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 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.
The resurgence of cocktail culture has brought a renaissance in classic mixology. Retro champagne recipes, like the French 75 and Royales—and even bubbly communal punches—are finding a contemporary audience. Elegant, crisp, sophisticated. Like a radiant gold watch. But let’s go a bit further.
Sparkling diamonds? Luminous dials? Smartly bronzed cases? They all bring the spirit of delightful libation. They also coordinate perfectly with gilded barware, perfect for whipping up chilled drinks and warm enchanted evenings.
So go ahead, indulge a little. Because, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right.”
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2011 Champagne, $125; perrier-jouet.com
Carl F. Bucherer Manero Flyback, $18,000; carl-f-bucherer.com
L’Objet Bambou Ice Tongs, $95; l-objet.com
Alessi Bulla Bottle Opener, $50; alessi.com
Christofle Silver Plated Champagne Bucket Cooler, $75,500; christofle.com
Asprey Tell Me How Cocktail Shaker, $10,000; asprey.com
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, $17,150; rolex.com
Georg Jensen Acorn Champagne Sabre, $3,000; georgjensen.com
Tiffany & Company Everyday Objects Crazy Straw, from $250; tiffany.com
Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100, $27,500; montblanc.com
Gucci Tigers Large Round Metal Tray, $790; gucci.com
Georg Jensen Bernadotte Cocktail Set, price upon request; georgjensen.com
Patek Philippe, Ref. 5124J Gondolo, $21,000; patek.com
Craigellachie 17 Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, $186, craigellachie.com
Hermès Adage Whiskey Carafe, $1,140; hermes.com
Inside a modest workshop on the western outskirts of Buenos Aires, four men are hard at work.
They measure patterns and heat irons over an open flame, methodically whetting and polishing and hammering. The tables are covered in awls, spurs, wrought-iron pincers. Rolls of exquisite calfskin and horsehide are stacked waist-high. Rows and rows of hardwood shoe lasts line the shelves.
Welcome to Casa Fagliano, a bastion of traditional bootmaking. The workshop first opened in 1892, across the street from the Asociación Civil Hurlingham Club. The latter establishment grew into the nation’s equestrian sports epicenter, hosting Abierto de Hurlingham, one of the world’s most prestigious polo tournaments. Casa Fagliano found an eager clientele. English-style polo boots became a specialty.
Four generations later, the operation remains a family affair. Rodolfo, the 86-year-old patriarch, cuts leather and welts soles alongside his sons, Eduardo and Hector, and his grandson, Germán. To them, “mass-production” is a four-letter word; these guys make each boot by hand, one at a time. Order a bespoke pair with matching kneepads and wood trees, and you can expect to join a six-to-eight-month waiting list—albeit one that includes Prince Harry, Tommy Lee Jones, and the Sultan of Brunei.
Also Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Swiss watchmaker first collaborated with Casa Fagliano seven years ago, commissioning straps for a limited-edition Reverso Tribute to 1931. Now, the two firms have teamed up again, this time on a special version of the Reverso Tribute Duo, which features a Cordovan leather strap, designed and handmade in the Fagliano workshop. According to Geoffroy Lefebvre, deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the continued partnership is a matter of values and pedigree.
“Both our realms share a passion for the product, respect for expert craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail and the pursuit of perfection,” says Lefebvre. “The Reverso was originally created in 1931 for British Army officers in India who were anxious to protect the glass of their watches while playing polo…. Therefore the relationship between the inventor of the polo watch and the most prestigious polo boot manufacturer was natural.”
The two-tone Fagliano band complements the Duo’s pink-gold case, which, as ever, features two dials. The main face is sun-brushed satin gray; it swivels and tucks away to reveal a secondary dial, silvered with Clous de Paris guilloché detailing and a day-night indicator. Both sides have formal dauphine hands, gold-plated hour markers, and run off a manual, in-house movement, offering a 42-hour power reserve.
Just 100 examples of the Reverso Tribute Duo will be offered on a Casa Fagiliano Edition strap, an order that took the leather-workers an entire year to fill. But, unlike the previous Tribute to 1931, which was exclusive to American stores, this new watch will be available at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques worldwide—and, yes, that includes the Buenos Aires store.
You’ve built up your watch collection, so now where to keep them? Deluxe cases designed to hold your prized possessions while home and away, each as beautiful as the watches themselves. Steamer trunks get resized, suitcases get modified. There are even luxe leather rolls that can get tossed right into your carry-on luggage. The bottom of the drawer will no longer suffice.
Doing double duty as a watch winder, the English Saddle Leather watch box from Asprey not only stores six of your watches, but keeps them wound and well protected with a soft suede lining. Perfect for the top of the dresser, the glass lid lets you quickly scan your collection, making your daily grab-and-go easier than ever.
Asprey Six Watch Winder Box, English Saddle Leather, $9,650; asprey.com
A special-edition travel case from Globe-Trotter, the Deco draws inspiration from the heady days of 1930s train travel—specifically, the glamour of the Orient Express. It’s available in navy, burgundy, and a “centenary” gray made for the brand’s 100th anniversary.
Globe-Trotter Deco Watch Case, $2,000; globe-trotter.com
The classic Louis Vuitton monogram steamer trunk gets adapted to the ideal size for holding as many as eight watches. Gleaming brass details contrast with the natural cowhide, for a miniature representation of iconic the golden age of Vuitton travel.
Louis Vuitton 8 Watch Case, $6,200; louisvuitton.com
Legend has it that Fred Smythson designed the first portable travel diary in 1908. The same style of crosshatched leather used on that book’s cover has now been adapted for a line of handsome travel accessories, featuring cases for everything from eyeglasses, currency, trinkets, and, of course, watches.
Smythson Panama Travel Watch Roll, $550; smythson.com
Swift calfskin top, bosse velvet goatskin inside, and beautiful silver hardware: The anthracite sycamore Hermès Lift holds up to six timepieces. And with a box so lavish, it’d better be a knockout assortment.
Hermès Lift 6 Watch Box, $6,750; hermes.com
An Upper East Side institution, New York’s T.Anthony hs created luggage for the likes of John Lennon and the Duke of Windsor. Now its made a useful watch roll for modern-day travel. Simply strap in two or three watches, roll it up, toss in your carry-on, and off you go.
T.Anthony Black Leather Watch Roll, $195; tanthony.com