Three Questions: Marc Berthier

The famed architect (and watch designer) sounds off about Hermès timepieces, the evolution of inclusive luxury, and why he’s “never belonged” in the world of design…

You designed the Hermès Carré H eight years ago, then redesigned the dial for a special re-release this year. When you conceptualize a new timepiece, do you have an idea of what you want, or do you start from scratch?

The initial brief [in 2010] was very open. It was by Jean-Louis Dumas, the former CEO of Hermès, who since passed away. He was just like, “What would an Hermès mens watch be for you?” The idea of the square wasn’t even there. It was supposed to be a chronograph.

I’d never done a watch before, only architecture. I told Jean-Louis Dumas, “I think that when it comes to a men’s watch, it’s always an incarnation of your hero, like an actor or sports star.”

To me, the hero for Hermès would be someone who inspired you to do new things, this kind of character, like an explorer. We started trying to define this person. It felt like a mission. We used to joke about Saving Private Ryan. Like we have to save Hermès by finding the identity of this watch.

So who’s idea was it to revisit the Carré H?

I started to have discussions with [Hermès artistic director] Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the son of Jean-Louis. We had a conversation about bringing back this watch, making it more consensual. The first one was maybe, at least in the shape, a little bit edgy. This one is more easy to approach, more seductive, and in 2015 we began work on it.

When you renew a model, the first solution is to follow the trends. I was really interested in looking at it [in terms of] evolution, an evolution of the world and society in the wider sense, which brings us back to the explorer. The world is getting more and more diverse; people are traveling, exchanging. I experienced this through my architectural office and my own creation, but also through my family. I come from a long line of “perfectly French” people … I now have a grandson who is mixed race.

The new Carré H watch; like the original, it was designed by Berthier. (Photo: Carl Kleiner)

The first [Carré] was for a small group of initiated people. The second incarnation … it’s a wider expression for people connecting to it. It’s [still] this man who travels, who is curious, who will cross cultures, but [now] he doesn’t have to be from such a small group.

As an architect, do you ever have the desire to go back and change a building?

This has happened to me, yes. I was in charge of the architecture for Galeries Lafayette [department stores], the French equivalent of Saks Fifth Avenue. To go back and move an escalator, just to move these mechanical stairs, was more complicated than being at war. I’m a very technical architect and very passionate about [protecting history], but at the same time [open to change], due to my career path, because I went from architecture into design. Especially in France, we’re like, “You’re a doctor, and you’re going to be a doctor. You did this kind of study, and you’re going to follow it.”

The fact that I switched, I never belonged completely. So when I’m with technical people, they consider me a poet, because I have this designer side. And when I’m on the side of the designer, I’m also not enough, because I’m an architect. It’s like I passed from one world to the other my entire life.

Cover Story: Hublot Goes Clear

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire

With a completely transparent encasing of its Grand Complication, Hublot redefines the concept of what a precious material can be.


By Stephen Watson

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Doug Young)

Pink gold? Platinum? Titanium? Market trends predict a return to a new type of discretion. So how about a grand complication that can barely be seen yet has nowhere to hide?

We’re talking, of course, about the magnificent watch on this month’s cover: Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Sapphire. What at first glance appears to be a timepiece made out of clear plastic is, in fact, an ingenious see-through case cut from a solid block of sapphire crystal. Incredibly scratch-resistant and almost as tough as diamond, the case lays bare the inner workings of the HUB1270 UNICO Manufacture self-winding perpetual calendar and chronograph movement in all its technical virtuosity. It’s a watch that must be seen to be believed.

Watch Journal had the opportunity to speak with Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot, about the brand’s cutting-edge creativity, mechanical innovations, and enduring devotion to the Art of Fusion.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Hublot)

How did the concept of the clear watch come about?

The idea was to play with the visible and the invisible—to present the heart of an exceptional timepiece as if it was suspended in the air. With a transparent case, a movement can be admired at 360 degrees. Our dream had long been to produce such a watch entirely in colorless sapphire, which is light, nearly invisible, and virtually scratch-proof. Sapphire is one of the hardest materials on earth, second only to diamond.

We also liked the idea that a transparent watch would allow us to highlight Hublot’s tradition of constant innovation in using and developing new materials.

Speaking of cutting-edge materials, Hublot is known for what it calls the Art of Fusion. How has this helped to define the brand’s DNA?

Combining two materials that never coexist in nature is the driving idea at Hublot. Even the first Hublot models from 1980 merged gold cases with rubber straps—quite extravagant for that time! Just like watchmakers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we will use classic materials such as gold for the case or brass for the movement—however, we combine them with other materials like titanium, ceramic, carbon fiber, Kevlar, even rubber. And we don’t stop there, because we also develop our own new materials. For instance, we have worked in conjunction with the EPFL in Lausanne on basic scientific research for many years. And from this cooperation has arisen a scratch-resistant gold and ceramic alloy that Hublot calls “Magic Gold.”

