Laurent Dordet, CEO of La Montre Hermès, summed up the new addition to the brand’s exquisite line of playful watches best when he recently said to me, “Above and beyond commercial aspects, it’s important for us to continue proving and legitimizing our territory. These daring and singular models enable us to stand out from the rest of the industry and to assert the values of the Maison Hermès.”
And what are those values, one may wonder?
I would probably answer playfulness, unexpectedness, imagination, creativity, and, yes, perhaps friendliness.
And when I look at the stunning L’Heure Impatiente, I see all of this.
In case you’ve come late to the party, it might be helpful to know that Hermès’s series of playful mechanical watches began with 2011’s Arceau Time Suspended (Le Temps Suspendu), a watch that went on to win the Men’s Watch award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie that year. And rightly so.
The next installment in the series came with 2014’s Dressage L’Heure Masquée (“Veiled Time”), a timepiece that allows the wearer to hide the time in two time zones.
Now, in 2017, we have the privilege of getting to know the L’Heure Impatiente, a timepiece placed squarely in the lovely Slim d’Hermès line and boasting an ingenious module by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor.
So what does the Hermès L’Heure Impatiente do?
“Hermès watchmaking offers a different interpretation of time: a time full of fanciful touches that goes well beyond style; a companionable, lasting, mischievous and recreational time. A time that provides an opportunity to tell a story and to stir emotions,” Dordet answers this rather cryptically.
Yes, it does all that. Unequivocally.
But it also provides a concrete function: one you never knew you needed to have until you saw this. It is a stellar and singular achievement within Hermès’s rigorous culture of craftsmanship and creativity.
And it once again proves that Hermès puts its creative effort into creating completely new complications rather than rehashing what already exists.
The premise of L’Heure Impatiente bases upon very a human emotion and ritual: the loathsome feeling of impatience in having to wait for something.
Imagine, for example, you are eight years old. How did you perceive waiting for Santa Claus to finally arrive with your gifts? This is the feeling I’m talking about.
As adults, we understand how to tame that emotion, but deep within our true selves we know that waiting for a much-anticipated event is hard. (And now, instead of feeling jubilant when Santa arrives, we feel bubbling joy at the thought of the kids coming home for Christmas instead. How the tables turn!)
But we still have to wait for them, as much as we did for Santa.
And Hermès provides a gorgeous way to help the indescribable torture of waiting: a complication that invites us to look forward even more to that upcoming moment by keeping our minds occupied in the nicest possible way.
The secret to this lies in a ritual. It starts when the wearer sets L’Heure Impatiente’s subdial time to the event’s starting time, which is less than 12 hours away.
One hour before a scheduled event, the mechanical “hourglass” function – a countdown – kicks into gear. Its progress can be followed along an arc stretching between 6 and 7 o’clock at the bottom of the dial.
During these 60 minutes, our senses heighten and our emotions stir as we eagerly anticipate the long-awaited event.
And then it happens: the time is here and a single, sonorous, exquisite note rings out from the depth of the case at 68 decibels, a velvety smooth crystalline “ting” calculated to ring just loudly enough for the wearer to fully hear it for about 1.5 seconds. The note lasts, hopefully culminating with the appearance of the desired event.
“Wearing an Hermès watch is about making light of time rather than seeking to dominate it. It is about envisaging a singular relationship with time, a time with which one plays, yet without ever hoping to control it,” Dordet reminds me.
The mechanics of the Hermès L’Heure Impatiente
Hermès has successfully forged its own relationship to time as Dordet says – and one of the many amazing ways was to invest in its movement maker, Vaucher, by acquiring 25 percent of it.
This opened a multitude of opportunities, one of which was to build an arsenal of manufacture movements exclusive to Hermès. The first two manufacture movements appeared in 2012, while the third came along in 2015 with the ultra-thin automatic micro rotor caliber for the Slim d’Hermès collection.
Manufacture base Caliber H1912, launched in 2012 in the Dressage line, provides the power for L’Heure Impatiente. I asked Wiederrecht why he didn’t use Caliber H1950 from the Slim d’Hermès for this construction as it’s a movement already in use in that collection.
“To enable the flattest possible module, we decided to use the H1912 Hermès movement, which has a diameter of 25.6 mm instead of the 30.6 mm of the extra-flat H1950 used for the Slim’s perpetual calendar,” he explained. “This allowed us to use the free space between the movement and the case for the gong and the hammer. As a result, our module is only 1.2 mm high across the movement!”
