he way we tell the time alters our perception of time. The sight of sand running through an hour glass is not the same as a chronograph ticking off the seconds. An hour glass gives a visual depiction of both elapsed time and the time that is left, in the form of the sand waiting to run through that little hole in time. Inside the hour glass, past, present and future occupy the same space.
With Le Temps Suspendu, and then L’Heure Masquée, Hermès introduced us to a new way of coping with time, by suspending the inexorable march of the hands around the dial, or by playing hide-and-seek with them. With the brand new L’Heure Impatiente, Hermès provides the triumphant closing chapter to a truly unique trilogy.
“Rather than measuring, counting down, or controlling, we prefer to play with other ways of looking at time, inspire an emotional response, open parentheses in time, create poetic spaces. We want to sidestep traditional watchmaking, we want to be a bit off-centre. What we love is fantasy, levity, whimsy and liberty. We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously, but we are serious about what we do,” explains Laurent Dordet, CEO of La Montre Hermès.
The inspiration for L’Heure Impatiente comes from Philippe Delhotal, director of development and creation. Reminiscing about how impatient he was as a child, waiting for a promise to be kept or, later on, how his heart raced in anticipation of a date, he got out his pencil and quickly sketched out his idea.
The watch counts down from 60 minutes, chiming softly when the time is up. It’s like an hour glass on the wrist. With a simple, pure, minimalist dial.
“It took him two minutes, but it took me five years!” laughs Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, who works with Hermès on its most poetic timepieces. “It’s never been done before. And we had to fit it into a standard Slim case, which actually ended up 0.8 mm wider. There’s a small dial that shows the time of the meeting, which is adjusted via a push-piece, and a hand that counts down 60 minutes, activated by another pusher. And then there’s a 1½ second chime. We had to be able to produce the sound at a given time, using just the energy supplied by the movement. And the energy had to be available without disturbing the running of the watch. We designed a prestressed helical spring that, thanks to a concentric 360° cam, accumulates energy over the course of one hour, and releases it at the scheduled time. We also had to find the right shape and material for the gong, leaving as much air as possible around the movement for sound quality. The difficulty lay in resolving these issues while simplifying as much as possible.”
Some, indifferent to this vision of time, will no doubt consider this a “pointless” complication. But it’s a safe bet that its wearers will use it more often than chronograph wearers use their “useful” complication. For some, the hour glass is half full; for others, it’s half empty.