Tag Archives: Hermes

Time, a Hermès object at Hermès Takashimaya from 27 October to 5 November

Slim d'Hermes L'heure Impatiente

Slim d’Hermes L’heure Impatiente

As a subset of watch media, we often pontificate on how the mechanical watch is more art than functionality and yet often marketing collaterals from various brands still define a transcendent genre in terms of chronometry and precision. Every now and again, a watchmaker like Montre Hermes reminds us that however anachronistic a mechanical watch, the raison d’etre of modern time telling isn’t in its precision but in the romance of its artistry and the ingenuity of its display. To wit, Time, as a Hermès object and by extension, the display of physical embodiments of their watchmaking philosophy invite us to discover time as a vast playground and a veritable experience.

Time, a Hermès object at Hermès Takashimaya from 27 October to 5 November

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get in back.” – Harvey MacKay

10 years ago, Hermes gave us the Cape Cod Grandes Heures Automatic which opened our eyes to how we perceive time intangibly and at times imprecisely as described in the adages, “time flies when you’re having fun” and “a watched pot never boils” with a complication which at chosen intervals would speed up or slow down the angular velocity of hour and minute hands- in other words represent time’s flight or crawl depending on the hour. Today Montre Hermes measures the fun of time perception through newer objects of whimsy like the Slim d’Hermes L’heure Impatiente and the majesty of artistry with watches like the Slim d’Hermes Grrrrr!, in essence, Hermes has liberated us (even if at least momentarily) from time’s deleterious effects – to wit, to gaze upon their novelties at Time, a Hermès object exhibition at Hermès Takashimaya is to find time suspended.. so to speak.

Slim d'Hermes Grrrrr!

Slim d’Hermes Grrrrr!

Time, a Hermès object at Hermès Takashimaya from 27 October to 5 November 2017

Time, a Hermès object at Hermès Takashimaya from 27 October to 5 November 2017

For Hermes, time is an object born of uncompromising expertise. Its inherent tension is translated by the house into a singular characteristic. Rather than measuring, ordering, and seeking to control it, Hermes dares to explore another time, designed to arouse emotions, open up interludes and create spaces for spontaneity.

All is revealed to friends of the brand and industry media on 26 October 2017 where a show by Gandini Juggling has been specially choreographed to explore the physicality of this watchmaking philosophy beyond the exemplar of a few key timepieces shown at Time, a Hermès object ; Gandini Juggling’s cast of peculiar characters will mix with guests with apples pirouetting in hands with a ballet of fluid and precise gestures: a poetic dance allegorical to the question of time and gravity for the questions – will there be an Apple missed as the pace of the game accelerates? Does the display feel like an hour’s worth of entertainment or less? A demonstration of how time has slipped away, at the whim of the artists and apples shaping the space.

Gandini Juggling 2013

A disconcerting scenography continues the day after for public display from 7 October to 5 November at Hermès Takashimaya; First, with monolithic windows in which the watches appear and disappear in time with pulsating light. Then come interactive screens, human sized to better appropriate the forms. Before these two-way mirrors, silhouettes of the visitors are displayed before slowly vanishing into smoke. Videos and images succeed each other, stretched, duplicated in the manner of a kaleidoscope. It is for us, in front of the screen, to decide what to do with this time, this playful ally that belongs to us, always.

Exhibition details for Time, a Hermes Object at Hermès Takashimaya

Gandini Juggling choreography interpreting Montre Hermes’ watchmaking philosophy revealed to selected guests on 26 October 2017 at Hermes Takashimaya. The show is followed by a scenography circuit open to the public from 27 October to 5 November.



Shape Your Time: Exploring Square and Form Watches of 2017



Square watches, or in industry parlance: form or shaped watches are a fairly sizeable segment (given that Cartier produces AND sells so many of them, but more on that later). That is to say, even though there’s a preponderance of round watches in the industry, the belief that square or shaped watches only have a niche appeal is fundamentally unsound. However, significant conversations with retailers and brands alike all indicate that the round watch, if anything, will dominate even more than it already does. For our part, we find this very disappointing indeed.

The much-reported preference of markets (apparently everywhere) for round watches seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy that no brand has seriously challenged. Well, one brand is challenging it but because that brand is Apple, watchmaking firms have only expressed tepid interest. More often than not, the companies have expressed aggressive disinterest.

Shape Your Time: 2017 Resurgence of Form Watches

This will mean that square watches will indeed be scarce, as we will illustrate here, and that fact represents an opportunity for the most consummate of collectors. The important thing is of course to see if there is enough demand to create the right sort of imbalance. Of course, we will be steering clear of making predictions as to investment value and such. Our purpose here is only to highlight an opportunity.

Designing Time

Before getting into that, let us look at the design situation at the turn of the last century, when the taste for wristwatches was still nascent. Louis Cartier was a jeweler with a penchant for what former Cartier CEO Franco Cologni called square surfaces. It was at the turn of the previous century that Cartier entered into its famous partnership with Parisian watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, who himself was tied up with the LeCoultre watchmaking company in Switzerland. This partnership prefigured the commercial launch of the Santos watch in 1911, a move that heralded the arrival of all sorts of new shapes in watchmaking.

The Panthere de Cartier is the major form watch release for 2017 that carries the codes of the Tank and the Santos, as seen below and right.

The Panthere de Cartier is the major form watch release for 2017 that carries the codes of the Tank and the Santos, as seen below and right.

At this time, before watchmakers and the public had any idea of what the ideal wristwatch would be, it was truly a free-for-all in terms of design. According to Cologni, in his book Cartier The Tank Watch, Louis Cartier was moved first and foremost by form, believing it to be more important than function. Arguably, this is the beginning of an idea that has an inherent weakness for the development and future of wristwatches– that function should follow form.

In contemporary times, the late Apple impresario Steve Jobs redefined this with his products, recognizing that “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” As far as watchmaking goes, the idea that design is how the object itself functions speaks to why so many watches today are round. Our daily time is indeed circular because that is what happens when you track the hours and minutes with hands. This powerful idea then shapes a powerful commercial argument.

Audemars Piguet is one of the few with a strong oval watch collection that also comes with a shaped movement

Audemars Piguet is one of the few with a strong oval watch collection that also comes with a shaped movement

The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium brought to life from the sketch before

The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium brought to life from the sketch before

Fragmented Collections

When asked about the new IWC Da Vinci being round despite the 2007 version being a refreshingly complex tonneau-tortue shape, here is what then-IWC CEO Georges Kern said: “The point is, 70 percent of the market is round watches. And the shaped segment is very limited and further segmented: square, rectangular, baignoire, tonneau… At the size IWC is today, with our reach, you need to be round because that’s what the market is.”

Kern was heading up watchmaking, marketing and digital for the Richemont Group overall so what he says carries weight far beyond IWC.

By virtue of its contrast bezel, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 PAM684 is a form watch hiding in round clothes.

By virtue of its contrast bezel, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 PAM684 is a form watch hiding in round clothes.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Apple Watch Series 2 stuck with the rectangular shape and is water resistant to 50 metres.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Apple Watch Series 2 stuck with the rectangular shape and is water resistant to 50 metres.

Franck Muller enjoyed a peak in the 90s and the early 2000s giving tonneau shaped watches a boost in popularity, pictured here, the Vanguard Fullback

Franck Muller enjoyed a peak in the 90s and the early 2000s giving tonneau shaped watches a boost in popularity, pictured here, the Vanguard Fullback

In fact, Kern’s estimation is generous considering that most informed sources consider round watches to be closer to 80 percent of the market. Before proceeding though, the market itself requires some definition because it does not only include the high-end market, meaning watches above US$1,000. In a 2015 article on the then-upcoming Apple Watch Series 2, no less than Forbes predicted that Apple would abandon its signature look in favour of the more conventional round shape. This prediction was based on the input of industry insiders and the like, and no doubt also took Jobs’ own philosophy into account. Of course, Apple confounded these expectations, illustrating again the hazards of journalists predicting outcomes. Considering that the Apple Watch 2 is both a status symbol and below US$1,000 (it is available for as little as $398 from the Apple Store), its very existence threatens the narrative that the market is overwhelmingly interested in round watches.

Exploring Form and Shaped Watches

Despite being, in the official lingo “timeless”, watches certainly mirror the era they are made and released in. This is what makes vintage watches from some periods – particularly the Art Deco age – so distinctive. Given the importance of heritage to the core of Swiss watchmaking – fine and otherwise – the brands have done a good job of retaining certain aesthetic touches across the ages. We have already gone into why Jaeger-LeCoultre shares the rectangular watch crown with Cartier. Both these firms maintain and champion in the 21st century a look that was already classic in the 1950s. But form watches – which are otherwise known as shaped watches – are not just rectangular of course

Patent drawing of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Patent drawing of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo owns the form space in classical styling

The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo owns the form space in classical styling

In official parlance, any watch that isn’t round is called a “form watch.” So that means everything from cushion-shaped Panerai watches to every collection from Cartier other than the Drive de Cartier, Cle de Cartier and Calibre de Cartier; we would argue that the popular Ballon Bleu is actually a form watch because it has a tactile appeal arising from its pebble shape. To look at the number of models in the form watch segment itself, we can only reference other magazines. Armbanduhren, a specialty German watch catalog, lists more than 1,000 models of watches (and has done since we began paying attention, in 2011). Of these more than 900 are round, meaning that form watches are roughly 10 percent of the annual offering.