The case’s sapphire crystal back reveals a full view of the movement with its fine finish dominated by a sprinkling of Hs – even on the full-size rotor.
Wiederrecht’s clever module contains 131 components (8 jewels) and measures 31.96 x 2.2 mm, while the base movement contains 193 components (28 jewels) and has dimensions of 23.9 x 3.7 mm. As these stats show, the Agenhor module added very little in height, which allows this watch to remain very slim indeed – as the name professes.
This movement fits into the only slightly larger case – 10.67 mm in height as opposed to 9.06 of the Slim d’Hermès perpetual calendar – thanks to the use of slightly thinner sapphire crystals as well as a one-millimeter dial that resonates with the vibrations of the striking mechanism. The thinner dial also optimizes air volume inside the case in order to maximize the resonance of the gong.
It must also be said that working with the dial manufacturer like this to create something so extraordinarily difficult was only imaginable because Hermès owns its own dial maker.
“Keeping the height down was only possible because of the extensive use of the remaining space between the movement and the case,” Wiederrecht continues. “In fact, this apparently simple module was very difficult to develop, and I think the key word has been ‘optimization’ in using the space rather than the storage of the energy necessary to produce a nice and strong enough sound.”
Here we note that the gong and hammer do not have their own spring or barrel as a minute repeater or a sonnerie would. The energy for the sonorous gong comes from the movement’s own spring barrel. “It wasn’t possible to add additional power supply and have it fit in the ‘Slim’ case!” Wiederrecht iterates.
Activating the impatient hour function is child’s play: simply push the button at 9 o’clock to start the function, at which point the hand moves to the left toward the 60-minute indication and a ding is heard. Each push turns it on or off.
When the function is off, the little hand in the arc between 7 and 8 o’clock remains in the vertical, pointing at the musical note icon with the slash through it (in today’s emoji world, this is instantly understood as meaning “mute”).
The design of the Hermès L’Heure Impatiente
“Wearing an Hermès watch is about appreciating a style that is rigorous, but free of any formalism. It is about asserting oneself as a man or woman free of temporal constraints, relaxed and occasionally whimsical,” says Dordet, seeming to note that most wearers of this watch won’t be thinking of all the ingenuity that has gone into its making.
All Hermès timepieces conform to the house’s incredibly high stylistic standards, upon which the brand has built its resonant name. These timepieces, like all products across the 14 Hermès product categories, are crafted by the best artisans in their fields, who are allowed free-spirited creativity. Wiederrecht naturally thrives in an environment like this, one that is structured yet free and capped only by his own imagination.
When the Slim d’Hermès arrived in 2015, it created its own set of rules. L’Heure Impatiente must adhere to these, which is why the case could only be very slightly enlarged. And that was a challenge Wiederrecht enjoyed.
L’Heure Impatiente, whose case sports an added crown and pusher for setting and adjusting the impatient hour, comes in at 40.5 mm in diameter, making it only one millimeter larger than the 39.5 mm Slim d’Hermès Quantième Perpetuel. This is quite a feat when you consider the added module and gong.
But then both of these special modules do have the same architect.
Despite its unisex size, I did wonder whether men would take to this playful timepiece as much as my own immediate (feminine) response dictated.
So I asked Dordet if he’ll be wearing L’Heure Impatiente.
“Yes, absolutely,” he responded in an assertive manner. “I’m lucky enough that I can have the opportunity to wear it. There are certain infinitely precious hours in life, of which we would like to savor every second because they lead us toward an anticipated, hoped for, highly desired moment, while keeping us in a state of extreme excitement: a lovers’ tryst, a friendly meeting, or an expected activity for example. In accompanying this emotional crescendo to its culminating point, the mechanism of the Slim d’Hermès L’Heure Impatiente serves to intensify these distinctive moments and live them to the fullest.”
For more information, please visit www.usa.hermes.com/watches/slim-d-hermes.
Quick Facts: Hermès L’Heure Impatiente
Case: 40.5 x 10.67 mm, pink gold
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1912 with impatient hour module by Agenhor; module contains 131 components and measures 31.96 x 2.2 mm
Functions: hours, minutes; impatient hour function
Price: $39,900 / 35,000 Swiss francs / €31,000