Hermès surprised us with the release of the new collection which they call the H08 earlier this year at Watches and Wonders 2021. The new collection continues on the Hermès track of simple elegance, with an eye for beauty. Here is our comprehensive hands on review.
We attended the artsy launch event in the School Of The Arts in Singapore, and spent more time with the new release in a separate hands-on and photography session.
Comprehensive Review: Hermès H08
Retail price of the Hermès H08:
- Graphene version : SGD 13,000,
- Titanium/DLC version: SGD 8,300,
- Titanium with bracelet: SGD 8,800,
- Titanium with fabric/rubber strap: SGD 7,900.
All prices inclusive of GST.
The new release comprise of three case variations, including one in graphene, in titanium and in titanium with a black DLC finish. The graphene model is a composite, and feels very light, almost weightless though not quite. And both titanium models have the characteristically lightweight titanium feel.
Perhaps the most interesting and innovative material used in the H08 is graphene, and warrants a longer discussion. The graphene model has a case made with an ultra-light graphene-filled composite. The use of graphene is the key to this innovation, and the material is a new(ish) product which was first isolated in 2004. The collaborators who did this won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010. The material has many incredible properties, and has found its use in numerous industries, including the super expensive Richard Mille RM50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 (CHF 980,000 before taxes), which up to now is the only watch to feature this new material. And here we have the H08 with graphene and it is retailing at SGD 13,000. For a more extensive discussion on the properties of Graphene and why it is such a special material, please refer to the Richard Mille article linked.
On the other hand, the same material is also used in relatively inexpensive products like bicycle tyres of the Italian company Vittoria. For example, the Xhosa CORSA Road Bicycle Tyre Graphene retails for about SGD 90, a price which is similar to competitive products from Continental and Pirelli.
Its use or the exact composition within the H08 case is not detailed by Hermès. However, they do state that the case is a composite material, and this typically means it is made with carbon fibre and resin. Graphene sheets (the material is carbon atoms arranged in a sheet which are single atom thick) is then added to improve either the aesthetics or the technical performance. In this sense, we can see similarities to the Richard Mille RM50-03, despite humongous price differences. But in either watches, we cannot be sure what is the exact composition that is used and what special properties of graphene is being called for. Interesting in that these watch cases use of graphene, and yet one which is a curious.
The case, dial and hands
The design is contemporary. And with the unique Hermès aesthetic which is neither too obviously a fashion statement while being one. Let’s call it stylish. In an way that only Hermès can pull off.
The case is a harmonious rounded square measuring 39mm x 39mm, with a round cutout for the dial. The short lugs slope gently from the main rounded square shape in a tonneau like shape. The case is a three piece affair. At a first glance, the overall shape carries hints of its own original Dressage collection, and some say, the Cartier Santos. But yet, it is a completely original design with unique features and detailing. Including its own font set.
The dial is pure Hermès. The press release talks of esoteric concepts of graphics, mathematics and metaphysics. But what we can clearly see and identify is the same elegance in the case flows beautifully to the dial. The font used is an original one, created for the brand. The numbers 0 and 8 evoke the form of the case. As 0 (circular opening for the crystal) symbolies emptiness, the near horizontal figure of 8 hour marker becomes the symbol for infinity. A philosophical question to ponder.
The dial itself is a clever play of textured and brushed finished surfaces, with the said arabic hour markers in appliqué. In the graphene model, the dial is black gold coated, while the other two models in titanium frame a black nickel-coated dial.
The hour and minute hands are simple affairs, baton shaped, infilled with Superluminova, while the seconds hand is a long sleek one pivoted right in the middle. It carries a triangle tip in orange on the business end and counterweight in the shape of a 0 on the other.
The dial carries a date aperture at about 4:30, and while some are disturbed by its presence, we like the “complication” for its practical use, and do not feel it disrupts the flow of the dial in any way.
The graphene model carries a very dark grey ceramic bezel over the same very dark grey graphene composite case middle and back. This provides a beautiful frame to the dial, with a very cool vibe. While the titanium models have bezels in titanium, the model with the black DLC finish, carries the blackened finish as a design feature, and this puts focus on the dial. While the model with the brushed titanium case is in the matte grey titanium on all 3 case parts with a brushed finish. All three models have the same DNA, and design aesthetic, but comes across with a different feel altogether.
The straps are either a blue webbing, or in orange or black rubber. An option for a titanium bracelet exist for the non-graphene material.
We particularly like the titanium version with DLC finish and the orange rubber strap for the extra splash of colour.
The movement: H1837
The movement powering the H08 is the Hermès H1837, used in many of the brand’s men’s watches. This movement is manufactured in the Vaucher manufacture in Fleurier, and is a product of a partnership between Hermès and Parmigiani, Vaucher’s parent company. Hermès currently have a 25% ownership in Vaucher since 2006. Through this participation, 3 special calibers have been developed: the H1837, the H1912, and the H1950.
The H1837 is basically the Vaucher caliber VMF 3000, the movement beats at 28,800 bph, and has a rather high power reserve of 50 hours powered by twin barrels. The dimensions are 23.3mm in diameter and only 3.7mm high makes it a rather small movement, and can be seen completely through the round aperture from the case back. The 39mm x 39mm case will require a rather large movement ring to house this movement.
Movement finish is de rigueur, neither fancy or superlatively decorative, and comes across as being very competently executed in a workman like manner. The rotor and movement plate is decorated with embossing which leave no doubt that this is a Hermès watch.
The competitive landscape
The genre where the H08 competes in is perhaps in the luxury sports watch category. This is a mixed kettle of fish, from the very high end offerings by Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo, to the Moser Streamliner, or Czapek Antarctique and the Chopard Alpine Eagle. All these watches are pitched at a higher price point than the H08. Perhaps we may even consider more engineering biased products which have a more similar price point, like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, but we do see them as different as chalk and cheese to make a reasonable comparison.
As a case in point, perhaps we just single out the Moser Streamliner as a comparison. Both offer the smooth sleek aesthetic, somewhat minimalistic design. Both are superbly well made and oozes the luxury feel. The Moser has a magnificently designed and executed integrated steel bracelet. It also carries the in-house manufactured movement with pride. The HMC200 is better finished, and fills the case entirely. But it can be argued that the Hermès too carries an in-house movement, albeit one made by an equity partner and not exclusively used by the maison. But the big difference is when we compare the price. The Moser is in steel, and priced at SGD 33k, while the Hermès, even in the most expensive guise with the graphene case retails for only SGD 13k. While we see the Streamliner to be a good buy at the level of design, manufacture and finishing it is pitched at, this level is way above what Hermès is targeting. In this sense, this becomes a rather futile exercise to compare the two offerings.
The short lugs, flowing smoothly into the strap makes an easy watch to don. It fits well, and stays put on the wrist. No doubt the right sized 39mm case is a factor, but also the light weight of all models, particularly the graphene, makes it nice to strap on.
Hermès gets the design right. The H08 carries the distinctive Hermès aesthetic, which comes across as elegant and genteel. The finishing, though not exactly haute horlogerie, is excellent and contributes to this luxury feel, as the detailing is superb. The legibility, being only a three hand watch with date is excellent, even in the dark as the Superluminova filled hands and numerals do glow nicely. At this price, it offers the gentleman an elegant alternative to the other sporty watches.
Photographed in the Hermès offices in Singapore. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 Macro and HC 2.8/80 with H28 extension tube. Profoto strobes.