If we take these numbers to base an extrapolation on, then we have roughly 10 percent of the watch models in any given year vying for potentially 30 percent of the market. Of course, we have no way of knowing just how many pieces are made and sold directly but it seems a good bet that only Cartier will be selling form watches in significant numbers.

Drive de Cartier pushes the cushion-shaped aesthetic, here in extra flat form.

Drive de Cartier pushes the cushion-shaped aesthetic, here in extra flat form.

This brings us to sales, briefly. Forbes ranks Rolex as the top-selling brand of high-end Swiss watches and Omega as the third. Guess what brand occupies the second rung? Yes, the standard-bearer of form watches itself, the Panthere of fine watchmaking, Cartier sells the most watches annually, other than Rolex.

Square and Rectangle Watches

The Tank is probably the most famous form watch in the world, rivaled only by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. If one throws in the very popular and aforementioned Santos, also from Cartier, as well as the Twenty4, Nautilus and Aquanaut from Patek Philippe, and the Cintrex Curvex from Franck Muller, these are probably the most widely known form watches on the planet. Leaving all these aside and returning to just Cartier, this powerful brand has sought to increase its market share by unleashing an array of round watches but of these, the Ballon Bleu is so rounded that it resembles a sort of magical pebble that tells the time. The shape of this watch is, arguably, what made it an unqualified success. Nevertheless, Cartier clearly feels like its best shot at gaining market share lies with round watches, lending no small amount of credence to Kern’s statement.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G

The Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Sapphire shows off its form with a sapphire case middle

The Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Sapphire shows off its form with a sapphire case middle


In the early days of wristwatches (pocket watches were almost universally round and so are contemporary executions, Tom Ford’s attempt to transform the Apple Watch notwithstanding), firms experimented with wildly differing shapes, only a few of which remain well known today. In the era of properly water resistant watches though, most wristwatches are round and that is just because it is much simpler to achieve ISO water resistance standards when the case of the watch is round. Once again, function keeps interfering with the notion of the form watch

The reason for this water resistance bit could very well fill another article but, to cover it briefly and intuitively, just think of how easily a rubber gasket would work with a round watch as opposed to a rectangular one. It is for this reason that even brands with a yen for specific shapes (or even just one shape in particular) opt for the round shape when necessary.

Bell & Ross makes a point about exceptional water resistance (300 metres) with the BR 03-92 Diver

Bell & Ross makes a point about exceptional water resistance (300 metres) with the BR 03-92 Diver

Function versus Form

An excellent, if obvious, case in point here is the Richard Mille diver watch while the equally obvious counterpoint is Bell & Ross. In fact, Bell & Ross raised the roof at BaselWorld this year by releasing a diver’s watch that maintained the brand’s signature square look. It is important to note that in this case, no pun intended, the display of time is round allowing Bell & Ross to package both form and function into the mix; obviously, the brand had to work hard to achieve exceptional water resistance in this unusual shape and that should only increase its appeal.

This example aside, function is arguably the strongest reason explaining why the watchmaking trade has doubled down on the round shape in recent years, The aforementioned standard bearers of form watches such as Jaeger-LeCoultre and Cartier are both betting big on round while Omega – once a stellar producer of shaped watches – now only features the odd bullhead and Ploprof for variation. Omega is the third largest maker of high-end mechanical timepieces in Switzerland and it has no other shape in its regular collections but round.

Richard Mille RM50-03

Richard Mille RM50-03

As for the number one spot, Rolex reintroduced the world to the rectangular Prince in 2005 in what was then considered to be yet another of the brand’s calculated surprise moves. It followed up by proposing the Cellini as a brand new tuxedo-friendly family in its collection. Unfortunately, Rolex unceremoniously ditched the rectangular Prince, with the model not even worthy of a mention on its website. If you have never heard of the Rolex Prince, it is as if it never existed…

What is particularly unfortunate here is that this is Rolex, a brand unafraid to go its own way. Perhaps no other major brand would take a chance on something major that would require some getting used to, such as the Sky-Dweller and the Yacht-Master II. If the rectangular Prince can’t make it here then the majors are truly closed for business on the form watch side. On the other hand, there are still pristine examples of the Prince available and this quirky little dressy number may yet have its day.


Chameleons: A Case in Between

All this points to the obvious truth that few brands care enough about the form segment to flood the market with options, making what’s available all the more precious. This is what Officine Panerai so smartly trades on, even resolving professional tool watch issues without compromising on the shape of the watches. Brands such as this are few and far between, and bring this story to a special class of offerings.

Audemars Piguet leads the way in disguising round watches as form watches... or is it vice versa?

Audemars Piguet leads the way in disguising round watches as form watches… or is it vice versa?

Another great chameleon in this arena is Audemars Piguet, the maker of the highly idiosyncratic Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore watches. The shape here feels distinctive yet it maintains a sort of amorphous state, being perhaps close enough to being round that the unsuspecting eye accepts it as such. Of course, it might also be a round watch masquerading as an octagonal one. Indeed, case, bezel and crystal all come together in masterful fashion to surprise both eye and hand. In short, it is a rather beautiful ambiguity that Audemars Piguet shares here with Panerai.

Other brands too have their place here, including one collection from Patek Philippe with a shared progenitor as the Royal Oak – the Nautilus, and by extension the Aquanaut. Speaking of the great Gerald Genta, it would be remiss to ignore the current Bulgari Octo collection. Bulgari’s determination to convince the world of the virtues of its Octo shape is remarkable, making this brand one of the leading lights of the form watch segment.

Engine of Demand

Taken together, the brands that champion form watches because that is what they must do to survive and, further to that, thrive, perform an invaluable service to watchmaking as a whole – and to collectors by extension. They serve to drive the engine of demand, which is a far more difficult beast to understand than supply.

To put it another way, if while pushing their own goals and growth targets, these corporations also happen to create a little demand for gems of the past such as the A. Lange & Sohne Cabaret or the Rolex Prince, so much the better for collectors, especially those who are already moving in this direction. For those on the sidelines, the success of a particular model can lead to the brand reviving the model in its current collection or increasing its offering, thus building even more cachet and demand. There is actually a proper example of this, which brings us back to Audemars Piguet and Cartier.

The original release of the so-called Series A of the Royal Oak numbered only 1,000 watches yet the ensuing popularity of the model translated to innumerable iterations over the years. This collection – and the Royal Oak Offshore – probably contributes the lion’s share of the brand’s reported figure of 40,000 plus watches sold annually. Finishing our tale at Cartier, where we started, the success of the Tank watch might arguably be correlated to the success of Cartier as a force in high-end watchmaking. While the Royal Oak has just the Royal Oak Offshore as an offshoot, the Tank has quite a number of descendants. The popularity of the Tank with collectors inspired Cartier to create extensive options here, with no less than six different families of Tank watches available, with multiple references in each family. Not bad at all for a watch that started with just six models for sale in Paris in 1919.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Asymmetrical

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Asymmetrical

Minor Leagues: Where Independent watchmakers stand on Shaped Watches

Where the big brands have circled the wagons, so to speak, it is quite a different story at smaller outfits such as Azimuth, Bell & Ross, MB&F, SevenFriday, Urwerk and others. Certainly some, especially classical names such as Philippe Dufour and Laurent Ferrier, trade on a certain inner beauty but even here, some are not afraid to bust out of the circle. This is most obvious in the watches of Greubel Forsey, where the cases literally bulge in odd ways when the function calls for it. Obviously, when one makes very small numbers of watches it is possible to take certain risks. Here’s how Max Busser of MB&F puts it:

“It’s a question of horological integrity; I’ve said from the beginning that MB&F is not going to put round movements in funky shaped cases because we’re not designers. We’re mechanical artists. This is what separates marketers from creators; If you want to please the market you probably won’t take creative risks. The bigger the company, the more you will be inclined to please the market.”

Busser’s point here extends to watches at many different prices points, as evidenced by Kickstarter notables such as Momentum Labs, Helgray and Xeric. Obviously, Kickstarter projects are defined by the marketplace so the vast majority of projects there are round watches but there are significant alternatives, which one can discover by looking at the offering from those three names.