As a motto, the “Art of Fusion” refers not only to the materials themselves but also encompasses more abstract ideas: the fusion of past and present, tradition and innovation.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Hublot)

How is the sapphire material generated?

Sapphire can be generated by various types of processes, but the ones we use are the Kyropoulos and Verneuil processes. Because sapphire is so hard—measuring 2,000 on the Vickers scale—it requires specific machines to manufacture it and to polish it. Making the sapphire crystal itself was not the issue for us—it was the manufacturing of our components in sapphire that was challenging.The material comes to us in a raw block, which then to be cut into the correct shape. We invested several million Swiss francs in machinery to be able to produce the components and we also invested in machines able to polish the transparency of the sapphire. It took us nearly twenty years to develop the tools and technology that could create the watches to our satisfaction.

What are the possibilities of generating this material? Colors? Textures? Patterns?

The standard color for sapphire is “clear,” but by adding additives during the growth of the crystal, it is possible to create different colors. In 2017 we introduced the sapphire in red and blue. Regarding textures and finishes, it is possible to have a matte or a polished surface finish. Regarding the patterns, for the time being, we use black metallization (for the realization of black smoked sapphire) as well as laser engraving and fill with color lacquer for engravings on the caseback of the watch.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Hublot)

Can you talk us through some of the steps of the watch’s fabrication?

The different essential steps include diamond wire cutting for the raw material, diamond milling for the components to roughed out and diamond polishing of the finished components, so that the surfaces are perfectly polished, revealing the total transparency of this material. The polishing step is very complicated because this is not easy to do on complex shapes and there is a considerable risk of breakage. Sometimes the end step of polishing will also reveal minimal defaults in the crystal.

How long does the process take from start to finish?

It takes between twenty to thirty days to grow a crystal which weighs around 110 to 150 kilos. After this time, we need to cut the raw material, mill it, and polish it. Depending on the component, it can take hundreds of hours to achieve a finished component. And the results aren’t guaranteed until we polish  and carefully examine the result.

How do new elements, such as sapphire, help reimagine traditional luxury?

Hublot stands for always being first, unique and different. I think there will always be a place for watches like ours because we are producing watches that are eternal. You have a world of emotions in a box that will last for the next fifty, hundred or two hundred years, but we give them a contemporary design thanks to the unique materials we use and create.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire
(Photo: Doug Young)

 

Holiday Books for the Mechanical Mindset

Need some ideas for a fabulous holiday gift, but that platinum complication or Italian sports car is little out of your price range? Watch Journal has some excellent suggestions.


An example of the beautiful imagery inside Ferrari: Under the Skin. (Photo: Courtesy of Ferrari)

A wealth of new books have arrived this season aimed precisely at the mechanical mindset, showing that the link between cars and watches has never been closer. The wintery roads outside may be dangerous, but curl up on the sofa where you’re safe and sound, and take in the latest in mechanical masterpieces. Because as every watch, car, and book lover knows, there is always something aspire to and always more to learn.

Ferrari: Under the Skin

Written to coincide with an exhibition at the London Design Museum on view until April 15, 2018, Phaidon Press releases Ferrari: Under the Skin, richly illustrated with history, technical drawings, master models, and striking photography of one of the most famous racing machines of all time. A must-have for Ferrari fans, as well as anyone wanting to know more about one of the most compelling cars in history.

$49.95, phaidon.com

The Cartier Tank Watch

A 100-year legacy gets celebrated in The Cartier Tank Watch, by Franco Cologni and from Flammarion-Pere Castor, a look at the fascinating history of one of Cartier’s greatest masterpieces. Based on the lines of the Renault “landships” or “tanks,” an enduring classic was born, a sleek, rectangular timepiece that looks as modern today as it did a century ago.

$80, editions.flammarion.com

Autophoto: Cars & Photography, 1900 to Now

A photo history of the romance between art and cars gets smartly considered in a book created specifically for the Foundation Cartier, Autophoto: Cars & Photography, 1900 to Now, from Éditions Xavier Barral. More than 500 works made by 100 historical and contemporary artists from around the world are shown, including Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Joel Meyerowitz, Catherine Opie, Martin Parr, Ed Ruscha, Malick Sidibé, and Stephen Shore.

$65.00, exb.fr

Automata

Author Nick Foulkes explores the enchanting world of automatons, or highly articulated mechanical figurines, in Automata, from Éditions Xavier Barral. These mechanical animated objects, explicitly linked to watchmaking, were designed to inspire thought, science, literature, and the performing arts. Beautifully illustrated with photographs, manuscripts, and documents, the book examines these fascinating marvels from ancient times to the present day.

$69.95, exb.fr

Drive Time Expanded Edition

In April 2016, Rizzoli New York released Drive Time: Watches Inspired by Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Racing, by Aaron Sigmund, and it sold out in under six months. Copies of the first edition/first printing sell for up to $995, more than 10 times the original price. Following up on the unprecedented success comes Drive Time Expanded Edition, with a foreword from Jay Leno and afterword by LVMH Watch Division CEO Jean-Claude Biver.

