When one thinks of Hermès, they tend to think of high-end leather goods, clothing, accessories, and luggage. If you were not aware of what all the brand did aside from that, you might be tempted to dismiss a watch coming from Hermès as just another “fashion watch” that a brand had created in order to make a play as a lifestyle brand. To dismiss their watches—and particularly the Hermès H08—in such a way is to willfully overlook a very intriguing watch.
If we’re talking history, Hermès has no shortage of it. The marque itself hails back to 1837, when it was started by Thierry Hermès as a harness workshop. That’s right, they were making saddles and tack for horses. It may have been workaday items at first, but the evolution of equestrian goods into something more luxurious is not a stretch. As for watches, they started making those just under a 100 years ago, in 1928. That was just the start, however, and it wasn’t until 50 years later that Hermès took watchmaking seriously.
Even for that, many of the watches they produced were quartz, which would make sense for the late 70s, as well as the fact they were coming at things from a fashion foundation. The first “serious” watch from Hermès appeared in 2003. The Dressage watch drew inspiration from the stirrup strap shackle of a saddle. Notably, it was also an automatic movement. These days, you will find both quartz and automatic models, with the Hermès H08 – introduced in 2021 – being in the latter category.
As you would expect from the Parisian house, the Hermès H08 is quite thoughtfully designed. To start with, they’ve taken the squared circle of a classic cushion case, and developed a very modern take on that classic profile. Beginning at the crystal, you of course have the circle that practically defines a watch. Step out one layer, and you’ve got a rounded square bezel with a brushed finish that radiates out from an imaginary point starting at the center pivot of the movement. Go out one more layer, and the titanium has a DLC coating that puts the angles that go down to the lugs in a bit of a shadow, keeping the focus more towards the dial.
Taken as a whole, what you have with this case is, for lack of a better term, a deconstructed cushion case, in the sense of how “deconstructed” is used in fine dining experiments. Here, it just works. Measuring 39mm across and a relatively modest 10.6mm thick, its an extremely comfortable watch on the wrist, without feeling remotely dainty. The use of titanium for its case keeps mass to a minimum. Completing the package, the H08 is fitted with a screw-down crown and is rated to 100m of water resistance, making it a great day-to-day wear option.
As sublime as the case of the Hermès H08 is, the dial is what really solidifies this watch as one to take notice of. The varied textures and finishes are interesting, but the focus really needs to be on the numerals. With them, Hermès took the risk of developing their own typeface of these numbers. What we particularly enjoy here is the fact that many of the numerals—say, the 3, 6, 8, 9, and 0—mimic the case shape that is right around the sapphire crystal. This is a design choice that is not made by accident, and it really solidifies the sense of a cohesive design. The remainder of the numerals clearly fit in with the language being provided here. Sticking with this cohesive design mantra, the date wheel also uses the same typeface, which seems to be an obnoxiously uncommon practice these days. The handset has also had some attention given to it, with some interesting skeletonization and counterbalancing. In particular, the opening in the minute hand acts as a window, showing the current minute marker when the seconds hand makes it near zero.
Inside the Hermès H08 you have the H1837 automatic movement, which powers a number of the watches that Hermès classifies as men’s watches (we think the slim 39mm case would easily fit a variety of wrists, whatever your gender), and is built by Vaucher for the brand. Defining the caliber as an in-house movement is iffy, however it is an exclusive caliber that is made specifically for the brand, and Hermès does own 25% of Vaucher, so they’re on their way to that mark.
The simple caliber has a running frequency of 28,800 bph, which is pretty well industry standard these days, however the 50-hour power reserve—enabled via twin barrels—is definitely a bit higher than the norm. The movement itself is rather compact, and you can view the whole of it through the exhibition caseback. Through that view, you’ll see an extensive application of an Hermès logo pattern on the caliber alongside a few other finishing techniques.
Versus The Competition
If you just want a watch that carries a logo that matches the shirt you’re wearing, you have no shortage of options. When you confine yourself to luxury design houses, your window narrows down quite quickly. One of the obvious choices would be Cartier, though they’re more on the jewelry end of luxury. Still, a watch like the Cartier Santos Dumont 1575 Ultra Thin hits the same marks. You have a multi-layer case construction that manages to give us both curves and edges, as well as multiple finishes. While the dial may not be as wild as the H08, it still gives a sense of numbers standing tall around the edges of the room you command with this watch on your wrist.
If you want a wilder look, then look no further than the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando. Once again, you have layers upon layers that create the dial, working hard to hold your visual interest against an optical illusion of a dial. Here, it’s your choice of whether you’re getting dropped into a science fiction mindtrip, or you’re contemplating the calm peacefulness of a sand-filled Zen garden.
While the Hermès H08 is definitely a luxury watch, it’s one that recognizes that we need to get out into the regular world and experience life. The titanium keeps things light and tough, and the overall cushion case design points to the fact that, yes, this is a watch that is ready to live life with you. This is a case shape that inspires confidence that your watch can handle a tougher assignment. In a sense, it also plays into the history of Hermès of creating leather goods for horses. That equipment needed to be tough, and it needed to be ready to work. In all the same ways, the Hermès H08 understands the assignment and delivers at a high level.
With the Hermès H08, we have proof that a luxury fashion house can not only design a watch that fits with their design language, but that they can deliver a design that could easily stand on its own without the logo on the dial. Between the deconstructed approach to the case design and the wild (and we hope eventually iconic) new typeface, you have a very refined face that pairs quite well to the tried and reliable movement tucked inside the svelte case. This is a watch that shows us what Hermès can do, and proves that they are a brand that we should all be paying attention to.