Form Watch Movements

Proportionally, it is rewarding when watchmakers equip a rectangular watch with a movement with exactly the right shape. In first half of the 20th century, it was quite normal to expect form watches to come with movements in the corresponding shape. The idea was to have the mechanical movement function as a sort of kinetic sculpture, one where function followed form. Today, form movements are the exception rather than the rule, even within the increasingly limited area of form watches. Given that form watches as a whole are like an endangered horological species, this story concerns itself with the shape of the watch as a whole rather than the shape of the movement.

The Tank Louis Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 944 are both examples of kinetic sculptures

The Tank Louis Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 944 are both examples of kinetic sculptures

Nevertheless, an entire class of collectors follows this segment and connoisseurs of mechanical watches are always pleased when watchmakers make an effort to match the shape of the movement with the shape of the watch so in this section we will look at the history of such efforts and suggest why they have fallen out of favor, although the simple answer as to why your cushion-shaped watch comes with a round movement is not hard to fathom: it makes sense from a cost and reliability perspective.

With apologies to Louis Cartier and to play devil’s advocate, what value does it really speak to that function should follow form? It is by no means a recent development that we consider function more important than form. To reference the main part of this story, this speaks to why the Apple Watch is rectangular.

Jobs’ design ideology finds its spiritual cousin in the watchmaking philosophy of Jaeger-LeCoultre, at least when it comes to the Reverso. Other than the Squadra, the Art Deco icon has always been equipped with a form movement and its case shape was dictated by function. The Reverso has the shape that it does to facilitate its defining reversible function. Function though is where form movements run into trouble, for one obvious reason: automatic winding, or rather the lack thereof.

The newly launched Tiffany Square Watch comes with its bonafide form, square shaped movement. A rarity even amongst specialist watchmakers.

The newly launched Tiffany Square Watch comes with its bonafide form, square shaped movement. A rarity even amongst specialist watchmakers.

Since at least the 1960s, the watch buying public has sought out automatic models. Once again, you can look to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso models over the years to see how this played. For the most part, the Reverso has been equipped with manual-winding calibers, all form ones of course. For self-winding models, in the Reverso Squadra and elsewhere, the Grand Maison uses round movements. Cartier sidestepped the issue though because Edmond Jaeger designed and equipped the early Cartier form watches with round LeCoultre movements.

Check out the latest Tiffany Square Watch which joined body (and movement), the pantheon of shaped watches.


When Time Flies (or Slows): Hermes Slim d’Hermes L’heure impatiente


Hermes announced at BaselWorld that it thinks of time as an object. This is indeed novel as even the scientific (and thus factual) interpretation is that space and time are a single conjoined dimension of reality. In the astrological sense that we use in our daily lives, the time as tracked on our watches represents the motion of our planet on its axis. So, in this fashion of thinking, every two cycles of the hour hand around the dial represents a full 360 degree turn of the Earth. If that sounds strange to you, it is because this is not at all how we humans experience time. At the very least, we think of the passage of time in tandem with the motion of the sun across the sky, and then the stars and the moon. Obviously, we are not intuitively Copernican in our thinking.

When Time Flies (or Slows): Hermes Slim d’Hermes L’heure impatiente

Hermes has been making it its business to playfully rubbish the objective sense of time in favour of something entirely human, and thus subjective. The manufacture is keen on reminding us that we give meaning to time. In 2017, the Slim d’Hermes L’heure impatiente advances this human sense of time by offering the wearer the ability to anticipate an event in the future – up to 12 hours in advance – and then set up a one-hour countdown to said event. Ok, so this is an elaborate alarm function, complete here with a chiming note that is reportedly drawn-out and “velvety-smooth”.

Before moving on to the module that makes all this possible, the important question here is why? Well, the idea is to build anticipation for the longed-for event. It might, for example, be the end of the work day or the arrival of loved one from an overseas trip. Hermes even says its aim was to play up the “exquisite torture” in the lead-up to that specific moment in time, making the release as indicated by that chiming note so much the sweeter. Clearly, the watchmakers were inspired by Andy Warhol’s thoughts on anticipation: The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting. Well, either that or they’ve been reading John Green’s Paper Towns…

On the subject of the calibre that makes these effervescent musings on time possible, it is the automatic manufacture Hermes H1912, with a special 2.2mm thick, 31.96mm wide module that delivers on the anticipation factor. As you may have guessed, this module is bigger than the base movement, with that being just 23.9mm. Though Hermes doesn’t say so, we surmise that this extra width must be to accommodate the hammer and gongs that deliver that promised note.

The 40.5mm watch is offered only in red gold for the moment although, at a future date it might get other editions. You only have to wait…

Hermes Slim d’Hermes L’heure impatiente Price and Specs

Movement Self-winding Hermes calibre H1912 with chiming alarm; 42-hour power reserve
Case 40.5mm in red gold; water-resistant to 30m
Strap Blue alligator leather
Price: SG$61,250

Classic Men’s Style and the New Rules of Classic Elegance

if you haven’t yet noticed, it’s quite apparent that most men don’t dress like this anymore

It is my sad duty to inform you that other than on Suits, it’s obvious that classic men’s style is on the verge of extinction (an article to follow soon on this statement which sounds suspiciously like hyperbole but isn’t); that said, if you haven’t yet noticed, it’s quite apparent that most men don’t dress like this anymore. Officially, the barometer for classic men’s style points towards trends where the trending personal style radar tilts past the devil-may-care insouciance of classic Italian sprezzatura to a level of street style more appropriate described in street nomenclature of DGAF, translated: “Don’t Give A Fuck” style. From T-shirts with ties to loud prints, the old rules have been bent if not broken, but there are new rules of classic elegance which still allow a classic gentleman to endure and thrive a new era of style and dressing. Remember this maxim: Good quality and great taste will always survive tests of time (and trends).

Classic Men’s Style and the New Rules of Classic Elegance

It used to be that every gentleman followed a sartorial template of classic men’s style with room for singular flourishes (a pocket square folded differently or puffed forgetfully), a boutonniere here and there – it was as John William’s Star Wars symphony with recognisable leitmotifs and the familiar comfort of string’s of the Jedi’s theme or Yoda’s motif. Today, style is less Williams and more Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight, jarring, discordant, rough but with oases of Batman’s theme – a point of sole familial comfort in otherwise attention dominating electro-string compositions. Men’s style today is less about fitting in and more about peacocking (without appearing to be).

Classic Men's Style and the New Rules of Classic Elegance - The Gucci Heritage jacquard suit from Gucci pre-fall 2017 is not quite your stuffy old suit but with traditional, tightly packed motifs, it bears a tonal quality approaching what one might wear classically 'cept that it's not. I'd advise on a different pair of shoes though

Classic Men’s Style and the New Rules of Classic Elegance – The Gucci Heritage jacquard suit from Gucci pre-fall 2017 is not quite your stuffy old suit but with traditional, tightly packed motifs, it bears a tonal quality approaching what one might wear classically ‘cept that it’s not. I’d advise on a different pair of shoes though

My recommendation? The Gucci Queercore brogue monk shoe: A double-strap monk style shoe mixes traditional brogue details with a punk aesthetic. Rounded studs and metal feline head embellish the front.

My recommendation? The Gucci Queercore brogue monk shoe: A double-strap monk style shoe mixes traditional brogue details with a punk aesthetic. Rounded studs and metal feline head embellish the front.

Men’s Style: The Balanced Look (punctuated with whimsical accessories)

Because you’re throwing down good money for men’s garments, the financial hawks that we are would prefer that you put money down on “investment grade” trend-proof pieces that would stand the test of time; to ease your transition (and gradual acceptance) into these new rules of elegance, we highly recommend Alessandro Michele’s Gucci Cruise 2017 collection – an eclectic but still very much English inspired collection of bags, accessories and suits but steroid enhanced in terms of colourways and motifs.


New rules of classic elegance dictate that one can get experimental with textures and colours without going the "full Ronald McDonald" - Here, Bally cotton jacket with wool sweater, cotton pants, leather belt and canvas sneakers - coincidentally, this is also a smart casual look

New rules of classic elegance dictate that one can get experimental with textures and colours without going the “full Ronald McDonald” – Here, Bally cotton jacket with wool sweater, cotton pants, leather belt and canvas sneakers – coincidentally, this is also a smart casual look

Playing with colour also means that that striking or even pastel colours transposed on masculine cut garments like this peacoat from Hermes serve to accentuate a classic gents bravado in the rainbow realm

Playing with colour also means that that striking or even pastel colours transposed on masculine cut garments like this peacoat from Hermes serve to accentuate a classic gents bravado in the rainbow realm

With the new rules of classic elegance, it might be time to re-look your travel accessories, starting with brave steps across the airport terminal toting the new Gucci Courrier GG Supreme suitcase. Travel continues to be a source of inspiration for Alessandro Michele. A collection of bags in the GG motif is enriched with a blend of contemporary embroideries-like the UFO-and vintage inspired details, including airmail trims. The appliqués are individually embroidered and then skillfully hand-applied to each piece by specialized artisans. This process ensures that no two items will be alike, giving each a one-of-a-kind appearance.