$85.00, rizzolibookstore.com

 

Watch Journal and Surface Magazine Celebrate the Art of Fusion with Hublot

Hublot’s Innovative Materials and Horological Excellence Get Celebrated in New York City.


On December 13th, the “World Tour” of Hublot’s Art of Fusion stopped off in New York City to celebrate with Surface Media an evening of style, watches, and fun. The Art of Fusion, the essential element that lies at the heart of Hublot, pairs watchmaking traditions with an avant-garde sensibility to extend the philosophy of the brand with groundbreaking materials and technology. Various novelties were on display, from the innovative Magic Gold and the imaginative use of transparent sapphire crystal to hyper-modern masterpieces from the MP Collection.

Celebrating the Art of Fusion on December 13, 2017, in New York City

The December issue of Watch Journal investigates the idea of Art of Fusion further in an interview with Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot. He explains, “Just like watchmakers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; we will use classic materials such as gold for the case or brass for the movement—however, we combine them with other materials like titanium, ceramic, carbon fiber, Kevlar, even rubber. And we don’t stop there, because we also develop our own new materials. As a motto, the “Art of Fusion” refers not only to the materials themselves but also encompasses more abstract ideas: the fusion of past and present, tradition, and innovation.”

Hublot And Surface Celebrate The Art Of Fusion
The remarkable MP Collection on display
Hublot’s Capucine Huard and fan
Celebrating a fusion of Street & Classical dance, L.A.based Lil Buck performs for an enthusiastic crowd
Lil Buck charms Marc Lotenberg and Spencer Bailey of Surface Media
Violinist and collaborator, Ezzi

Hit List: 5 New Watches We’re Eying This Month

Skeletons from Bell & Ross and Girard Perregaux, a race-inspired TAG Heuer, and more.


(Photo: F.P. Journe / Holland & Holland)

F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland

Catering to the world’s most discerning sportsmen, Holland & Holland has been manufacturing guns since 1835, in a store that conjures visions of time-honored country life, with its deeply ingrained British traditions and quirks. Joining forces with watchmaker F.P. Journe, they used two 100-year-old barrels from the Holland & Holland museum to create limited edition “browned” Damascus steel–patterned dials using traditional gun-making techniques. The two barrels were registered by hand in the company’s books. Barrel No. 1382, dating back to 1868, yielded 38 dials, while barrel No. 7183, dating to 1882, produced 28 dials.

$46,000 ($45,000 CHF); fpjourne.com & hollandandholland.com

(Photo: Laurent Ferrier)

Laurent Ferrier Galet Square Porcelain Limited Edition

Third-generation watchmaker Laurent Ferrier plainly states on his website his horological values: simplicity, precision, and pure, uncluttered beauty. These ideals are exhibited perfectly in his limited-edition porcelain-dial Galet Square watch, which houses an exclusive in-house movement developed and assembled in the Laurent Ferrier workshops. The gentle curves of the case bring to mind the shape of a pebble, the direct translation of the French word galet. Breguet numerals with a red 12 o’clock and gold-colored minute outer rail beautifully set off the glossy white dial—so difficult to produce that only 10 pieces will be made worldwide.

$64,000; laurentferrier.ch

(Photo: Bell & Ross)

The Bell & Ross BR-X1 White Hawk

Bell & Ross is well known for its aviation association, with distinctive square-shaped watches resembling instruments taken directly from a cockpit control panel. Made of titanium, matte white ceramic, and rubber, contrasting red details provide excellent readability of the automatic skeletonized chronograph movement. The BR-X1 White Hawk looks precisely to business aircraft for its stylish inspiration, the white-and-gray materials taking their cues from private-jet interiors.

$19,700; bellross.com

 

 

(Photo: Girard Perregaux)

Girard Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic

First launched in 1975, the sporty and versatile Laureato design from Girard Perregaux continues to evolve with the all-black Laureato Skeleton Ceramic. Brushed and satin finishes enhance the dark surface of the Laureato by intensifying the dramatic black PVD-treated openwork movement with exposed 18-k pink-gold details. The Laureato style is entirely adaptable, the stealth and contemporary look making this version appealing to a new generation.

$38,000; girard-perregaux.com

(Photo: TAG Heuer)

TAG Heuer AUTAVIA Jack Heuer 85th Anniversary Limited Edition

2017 will go down as the year of the chronograph, especially for styles referencing the golden age of auto racing. The 42 mm polished-steel TAG Heuer reissue, a limited edition of 1,932 pieces, features the new Heuer-02 caliber proprietary chronograph and all the best features of the 1960s original redesigned by Jack Heuer himself. Jack says, “The story of the Autavia is a rich drama, full of twists and turns. It is one of my proudest achievements to have successfully converted chronographs into the Autavia wristwatch in 1962, so this collection has a special place in my heart.”

$5,900; tagheuer.com