recently, Arceau Le temps Voyageur.

Watchmaking is a competitive industry with many players. We worked a lot on our legitimacy and singularity, they have been reinforced globally in our Hermès watch collections. Since the establishment of La Montre Hermès in Switzerland in 1978, we never stopped developing our craftsmanship internally and we have been happy to be 100% Swiss Made since many years, with our components produced in-house. Every year we come up with new specific designs with a recognizable style imbued with Hermès DNA, offering new materials and new shapes.

The Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur

Hermès is a house of creation where the 16 métiers are laden with liberty and boldness, inspiring customers’ dreams. With their unique stylistic expression, our collections all share the same aesthetics of function and embody a quest for excellence in terms of quality and ethics. Philippe Delhotal (editor’s note: check our video interview with him here), our Creative Director, has a lot of freedom while creating. Here at Hermès, technique is at the service of creation, meaning that no compromise will be made on the design. This is how we can offer our singular complications to our customers as well as demanding métier d’art pieces with playful and colourful drawings.

We do have a singular approach to time; our wish is to share emotions with our customers and to bring something they won’t find anywhere else.

Hermès embodies the pinnacle of Parisian chic; your watch operations are managed from Switzerland. How does this impact your creative process?

When Jean-Louis Dumas decided to create the watch métier in 1978, he chose to settle down in Switzerland, close to the craftsmen and craftsmanship, in the birthplace of watchmaking. At that time, he asked his teams two things: the first one was to be at the same level of quality as the best-established players of the industry, questing for excellence. The second one was to be as different as possible in terms of styles, shapes and designs.

Over the past 20 years, we have established ourselves as a true watch manufacturer with integrated craftsmanship by acquiring historical partners for cases and dials and by acquiring a 25% stake in Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier, which has enabled us to launch our manufacture movements.

Hermès Arceau Petite Lune

From a creative perspective, Philippe Delhotal and his team are based in Switzerland, as close as possible to production for better agility. He is also in constant contact with the other artistic directors of Hermès under the responsibility of Pierre-Alexis Dumas. The watchmaking journey for Hermès has always been dreamlike, challenging, and full of fantasy. The freedom to create, the constant quest for beautiful materials, and the transmission of exceptional craftsmanship – which enable the creation of useful, and elegant objects which stand the test of time – forge the uniqueness of our Maison. Our watchmaking is Swiss made imbued with French style.

The launch of the Hermes H08 collection was an important step 3 years ago. What is the role of the model in your collection? 

We nurture great ambitions for the Hermès H08 line. As part of the strategic reinforcement of our men’s range, these new models are all equipped with a manufacture movement. First and foremost, H08 is about style, a singular creation strongly rooted in the Hermès men’s universe as imagined by Véronique Nichanian and Philippe Delhotal. 

The house likes to play with proportions, shapes, volumes, and mixes of materials. Geometry is part of Hermès’ formal vocabulary. This sporty spirit watch with versatile wear has become a strong collection of our offer. Each year since 2021, we have been adding new expressions and innovative materials to this line.

Watches and Wonders Geneva 2024 is fast approaching. What is the importance of such a platform for Hermès and for the industry in general?  

Watches and Wonders Geneva is a significant moment for the whole industry. This is a good opportunity to gather the international press, partners, clients, and people from the profession. For Hermès, it is a key moment which allows us to propose an immersive scenography each year created with a different artist accomplice to express the Hermès Time. It is a perfect setting to highlight our creations and crafts and to share our watchmaking philosophy. 

Hermes H08 Black and Gold 059581WW00

On the production side, over the years, Hermès Watches has developed its operations, internalized several métiers and sealed important partnerships. What have been the main steps of this evolution?

Hermès began its integration strategy in 2006 with the purchase of a 25% stake in Vaucher Manufacturer Fleurier (movements). That same year, the leather workshop was inaugurated in La Montre Hermès S.A. site in Brügg, joining the assembly workshop previously established in 1978.

Since then, Hermès Horloger has acquired two historical partners, Natéber (dials) and Joseph Erard (cases), in 2012 and 2013, respectively, to create Les Ateliers d’Hermès Horloger in 2017 in Le Noirmont.

Today, Hermès Horloger is a fully-fledged watch manufacturer with all skills mastered in-house and 100% Swiss production while remaining faithful to the strong values of the company and its authenticity.

What are your main challenges?

Hermès watchmaking is a dynamic métier. As a house of creation, we are committed to maintaining this momentum by continuing to design new models and revitalizing our existing collections. This richness of creativity is essential and an integral part of our ambitions for the watch métier.

On a more personal note. Which watch are you wearing most lately?

I love wearing my Hermès H08 made of braided and aluminized glass fibre, charged with slate power and green touches. I particularly like the comfort and ergonomics of this case and rubber strap, and its style.

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