With the new rules of classic elegance, it might be time to re-look your travel accessories, starting with brave steps across the airport terminal toting the new Gucci Courrier GG Supreme suitcase. Travel continues to be a source of inspiration for Alessandro Michele. A collection of bags in the GG motif is enriched with a blend of contemporary embroideries-like the UFO-and vintage inspired details, including airmail trims. The appliqués are individually embroidered and then skillfully hand-applied to each piece by specialized artisans. This process ensures that no two items will be alike, giving each a one-of-a-kind appearance.

New classic mens style rules also mean going "vintage" - here, the new Longines Legend Diver ref. L3.674.4.50.6, equipped with the unique inner rotating bezel and Longines' L633 movement, now on "shark mesh" or milanese bracelet for a dressy or casual aesthetic depending on your ensemble.

New classic mens style rules also mean going “vintage” – here, the new Longines Legend Diver ref. L3.674.4.50.6, equipped with the unique inner rotating bezel and Longines’ L633 movement, now on “shark mesh” or milanese bracelet for a dressy or casual aesthetic depending on your ensemble.

Getting experimental with textures and colours

Sure, stick to the sombre staples of classic men’s style with a serious palette of blues, greys and browns but do punch things up a bit with bright patterns and motifs like those of Hermes, Bally and Gucci.

A Prada check cotton jacket or blazer with cotton pants pulls equal duty for a smart casual ensemble under the auspices of the new rules of classic elegance. To fulfil the "elegance" aspect of the bargain, I would probably go for something other than sandals.

A Prada check cotton jacket or blazer with cotton pants pulls equal duty for a smart casual ensemble under the auspices of the new rules of classic elegance. To fulfil the “elegance” aspect of the bargain, I would probably go for something other than sandals.

Following the same colour palette of the previous ensemble, I would suggest this pair of Dior Homme ankle sneakers by Kris Van Asche from the Spring 2017 collection - Prince of Wales check embossed grey leather covered with splotches of white or colour paint

Following the same colour palette of the previous ensemble, I would suggest this pair of Dior Homme ankle sneakers by Kris Van Asche from the Spring 2017 collection – Prince of Wales check embossed grey leather covered with splotches of white or colour paint

Alternatively, a Paul Smith wool suit with cotton shirt and Louis Vuitton canvas espadrilles also acquits itself as a dressy while casual ensemble

Alternatively, a Paul Smith wool suit with cotton shirt and Louis Vuitton canvas espadrilles also acquits itself as a dressy while casual ensemble

The new Men’s Smart Casual

The new rules of classic elegance also mean that with DGAF style, your casual weekend clothes can start beginning to pull their weight as parts of your weekday ensemble too. This revolution in classic style has given rise to streetwear which is now luxurious, sneakers which are now artisanal and leather jackets which are less for the motorcycle and more for the office – your weekend uniform now pulls double duty as weekday hallmarks of great sartorialism and stylish panache.

Here, this Prada cotton jacket - like the one Jude Law was wearing in the campaign visuals, is layered on a Prada wool vest, cotton shirt, pants, leather shoes and paired with their three tone leather shoes in brogues. The leather backpack is just icing on cake.

Here, this Prada cotton jacket – like the one Jude Law was wearing in the campaign visuals, is layered on a Prada wool vest, cotton shirt, pants, leather shoes and paired with their three tone leather shoes in brogues. The leather backpack is just icing on cake.

For an even more classic look, try these Jimmy Choo tassel loafers with dandy stripes and tassels

For an even more classic look, try these Jimmy Choo tassel loafers with dandy stripes and tassels

Luxuriously Old School

Fewer devotees to men’s classic styles also means an opportunity has risen to dominate a space in the fashion spectrum where plenty of men have vacated – time to embrace houndstooth patterns and checks again.

Special Thanks to sister publication Men’s Folio for shots and styling.

Image credits for Classic Men’s Style and the New Rules of Classic Elegance – Photography assistant – Alfie Pan, Styling assistant – Henry Boen Lim, Hair – Joanne Er/ Monsoon Salon Novena using Hatsuga, Grooming – Aaron Ng/ Decorum; Photography assistant – Marie Liang, Hair – Junz Loke/ Passion Salon, Grooming – Benedict Choo using YSL; Models – Stefan Fucina/ AVE, Xu Bin

‘Contact Lens’ exhibition by Haruka Kojin at Hermès Liat Towers, Singapore

Image courtesy Hermès

At the Hermès store at Liat Towers, a silver chain hangs mid-air, proportions wildly distorted by several innocuous-looking circles of glass. Elsewhere, a piece of fabric is transformed into a bizarre display of shapes and colour.

These real-life optical illusions are the work of contemporary Japanese artist Haruka Kojin. In an exploration of perception and the distortion of reality, Kojin makes use of macro and micro lenses to transform Hermès objects — including illustrated works by prominent architect and cartographer Nigel Peake — into an abstract vision of light and geometry that is as alien as it is intriguing.

Haruka Kojin, 'Contact Lens', 2017. Image courtesy Edward Hendriks

Haruka Kojin, ‘Contact Lens’, 2017. Image courtesy Edward Hendriks

Conceived on an express bus watching the landscape fly past, the idea behind the exhibition came from a single question: if we had triangular eyes, what would be the reality that we lived in?

Ironically titled ‘Contact Lens’, the exhibition explores an alternate reality by distorting our perception of objects. “We think of the world that we see as being our reality,” says the artist. “However, the truth is that what we see only looks like it does because of the structure of our eyes. Even a tiny change in that structure can result in seeing a completely different world and perceiving a completely different reality.”

Haruka Kojin, 'Contact Lens', 2017. Image courtesy Edward Hendriks

Haruka Kojin, ‘Contact Lens’, 2017. Image courtesy Edward Hendriks

Referring to insects as an example, Kojin explains that as different creatures have different structures in their eyes, they perceive their surroundings in a completely different manner, despite existing in the same world. “As a result, the colors and forms around them seem to be different, and that makes their worlds very different,” she says.

Haruka Kojin, 'Contact Lens', 2017. Image courtesy Edward Hendriks

Haruka Kojin, ‘Contact Lens’, 2017. Image courtesy Edward Hendriks

“Humans and insects, like flies for example, may well sense completely different worlds around them, but nevertheless, they could still be eating the same piece of cake. I find that fascinating.”

‘Contact Lens’ will run at Hermès Liat Towers until early October.

ilyda chua

As Richemont sells Shanghai Tang, Hermes continues to back Shang Xia, Are Chinese Luxury Brands Doomed to Fail?

Back in 2013, it was reported in Wall Street Journal that Financière Richemont SA, better known as Richemont to industry insiders, decided against selling some of its struggling business units, including pen maker Montblanc, and instead will increase their investment into each of the 20 brands within their portfolio. Some, like Montblanc have become success stories with the addition of a watchmaking concern; others are still struggling to find their feet four years later and among the first to go –  Shanghai Tang.

The Richemont – Shanghai Tang’s relationship goes back close to 20 years. The Group first acquired a majority stake in 1998 before completely taking over the brand in 2008. At the time, the acquisition was considered to be strategic just when the luxury goods market started to peak in China.

A primer on Shanghai Tang

Since the early 90s, Hollywood celebrities like Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman have flirted with the Qipao or Cheongsam and perhaps, founder David Tang thought that a brand tapping into a zeitgeist of western upscale clientele would propel a brand with Chinese flourishes into critical and commercial success. Headlined by a body hugging dress of Chinoiserie design, Shanghai Tang was born in 1994, producing the iconic 1920s Shanghainese socialite uniform except that this time, it was interpreted for modern women. The formula appeared to work when in the late 90s, the era’s IT girl Kate Moss started to produce her own collaboration of Cheongsams with Topshop, coinciding with a trend of western celebrity appropriation of Chinese cultural dress.

Almost 10 years later, during a 2013 interview with Business Insider, it was reported that as the “global curator of modern Chinese aesthetics,” Shanghai Tang had managed to achieve 43% increase of global sales by 2005; fuelled by an expanded collection of not just Chinese-inspired fashion but also accessories and homewares.

Physically, Shanghai Tang operated a majority of boutiques within China (30 out of 45 stores) and at the time (2013), Asians represented 51% of the brand’s consumers with native Chinese forming the bulk while 49% went to a market of Westerners. Then, in the intervening four years, things started to go wrong…

Luxury Business Science 201: What went wrong with Shanghai Tang?

First, let’s just say that culturally, the cheongsam can be considered fairly analogous to a bespoke suit. If one were to follow the 1920s Shanghainese model, wealthy socialites would typically get measured and then fitted for a bespoke or made-to-measure qipao cheongsam. As a cultural garment, the raison d’etre of the qipao was to be as form fitting, emphasising the feminine attributes of her owner. An off-the-rack offering was possible but at those price ranges, you were could consider a bespoke version at your local and often, longtime seamstress.

