Hermès H08, $5,700+
There's something about the approach a "luxury goods manufacturer" takes to watchmaking — rather than that of a traditional watchmaker — that makes for some of the more interesting designs in modern horology. Of course, this is of little surprise. While most watchmakers are concerned with movement accuracy, robustness, and, increasingly, mining their archives for inspiration, a brand like Hermès is poised to approach a new timepiece from a purely aesthetic point of view, yielding a fresh-feeling creation that owes little to the traditional "rules" of horology.
The maison's latest watch, the H08, is an automatic timepiece available in several configurations that's meant to be worn every day. Without further ado, let's see what we have, here...
Case Diameter: 39mm
Case Depth: 10.6mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Hermès Manufacture Caliber H1837
As I mentioned earlier, the H08 is a collection in which aesthetics take center stage — though, this being Hermès, the watchmaking portion of the equation is still strong. Within the collection is an all-black model with graphene case; a DLC-coated titanium model available on one of two straps; and a plain titanium model available on either rubber or a matching titanium bracelet (our review model). Each is powered by the automatic Hermès Manufacture Caliber H1837 and features a specially designed typeface, a modern, thoughtfully designed case and a unique dial. In short, the H08 is a perfect example of the maison's design prowess.
Who It's For
While Hermès parks the H08 collection firmly within its Men's line, it should be stated off the bat that the watch strikes us as perfectly unisex, and we're sure many women will find its design appealing on their wrists — especially on the rubber straps (more on why, later). As for the male client, Hermès watchmaking is likely only on the radar of a very specific subset of folks: people who are watch aficionados and thus familiar with the maison's forays into horology; people who are dedicated Hermès fans; and people who are true design nuts. It's unlikely to my mind that your average dude, new to the work force, is going to spring for an H08 with his first bonus...though we see no good reason why he shouldn't.
If you enjoy watchmaking chiefly for the aesthetics, then Cartier and its wares are no doubt on your radar. While most of their designs tend toward the dressier side of the spectrum, the medium Santos de Cartier model ($6,500), with its automatic movement, matching steel bracelet and classic, Roman-numeral dial, is perhaps a decent analogue for the H08. For another design-focused option, there's the Octo Roma in steel from Bulgari ($6,100), which ships on a leather strap — it too features an in-house, automatic movement and unique case design. Finally, there's the Tambour from Louis Vuitton ($6,050): with its drum-inspired case and striking dial, it's a watch that's sure to turn heads.
For our review, I requested the H08 in titanium with matching bracelet. The case, though not particularly small at 39mm, is of course incredibly light and refined: vaguely H-shaped, it features an inner, square-shaped quadrant within which sits the round watch dial beneath a sapphire crystal. Though the case is entirely brushed, it's brushed in different directions in different places: radially within the inner square section; vertically on the case top; and what appears to be horizontally on the sides, though, interestingly, these sides appear in two different shades — darker toward the bottom and lighter on top.
A screw-down crown signed with the Hermes "H" joins the crown guard-less case flush on its right flank, while the case back features a sapphire window through which the manufacture movement — with 50 hours of power reserve — can be viewed. (The back is otherwise adorned only with six tiny flat-head screws to attach it to the main case.) The bracelet's end links join flush and smoothly with the short lugs and complete the look.
Speaking of the bracelet — and the reason I wanted to check this model out — it of course features thoughtful touches, such as the links, which are H-shaped and joined by polished center links. A push-button butterfly clasp joins the whole shebang together. While I appreciate the design of the bracelet — and it's fairly comfortable — two things bothered me: the first is that the end links at the bracelet hardly articulate, meaning that the entire watch doesn't hug your wrist the way it otherwise could. My second qualm is that the bracelet has no taper, which, to me, reminds me of cheaply made bracelets from smaller microbrands and smacks of a lack of refinement. This is a matter of personal taste, but I would have appreciated some degree of taper, personally.
I can't speak, unfortunately, to the rubber strap options. Pricing for these is as follows: the titanium on rubber or webbed fabric is $5,500; the titanium with DCL coating on rubber or webbed fabric is $5,700; and the graphene model on rubber is $8,900.
However, I can talk about the watch's dial all day: The outer track is sort of an anthracite grey with a slightly pebbled texture (provided you look very, very closely), inside of which is a smooth black chapter ring with white indices, inside of which is another smaller, grey circle with white minute/seconds ring and the "HERMÈS, PARIS" branding. The star of the show here in once again the dial's typeface, which is unique to the H08 line and features thoughtful touches: the "4," for example, is reversed on the dial such that one wouldn't need to turn the watch (or one's head) in order to read each numeral in succession. (The "8" solves this problem by being symmetrical.
It's a hip, modern typeface that stands out for its multitude of different weights within each numeral — indeed, this type of numerology would undoubtedly not have worked well before the advent of the index surround, which contains the luminous material within. (My guess is that if this type of font were painted on a dial in the 1940s, the ink would have run.)
Even the handset on the H08 is interesting: the minute and hour hands are rectangular, the hour being entirely lume-filled, while the minutes is filled partly and is otherwise skeletonized — an interesting choice, and a cool one. I'm more ambivalent about the seconds hand: I like the orange-filled, arrow-shaped tip balanced by the circle-within-a-square tail, but am for some reason vaguely bothered by the fact that it's only the diameter of the inner, circular ring. I understand the design choice, but also feel like it somewhat fattens the dial in a way that isn't necessarily flattering.
Finally, my one super-qualm with the dial: the f*#@ing date window at 4:30. Tell me something, and tell me honestly: who, when designing a watch from the ground up (and who doesn't work at Zenith) believes that putting a date window at 4:30 is a positive design choice? You have a brand new dial that has never been seen before, and you choose to stick the freakin' thing between two other numerals? Get rid of the three or the six and put it there! Or put it vertically above the six! Do anything besides this! This is the type of shit Dieter Rams or the ghost of Walter Gropius would literally kill a man over. Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop doing this, Watch Designers.
Besides that, I loved the dial.
I truly enjoyed my time with the H08, and though I had several qualms with it, I found it to be comfortable, light, and easy to wear. Its marketed as an everyday watch, which I certainly find to be an accurate description, though admittedly if I were traveling I'd probably spring either for a dive watch or a GMT.
Were the H08 a bit smaller, I think it could make for the perfect unisex timepiece, though again, I'm sure many women will purchase one regardless. I do regret not opting for strap-equipped option as, knowing Hermès, I'm sure these are incredibly refined and comfortable. Also, I anticipate that a strap would negate the problem of the non-articulating end links on the bracelet.
Overall, while I'm not quite as smitten with the H08 as I am with the Slim d'Hermès, I have to applaud the maison for following its own star, and not the vintage-obsessed whims of the greater watch world. May Hermès continue in this direction.