Francofiles will be pleased to know I no longer pronounce the H in Hermès, thinking it rhymes with Burmese. It’s Air Mezz. Pronounced correctly, Slim d’Hermès Quantième Perpétuel sounds a bit like propositioning an underfed French fashion model. But then most spoken French sounds that way to the uninitiated. Just as the horologically uninformed think Hermès watches are over-priced watches for over-monied fashion victims. Well . . .
As Cartier is essentially a jeweler with some watchmaking chops, fashion house Hermès is a clothing and accessories purveyor offering timepieces in the ultra luxury range. Not so luxurious that Hermès didn’t cut the price of their latest Slim d’Hermès Quantième Perpétuel. You can now pick one up for $46,320, roughly $8K less than the 2015 original.
This they did by swapping the gold case for a titanium case. Not your George Bamford “scratched watches are cool” bare grade 2 titanium. Slim rides into town on Grade 5 titanium presented in a matte black finish. In the pictures, it looks like a cast iron skillet. Ne t’inquiète pas! There’s a touch of [obviously] precious metal in the 18k gold bezel, crown and pusher. The hands are merely plated, and not polished either. Skimping everywhere!
Slim means thin, évidemment. The movement is 4mm thick. Hermès does that confidently vague countersignal thing (as Rolls Royce used to do with horsepower ratings), not releasing a figure. Conventional wisdom pegs the watch at around 10mm thick, like my Timex Easy Reader non-perpetual sans moonphase.
Four subdials, so … quad-compax? When you see 311 atop a subdial, that’s actually the last date of month cramming into the first of the next. Odd dates get numerals, evens get a dot. These tiny little date dials are always tricky, as evidenced by the fact that the numbers flip orientations at the center horizon to avoid being upside down on the lower half.
Like Hodinkee’s infamous travel clock, the Slim d’Hermès Quantième Perpétuel uses a specially created font by French graphic designer Philippe Apeloig. “This meticulously thought-out script is distinguished by finely traced lines interspersed with ‘silent’ spaces,” Hermès explains, “imparting a lively rhythm to the passing of time.”
All the numbering on the watch face uses some odd pseudo-stencil font that seems hungry for a sandwich dial look. But every digit is merely given a single break. And the 1’s don’t even get that, being left whole in sans-serif minimalism. The 8 oddly gets the kindergartener treatment: two circles atop each other. A neckless snowman is so à la mode, n’est-ce-pas?
The Slim d’Hermès Quantième Perpétuel’s moonphase complication lives at 3 o’clock, with the lower veiled section wisely reserved for the Hermès imprimatur. The moon is hewn from mother of pearl. At the risk of seeming grossier, every time I hear of MOP I remember the caveat not to use it for a class ring; it looks like a dollop of onanism.
That moon is inlaid in a sky of Aventurine glass, which is a type of, wait for it, quartz. Yes, quartz rules! I really like the looks of any moonphase complication despite it being purely an amusement. Paper calendars and my cellular telephone already give me this info and it’s useful only for full moon jokes. Sadly the remaining two sub-dials deviate from past years, and change is not always improvement.
The lowest dial, at six o’clock, is whirled time [sic], for some other time zone. This sub-dial is now a contrasting white because, I guess, things were getting too dark. The previously normal-ass circular number indices arrangement has been forsaken for something trippier. I wish I knew the rationale behind this, besides screwing things up to be cool. The numerals are now staggered on different base circles, offering a connect-the-dots swastika or cloverleaf.
Moving on, the rest of the perpetual in perpetual calendar airs at 9 o’clock. This sub-dial has the double duty of dealing with leap year while showing the month. Previously this was somehow done with a single needle and months in a circle with the inside split into year quadrants. How one knew which length year it was, I couldn’t tell you.
Luckily the 2020 model makes a bit more sense. There is a little four-pointed windmill of a hand, with one tip black to designate the current year. The months all got scrunched into a single quadrant arc, so only one tip can point to any of them at a time. Because of this, the year grid got cocked 45 degrees, so the dividers are no longer vertical and horizontal like a compass, but form a big X.
This hipster brand heraldry of a big X separating letters always makes me think of the old New York Hardcore logo, a punk thing from the 80’s. Hermès is not punk rock, and the arc of month abbreviations is not symmetrical.
There are 12 months, but someone chose for five of them to get three letter abbreviations instead of dots. You can’t have the bookend spots be unmarked, so that leaves seven dots and that’s a prime number. Oopsie. Well, maybe people won’t notice there’s only one dot before December and two everywhere else.
In case you didn’t miss that the month list was crammed off on one side, Hermès outlined it in gold, creating a fan-tailed goldfish shape. But wait, there’s more: a daylight indicator at 4:30, a little peephole that looks to swirl between navy blue and white.
The exhibitionist case back is finished as can be. It’s also a lot of bridgework to be seen, and it looks like a lot of work was done to achieve this miniature manhole cover look. The recessed surface is matte, possibly sandblasted like the case exterior. The H block pattern is sharp, literally, any radius on corners is essentially nil. As best I can figure, they machined this pattern using some delicate little tool, then blasted it and refinished the top surface.
If you have a watch with 29 jewels adjusted to five positions, it might as well say so, and it does. On the back. Because there is little room on the front, and because visible spec boasts are déclassé.
The economics of high horology demand complications; their existence increases astounding profit margins by astounding percentages. But if you’re looking for great design from the house of Hermès, less is more. The $7k three-handed Slim d’Hermes is BCBG, pronounced Bay Say Bay Jay. Which stands for bon chic bon genre. Which translates to chic in English. Or something like that.