Second, consider for a moment the odd cultural crossroads where you are marketing a brand to a highly nationalistic citizenry where a large number of your clientele are gwai lo 鬼佬 or lao wai 老外 and you begin to have a contradiction of cultural expectations which complicates potential brand direction.

Finally, the rise of millennials and the corresponding soft economies in which they have grown up have led to a bifurcation of expectations. On one hand, a group of millennials who do not harbour aspirations of status or pretense and the other, a group of millennials who do aspire to luxury but dollar for dollar would prefer clearly European luxury brands, as a result Shanghai Tang was placed in a confluence of increasingly tepid performance and certainly, they were not the sort of brand within the Richemont portfolio which was as easily understood like watches and jewellery (or for that matter, guns – Purdey, purses – Lancel).

For Richemont, Shanghai Tang just wasn’t a solid performer and given the different market variables, they sold the 23 year old brand to Italian fashion entrepreneur Alessandro Bastagli and private equity fund Cassia Investments Ltd.

What does this mean for foreign owned Chinese Luxury Brands? Are Chinese Luxury Brands doomed?

Richemont Group is not alone in their divestiture of a chinese luxury brand. Earlier this year, LVMH dropped luxury Chinese spirit label Wenjun. For some reason, luxury conglomerates practiced at marketing brands with a depth of history and tradition appear to be finding it problematic to market brands from China, even when they have the equivalent depth of Chinese history and culture; Case in point – The Wenjun Distillery, a premium white spirit or bai jiu 白酒 maker has a heritage going back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD), that’s over 2000 years of heritage. LVMH, itself a specialist in premium liquors through Moët Hennessy decided in January to drop Wenjun Distillery, having acquired a 55% stake in 2007.

What is not immediately certain is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft measures are curbing consumption of premium liquors (traditionally a deal-making lubricant in Chinese culture) to such a degree or that China’s growing wealthy upper middle class are just not consuming luxuries at a pace that LVMH had projected (similar to the millennial issue with luxury goods).

Former British accountant and now luxury analyst, Rupert Hoogewerf began studying the Chinese market by establishing Hurun Report, a luxury research unit based in Shanghai in 1999. Over the years, Hurun Report and Hoogewerf have won numerous awards for their ground-breaking lists, among them an eye opening 2017 Best of Best (BOB) top 10 list which ranked popular luxury brands for women in China – the findings? Shanghai Tang was dead last. More tellingly, it ranked nowhere for men. As for Wenjun? It was not ranked on a list of top 10 bai jiu白酒 brands either.

In this context, Richemont and LVMH’s decision to sell the underperforming Shanghai Tang and Wenjun brands appear to be backed by strong evidence that both were not performing to expectations. But does this herald the end of the European adventure into owning Chinese luxury brands? Not yet.

How Hermès differs from Richemont: Shanghai Tang vs. Shang Xia 上下

In 2008 Hermès created Shang Xia. Unlike Shanghai Tang or Wenjun, Shang Xia is a bona-fide Chinese brand in that it is developed in China and helmed with a Chinese team (no foreigner direct  it) and based on deep Chinese cultural roots and craftsmanship, that is to say, for all intents and purposes, Shang Xia is Chinese-made, Chinese-designed and Chinese-run but with capital injections from a French company. In fact,  when Hermès CEO at the time backed renowned Chinese designer Jiang Qionger to start Shang Xia, the French maison had declared that they were not only not in a rush to breakeven but had pledged an ambitious capital infusion of US$10-15 million annually. Hell, Hermès long term objectives for the brand are baked into the name itself – Shang Xia 上下 literally means to grow up strong or Shang 上 (up) by putting roots down, ergo Xia 下 (down); and in founder/designer Jiang Qionger, Hermès found all the skillsets to incubate their revolutionary concept of fine contemporary chinese craftsmanship – her creativity extends through not just fashion but also painting, graphics, jewellery and furniture – in fact, the first Chinese designer to show her collection at a Paris furniture Salon. More tellingly, when French brands invite you to design their corporate headquarters and interiors, you know that your talents are beyond reproach. Most importantly, unlike Richemont or LVMH, Hermès is not in a hurry to “maximise shareholder value” – in essence, they’re taking their time to wait for the brand to literally take root and then branch out, organically.

“Shang Xia is a cultural investment project … [At other brands] the life of the project is five years or 10 years, at Shang Xia the dream is 100 years, 200 years.” – Jiang Qionger, Shang Xia Founder/Creative Director, speaking to Financial Times

Beyond the lofty ideals espoused by the branding, Hermès and Jiang literally took their time, seeking out genuine Chinese master artisans before they even considered their first boutique in Shanghai. In fact, in the last few years, a traditional Shanghai mansion, similar in spirit to the Hermès maison in Paris Faubourg Saint Honoré has been painstakingly rebuilt and renovated to host not only Shang Xia and Hermès but also a dedicated area focused on imparting knowledge of traditional Chinese rituals (e.g. the Pu-erh tea ceremony) and customs to visitors to the maison.

This traditional Shanghai mansion is home to Shang Xia

This traditional Shanghai mansion is home to Shang Xia

With dresses costing €4000 and this Shang Xia lacquered walnut-wood Da Tian Di rocking chair, €10,800, Shang Xia is play the long game

With dresses costing €4000 and this Shang Xia lacquered walnut-wood Da Tian Di rocking chair, €10,800, Shang Xia is playing the long game

As a brand, Shang Xia avoids the pitfalls of Chinese luxury brethren Shanghai Tang and Wunjun through sheer patience, unquestioning venture funding, an emphasis on genuine ancient Chinese crafts techniques and a carefully curated collection of limited products that are not for general sale, but auctioned through auction houses like Christie’s. While Hermès intends to break-even this year, it is too soon to say if the strategy for intentional blurring of lines between art and commerce is going to be successful, but LUXUO can say this, it is a singularly unique one, not even the most rarified of watch brands comes close. In an interview with Financial Times, Jiang states, “Shang Xia is a cultural investment project … [At other brands] the life of the project is five years or 10 years, at Shang Xia the dream is 100 years, 200 years.”

Truthfully, if Mao Zedong’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution decimated Chinese culture, tradition and history from 1966 until 1976. Shang Xia 上下  is quite possibly amongst its last defenders and preservers, even if they’re not successful commercially, Hermès is doing the world a big favour artistically and culturally – there is some great PR value in that, after all, Shang Xia is a perpetuation in that quintessential Hermès belief in craftsmanship, creativity, heritage and integrity – something which even some venerable watch brands have commoditised and automated.

Jiang Qionger, Shang Xia Founder/Creative Director

Jiang Qionger, Shang Xia Founder/Creative Director

Shang Xia mahjong table

Shang Xia mahjong table

Business of Luxury: Does Richemont’s failure with Shanghai Tang provide an allegory for Shang Xia?

Richemont’s sale of Shanghai Tang does indeed cast a pallor over the viability of Chinese luxury brands but if anything Hermès’ carefully paced expansion in China has not only kept the French maison profitable but also retained that aura of ultra-exclusivity, a lynch pin of luxury retail and branding. It would seem that Shang Xia is being incubated and nourished in the same vein as its adoptive parent.

Richemont’s ignominious venture with Shanghai Tang was also the result of a confluence of increasingly exorbitant Hong Kong rentals (closing a flagship in 2011), over expansion and perhaps also, a misreading of a growing generation of millennials. That said, with Hermès expecting breakeven from Shang Xia this year and a jarring (Hermès not only never sells online but their website is similarly vague and opaque) eCommerce platform on Tmall that runs contrary to typical Hermès strategy, it is likely that this out-of-character decision is also the result of knee-jerk impatience of shareholders of the publicly traded company and it is anyone’s guess what will happen should Shang Xia fail to break even by year’s end.

Though no figures for the Shanghai Tang sale were released by Richemont, the brand was one of four labels that were under threat of divestiture since 2013: The other brands being Dunhill, Chloe and Azzedine Alaia. After announcement of the sale, Richemont Group shares were up 0.7%.

Luxury Science: Why Hermes Wants You Unable to Afford their Bags

Even as industry analyst Bain doubles its growth estimates for the 2017 luxury goods market from 1-2 percent to 3-4 percent, citing consumption in both Europe and China offsetting weakness in the USA and South-East Asia; the luxury world with brands like Burberry, Michael Kors, Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, Tod’s and Coach have all posted weak demand, yet, one brand remains seemingly oblivious and defying the downward trends of the wider luxury market. How is such performance possible (or even likely) when Hermes continues to make their desirable Hermes Birkin bags more and more un-affordable?

Posting 7.7% growth, Hermes is defying expectations. How?

Luxury Science: Why Hermes Wants You Unable to Afford their Bags (but able afford the other stuff)

According to Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at BNP Exane Paribas, Hermes has managed to achieve cult desired status through a well crafted business strategy of “frustrating consumer demand” – that is to say, as a business, Hermes flies in opposition of tried and tested economic models. Basic economic theory dictates that as demand increases, supply usually increases to match demand (in order to realise and maximise profits) but when the supply curve begins to outstrip demand that prices start to fall.

Yet with at least a million Birkin bags in circulation, the economic theory would predict a proportional decrease in price for almost all types of goods and services yet Hermes has managed consumer demand to such a degree that not only do prices of Hermes Birkin bags NOT decrease, they increase!

Hermes Birkin on the left and the Kelly, pictured right.

Hermes Birkin on the left and the Kelly, pictured right.

To explain this phenomenon, many economists turn to Thorstein Bunde Veblen, famed Norwegian-American economist, sociologist and a critic of capitalism. In his 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen outlines that conspicuous consumption is performed to demonstrate wealth or mark social status; as a result, the higher the price, the higher the demand, since the cost of the item is itself a proclamation of status, why else does one buy a Richard Mille, but I digress. Thus, when it comes to Veblen goods like Hermes bags, the science runs contrary to traditional economic theory.

That said, with Hermes, that ‘Veblen goods’ explanation is too simplistic. While 1843 magazine declares Hermes bags as “non conspicuous” by virtue of the lack of logos, referencing global recognition of Gucci’s double-Gs, the signature design of the Hermes Birkin and Kelly make these products distinctive status symbols. While this theory appears true since Gucci and Louis Vuitton does indeed charge more for “logo-free” non conspicuous handbags and accessories, one needs only to walk into Gucci stores to see that there is plenty of supply for their quieter bags. Surely the explanation lies elsewhere?

Hermes Rose-Gold Collier de Chien In Barenia, Black Epsom & English Green Epsom

Hermes Rose-Gold Collier de Chien In Barenia, Black Epsom & English Green Epsom

First, we have to understand that Hermes business strategy of “frustrating consumers” revolves around making it extremely difficult for people to buy its most desired products, e.g. the Birkin and Kelly handbags; Second, they do this while making tangential brand association still possible – from US$100 Hermes perfumes to US$400 scarves, these are products within reach of traditional wage earners while enjoying the aura of exclusivity which extends from high-demand bags like the Birkin and Kelly.

Understanding the science of desire: Dopamine

When your average white collar worker sees the US$100 Hermes perfumes to US$400 scarves, these are attainable goods associated with unattainable bags. Thus, biological science explains the “halo effect” which extends the aura of desirability from Birkin to the entry level products within the Hermes collection – it might not be the very item (aka Birkin) you desire but another product within reach is attainable. Therefore, for the average income segment of the market, Hermes seeds a market full of “soon-to-own Hermes” fans with small, attainable goods, keeping their desire firmly centered on the ultimate goal. Every time we buy an Hermes product, we receive a small burst of dopamine and this “feel good” physiological reaction is what keeps our interest for the brand because it gives us pleasure and makes us hungry to repeat the process for that dose of dopamine.

For the high income segment of the market, Hermes pursues a different strategy, a wait-list but the wait-list is never too long, just long enough to maintain your interest without making you entirely frustrated with the brand. Psychologically speaking, this aspect of the strategy deals with creating anticipation. Anticipation is rooted in the portion of the brain known as the cerebellum, which controls “automatic, “non-thinking” behavior, nevertheless, the net effect also depends on dopamine – with anticipation always in play, the human brain CRAVES dopamine. Dopamine stimulation happens when we experience and expect good things. Anticipating positive events sustains the output of dopamine into the brain’s chemical pathways.

The Hermes silk twilly

The Hermes silk twilly

Simply described, the business strategy for Hermes can be summed as high sales volume tempered by consumer perceptions of exclusivity while producing products which are attainable to the aspirational and just out of reach for those who can afford it. Both sides of the equation are driven by how the brand plays on our dopamine levels through simple psychological strategies.

Hermes and its Veneer of Un-attainability

Hermes simply violates all rules of modern retail, as luxury conglomerates start going into eCommerce, looking to make shopping as effortless as possible, Hermes is simply going against the current. The company is not even online in the modern sense, when it comes to social media, you will find nary a celebrity or personality on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Nor will you find a brand ambassador or face to the brand. At Hermes, Hermes IS the personality.

Famously, Hermes CEO Axel Dumas, a sixth-generation descendant of founder Thierry Hermes once joked at a luxury conference that the direction is for things to be difficult to find, even on their own website, and it’s true, visiting Hermes.com is an exercise in charming frustration as animated illustrations greet you. It’s not immediately clear where to go to find what you’re looking for and there aren’t clear labels and buttons to press. You don’t even find their famed bags – the Hermes Birkin and the Kelly online, everything is “experiential”.

Hermes mystery boxes filled with pieces created in Hermès’ Petit h lab

Hermes mystery boxes filled with pieces created in Hermès’ Petit h lab

In fact, such is the power and mystique that the French fashion house once famously (perhaps notoriously) offered a monthly mystery box, an entry level version priced US$245 and a privilege version priced US$1,875 filled with pieces created in Hermès’ Petit h lab, literally using leftover materials from the main line to create luxe one-offs.

As of 2016, Hermes has started to offer bags like Evelyne, Garden Party and Picotin around low four figures and it remains to be seen if that even tarnishes the vaunted orange halo effect one bit. Given Reuters data as per May 2017, we believe this would be highly unlikely.




World’s most expensive luxury handbag: Christie’s auctions rare Hermès Birkin Bag for US$380,000

Hermes’ Birkin bags are one of the most highlight sought after luxury fashion items in the world. Hence, there’s no surprise that a diamond-encrusted crocodile-skin Hermes Birkin handbag with white gold details has broken the record for the world’s most expensive ever sold at auction, fetching nearly US$380,000 at a Hong Kong sale. The rare Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 went to an unknown phone bidder Wednesday for HK$2.94 million after intense bidding, a spokeswoman for auction house Christie’s told AFP. The new record beat one set last year, also in Hong Kong, by an identical Hermes bag that sold for HK$2.32 million.

Only one or two Diamond Himalayas are created each year globally, making it one of the rarest production runs for handbags, according to Christie’s. “It actually has been rumoured that they will discontinue Himalayas altogether this year, which may be part of the reason that we’ve seen the increase in the value this season,” Matthew Rubinger, Christie’s international head of handbags and accessories division, told AFP.

Designer handbags are increasingly seen as investment opportunities and have become a craze for collectors, taking global auction houses by storm and scoring record prices.

The handmade bag—described by the London-based auctioneers as “the most desirable handbag in existence”—is encrusted with diamonds, while the buckle and trademark mini Hermes padlock are from 18 carat white gold.

The bag was made in 2014 and is from Hermes’ “Birkin” series named after actress and singer Jane Birkin, who was born in Britain and lives in France.

Exhibitions in Singapore: Aloft at Hermès presents ‘Oneness’ by mixed media artist Kim Minjung

Kim Minjung, ‘Red mountain’, 2015, watercolour on mulberry Hanji paper

Kim Minjung, ‘Red mountain’, 2015, watercolour on mulberry Hanji paper

The peculiar sensation that unfolds when encountering Kim Minjung’s mixed media work comes from the realisation that these flat surfaces are in fact three-dimensional constructs. They are layers of paper that have been painstakingly built one atop the other, each small piece hand-cut and burnt along the edges or perforated with holes using a lit incense stick. Kim has made this paper layering technique her signature since 1998, and soon thereafter also began layering ink or watercolours in her paintings. The stained edges of each painted layer appear like actual layers, imbuing the paintings with a physicality that is entirely illusory.

East Asian painting prescribes that every brushstroke should embody the spiritual essence and vitality of the subject, and balance space and presence to create a unified whole. The expression of nothingness to make a whole perhaps finds its best articulation in Kim’s ‘Mountain’ series, with paintings made from the repetition of a single undulating stroke. The resulting image hovers between non-representation and monumental forms evocative of its subject matter. Guided by the fundamental Taoist principle of attaining equilibrium between Yin and Yang, void and fullness, ‘Mountain’ captures the Taoist beliefs that lie at the heart of Kim’s practice.

Born in 1962, Gwangju, South Korea, Kim Minjung studied Oriental painting at Hongik University in Seoul, the country’s foremost arts institution. Her Master’s thesis focused on the four material elements of ink painting: paper, brush, ink and inkstone. In 1991 she moved to Italy to study modern Western artists who had drawn influence from Eastern art, such as Franz Kline and Paul Klee. What these Western artists and East Asian painting shared was a belief that gesture and form held profound spiritual and expressive value. This shared belief underpins Kim’s artistic practice of combining Western collage techniques and use of colour with the metaphysical approach of East Asian art.

Kim Minjung, ‘The street’, 2015, mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper

Kim Minjung, ‘The street’, 2015, mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper

Nevertheless, it is the Korean aesthetic philosophy of Dansaekhwa that is most prominently reflected in her works. The methodical, labour-intensive mode of art it advocates is echoed in Kim’s time-consuming layering technique. Dansaekhwa, or Monochrome Painting, was a key artistic movement in Korea during the 1970s to 1980s that today is the focus of much international interest. Its proponents regarded form, materiality and repetitive process as a means to distill a Korean aesthetic essence. Korean Hanji paper, Korean pigments and earthy colours recalling the Korean landscape and traditional buildings were used in pursuit of this goal.

More than a quarter century since Kim left Korea, she continues to use only Korean ink and Korean mulberry Hanji paper, which she likens to her own skin. Her choice of materials reflects her deep sense of home longing and rootedness in Korean identity. It is thus apt that for the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès art space Aloft, the first artist exhibited in 2017 under the theme ‘Reflection’ is Kim Minjung.

Dedicated to explorations in contemporary art, Aloft is one of five international art spaces under the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, which supports the creative talents of individuals and organisations. Each year, Aloft presents a themed exhibition series featuring new work by two artists. Presently in its tenth year, this year’s theme ‘Reflection’ is an invitation to both remember the past and ruminate on the future. Art Republik speaks with Kim Minjung about her work and artistic journey, and her views on the role of art today.

The artist Kim Minjung

The artist Kim Minjung

Both your painted and mixed media work are like a palimpsest of time and effort, with their extensive build up of layers. In relation to the theme “Reflection”, of looking back to the past, back in time. Could you explain how you approached the paintings?

The ‘Mountain’ series is especially meditative and philosophical. Years ago, while I was staying near a cliff at a seaside town, I heard sounds of waves all the time. I began to visualise the sound of waves. I started thinking of the origin of sea and nature because when god created them, he formed them in ways that have been unchanged through time. When I paint in layers, I have to wait for each layer to be completely dry. The motion is repeated again and again, just as how nature is eternal and infinite. Unexpectedly, I realised that when the layers are disassembled, they look like the sea but when assembled, they recall mountains. The sea, mountains, land and even man was one at the beginning of world.

On looking back, as an artist whose formative years occurred during the militarisation, democratic uprising, and clash of social realist and abstract art in South Korea, how have those events shaped your practice?

My practice is generally about my personal narrative, which has been largely affected by Korea’s socio-political issues. I left Korea in 1992 and have lived mostly in Italy, but the period from 1960 to the 1990s when I lived in Korea was a time of fevered democratic movements and dramatic economic growth. Many of my generation in Korea suffered from the huge changes we experienced. When I was in art college during the 1980s, student activism was rife. Many artists joined the ‘Minjung art’ or ‘People’s art’ movement against government militarisation, demanding democracy. At the same time, Dansekhwa and avant-garde performance art by senior artists was also developing.

However, artists are creators, not reporters. Some feel that good art is art that directly reflects the world and provokes, but I do not think that is art. Traditionally, artists served as a bridge connecting god and man. We have to create something new, not report what is happening.

Kim Minjung, ‘Dobae' (detailed view), 2015, mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper

Kim Minjung, ‘Dobae’ (detailed view), 2015, mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper

Your aesthetics and philosophical approach recall Dansaekhwa, in particular the work of leading Dansaekhwa painters Park Seo Bo, Chung Chang Sup and Chung Sang Hwa. You were studying painting while Dansekhwa was emerging in the 1970s and 1980s. How did it impact your artistic development?

My university professors were now-established Dansaekhwa masters, so naturally they influenced me. Dansaekhwa itself looks very flat and minimalist but it is fundamentally about repeating acts of labour and the process of painting. It has a profound depth, and is completely different from Western Minimalism. Similarly, through repetition, I empty my mind and I meditate throughout my actions. Dansaekhwa may look like a very calm and peaceful aesthetic but it indirectly conveys the very powerful and provocative statement that simplicity or clarity can be derived from repeated action. In the context of Korea’s chaotic socio-political situation during the time, Dansaekhwa represented a form of escapism and speaking out.

Do you thus see your practice as somewhat continuing the Dansaekhwa mentality?

Yes and no. Obsessively repeating certain motions, such as painting layers, collaging papers, burning papers, is very like Dansaekhwa. I often hear my work called post-Dansaekhwa though, and I have never intended that. The subject of my practice has always been my own personal history and its changing narrative. It is more about my longing for home since I migrated to Italy; my practice is almost like my life’s series of encounters and farewells. The Korean traditional papers and inks are the best materials I can use to express my story and identity. Ultimately, I cannot really say that Dansaekhwa is a direct influence on my work but as I grew up with it and was taught by Dansaekhwa masters, it is difficult for me to ascertain.

Could you share with me more about your choice of colours and its significance in the ‘Mountain’ series? Black and red are very primal, sensual colours that contrast from the muted colour palette of your mixed media works.

The concept of colour is simply the retina’s perception of light, it is not an important issue to me at all. Without light, everything is black and white. The mountains in the series are imaginary mountains. In fact, they could be ocean waves. It is the abstract object of my imagination; hence I do not feel the need to paint in particular colours. Visually, red is the strongest colour, followed by black. I wanted to examine the two types of colours on the ‘Mountain’ series. I experimented with other colours but red had the greatest clarity of expression.

Kim Minjung, 'Red mountain', 2016, watercolour on mulberry Hanji paper

Kim Minjung, ‘Red mountain’, 2016, watercolour on mulberry Hanji paper

The serenity of your aesthetics is strongly juxtaposed against the world in crisis today. It also contrasts with the emotionally, politically charged art that is increasingly emerging. Your striving for equilibrium between void and fullness evokes the Taoist concept of non-action, the “effortless doing within the flow of things”. Laozi said that the state of non-action enables a return to harmonious things. Do you think that your work, or art, can still achieve that today?

I am pretty sure it can. I believe that gentleness and quietude send stronger messages than loud action. There are three ways of practising art: the first is to speak out directly, the second is indirect expression, and the third is escaping from the reality. We may now live with political conflict, poverty, and terrorism but there has never been a peaceful era in all of human history. Political works analyse what is directly happening now and I know that such art plays an important role. However, I occasionally feel confused about the difference between art and journalism. In my opinion, art should give pleasure and emphasize emotion, whether bad or good, to its viewer, especially in chaotic situations. That is why most people look at, and to art. My art may look very peaceful and tend to concept of non-action as you said, but I live in the same world as everyone. I do not think every artist needs to speak in the same language; I respond to the world, just in my own language.

Have these contemporary issues affected how you think about your practice? If so, how?

To be honest, I do not take the term “contemporary” seriously. We should not have to deliberately think about contemporaneity; contemporary means the time and space we are all living in now! I am conscious of all the issues currently surrounding me, naturally. I read the news everyday and am constantly checking it all the time. My friends and I sometimes discuss and critique these issues but I do not want them to be directly reflected in my work. The issues I choose to reflect in my practice are always first filtered by my personal perspective and artistic language.

‘Oneness’ will be shown at Aloft at Hermès at Liat Towers, from April 27 to July 30.

This article was written by Rachel Ng and originally published in Art Republik.

Grisaille enamel painting for Van Cleef & Arpels’s Midnight Nuit Boréale

Six Enamelling Techniques used for luxury watch making, from Patek Philippe to Cartier, Hermès and more

Enamelling at Swiss watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne

Enamelling at Swiss watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne

Enamelling is a tedious process, to put it mildly. The raw material must first be ground into a fine powder, then mixed with a suitable medium (oils or water are both used) to form a paint-like emulsion. This liquid is then applied like paint, before being fired in a kiln to vitrify it the medium evaporates, while the powder melts and fuses into glass. There are variations to these steps, of course. Some manufactures, for example, choose to sieve the power directly onto a base of either brass or gold, and fire this “layer” of powder directly. Whatever the process, every step is fraught with danger. The product may crack during the firing process. Unseen impurities may surface as imperfections. Colours may react in unexpected ways. There are numerous risks to endure. Why, then, does this technique continue to be used in watchmaking?

Despite all its drawbacks, enamel still has a depth and nuance that cannot be replicated anywhere else. It is also permanent vitrified enamel is essentially inert and, like noble metals, remains unchanged even a century from now. Different enamelling techniques are capable of creating a wide spectrum of products as well, from a single large surface free of blemishes, to microscopic levels of detail as part of a painting. Perhaps the romantic aspect of this metiers d’art also accounts for part of its appeal; the time and touch of the enamellist is the perfect counterpoint to the watchmaker, with art on one side and science on the other.

Variations on a Theme

Enamels are fired at various temperatures or not at all depending on their types. Grand feu (literally “great fire”) enamel is fired at around 820 degrees Celsius, although intermediate firings to “set” it may be at around 100 degrees Celsius, to boil the solvent off without fusing the powder. Enamels in general, including those used in miniature painting, may also be fired at around 100 degrees Celsius instead. Finally, there is cold enamel, an epoxy resin that cures and hardens at room temperature.

There are no hard and fast rules to the craft; every enamellist has his/her own materials and approach

There are no hard and fast rules to the craft; every enamellist has his/her own materials and approach

What difference does it make? For a start, higher temperatures are definitely more difficult to work with, since the enamel may crack during firing, or the subsequent cooling down process. The spectrum of colours used in grand feu enamelling is also more limited, as there are fewer compounds that can withstand the temperature. The choice of technique boils down to the desired product for all its drawbacks, grand feu enamel has an inimitable look.

Seiko’s Presage SRQ019 chronograph with white enamel dial

Seiko’s Presage SRQ019 chronograph with white enamel dial

Enamels, porcelains, and lacquers all share common properties of hardness, durability, and the ability to take on both matte and polished finishes. The three aren’t interchangeable though. Lacquer is an organic finish that is applied in layers, with each successive coat curing at room temperature before the next is added. Porcelain is a ceramic that is produced by firing materials in a kiln to vitrify them. Although enamel is also fired, it only contains glass and colouring compounds and lacks porcelain’s clay content.

Raised Fields

In champlevé enamelling, a thick dial base is engraved to create hollow cells, before these cavities are filled with enamel and fired. Because the engraving step produces rough surfaces at the bottom of each cell, the champlevé technique typically uses only opaque enamels. The method allows areas on the dial to be selectively excavated, and for enamels to be mixed freely within each dial. This is done to great effect in Piaget’s Emperador Coussin XL Large Moon Enamel watch, where the gold dial is largely untouched for the “continents”, while the “oceans” are created in champlevé enamel, with differing shades of blue to convey their varying depths.

An excavated cell in Ulysse Nardin’s Classico Goat being filled with enamel using the champlevé technique

An excavated cell in Ulysse Nardin’s Classico Goat being filled with enamel using the champlevé technique

Champlevé enamelling’s use isn’t limited to creating decorative art. In Parmigiani Fleurier’s Tecnica Ombre Blanche, for instance, it was simply the most appropriate technique. Although the timepiece has a simple white enamel dial, its surface is interrupted by three sub-dials and an aperture for the tourbillon. Using champlevé enamelling here allowed each dial element to have a clearly defined border without adding unnecessary thickness. A possible alternative would be to make a complete enamel dial, before cutting out the appropriate sections in the middle. One can, however, imagine the risks of doing that.

Patek Philippe’s Ref. 6002 combines champlevé and cloisonné enamelling

Patek Philippe’s Ref. 6002 combines champlevé and cloisonné enamelling

Is there a limit to the level of details that can be achieved with champlevé enamel? Patek Philippe may have the answer with the Ref. 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon. Apart from the centre portion, which is produced using the cloisonné technique (discussed later), its dial is a work of champlevé enamel even the railway track chapter ring was milled out in relief, before the recesses are filled with enamel and fired.

Engraving isn’t necessarily the only way to produce the cells used in champlevé enamel though. Hublot puts a modern twist on things with the Classic Fusion Enamel Britto, by stamping the white gold dial base to create the raised borders between the cells. This not only reduces the time needed for each dial but also ensures uniformity between them. Subsequent steps, however, remain unchanged the cells were sequentially filled with different colours of enamel and fired multiple times before the entire dial surface is polished to form a uniformly smooth surface.

Wire Work

Cloisonné enamelling is almost like the opposite of the champlevé technique instead of removing material from a dial blank, things are added on it instead. The “cloisons” (literally “partitions”) here refer to the wires, each no thicker than a human hair, that the enamellist bends into shape and attaches onto a base to create enclosed cells. These cells are then filled with enamel of different colours before the dial is fired to fuse the powder. The wires remain visible in the final product, and look like outlines of a drawing, with a metallic sheen that contrasts with the glassy surfaces of the enamel.

Wires are shaped and attached to a dial to form cells, before enamel is painted in

Wires are shaped and attached to a dial to form cells, before enamel is painted in

Plique-à-jour (“letting in daylight”) enamel can be considered a variation of cloisonné enamel, but the technique is a lot rarer owing to its complexity and fragility. Like its cloisonné sibling, plique-à-jour enamelling involves creating enclosed cells using wires, before filling them with enamel. In this case, however, there is no base. The lack of a backing can be achieved in various ways, but usually involves working on a base layer à la cloisonné enamelling, before filing it away to leave just the wires holding onto vitrified enamel. Since there is no base, plique-à-jour enamelling almost always involves transparent or translucent enamel that allows light through, which essentially creates tiny stained glass windows.

A dial in cloisonné enamel is in the making

A dial in cloisonné enamel is in the making

Van Cleef & Arpels has used the above technique to great effect. In the Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Fée Ondine watch, a 24-hour module rotates a graduated lower dial once a day to mimic Earth’s diurnal rhythm, while an upper dial with elements executed in plique-à-jour enamel forms the foreground. The watch thus creates an ever-changing scene that mimics the rising and setting of the sun and moon, with the appropriate shades of blue for the sky and water, depending on the time of the day.

Hybrid Theory

There are several “hybrid” techniques that combine enamelling with other decorative arts, and flinqué enamelling is arguably the best known given its long history of use. The technique combines guillochage with enamelling a brass or gold dial is first decorated with guilloché, before layers of enamel are successively applied and fired. When this enamel coating is sufficiently thick, it is polished to create a smooth surface; the final result is a translucent lens through which the guilloché is admired. Depending on the desired effect, the enamel used may be colourless to impart a subtle sheen, or coloured for more visual oomph, like the trio of limited edition Rotonde de Cartier high complications unveiled at Watches & Wonders 2015. Vacheron Constantin has even adapted the technique by using guilloché patterns to mimic woven fabrics in the Métiers d’Art Elégance Sartoriale.

Enamel being applied to the engraved white gold base on the Hermès Arceau Tigre

Enamel being applied to the engraved white gold base on the Hermès Arceau Tigre

Developed by the husband-and-wife team of Olivier and Dominique Vaucher, shaded enamel (email ombrant) also involves the application of translucent enamel over an engraved dial. Instead of a regular pattern à la guilloché, however, shaded enamel entails the creation of an image in relief. In the Hermès Arceau Tigre, the likeness of the animal is first carved into a white gold base, before translucent black enamel is applied and fired. A thicker layer of enamel accumulates in areas where the engraving is deeper and appears darker as a result the shading corresponds to the depth of the enamel, which creates an extremely lifelike product.

Cartier Ballon Bleu de Cartier Enamel Granulation with Panther Motif

Cartier Ballon Bleu de Cartier Enamel Granulation with Panther Motif

The final technique here is Cartier’s enamel granulation, which combines enamelling with Etruscan granulation originally used by goldsmiths. The craft requires multiple steps and is extremely tedious, to say the least. Enamel is first worked into threads of different diameters before these threads are chipped off bit by bit to form beads of various sizes. The beads are then sorted by colour and applied to the dial successively to assemble an image, with intermediate firings to set and fuse the enamel. As different colours of enamel fuse at different temperatures, there is a clearly defined order for the assembly process; up to 30 firings are necessary, and each dial requires nearly a month to complete. Like shaded enamel, enamel granulation is a very recent development, and Cartier has only used it on one watch so far: the Ballon Bleu de Cartier Enamel Granulation with Panther Motif.

Metallic Content

Paillonné is among the rarest enamelling techniques today and practically synonymous with Jaquet Droz, which has maintained its expertise in this area. The manufacture currently has two full-time enamellists who don’t just produce enamel dials but also train artisans to perpetuate this know-how.

A paillon being applied to the coloured enamel “base”

A paillon being applied to the coloured enamel “base”

The “paillon” here refers to the small ornamental motifs that are created from gold leaf, and are the calling card of the technique. Essentially, paillonné enamelling involves setting paillons within enamel to form patterns, with regular geometric ones being the norm. To do so, a layer of coloured enamel is first fired to set it. Upon this layer, the paillons are positioned, before translucent enamel is applied and fired, thus “locking” the paillons in. Additional steps can be taken to create even more intricate designs. Before the coloured enamel layer is applied, for instance, the substrate surface may first be decorated with guilloché, which basically creates flinqué enamel that is then decorated with paillons over it. According to Jaquet Droz’s CEO Christian Lattmann, the textured base doesn’t just offer visual benefits but also helps the initial layer of coloured enamel to “stick” better. Lattmann also revealed that the choice of white or red gold as this base will impart a different tone to the finished product as well both because of its inherent colour and because of how the guillochage plays with light.

A watch from Vacheron Constantin’s Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection, with applied precious metal powders on the enamelled surface

A watch from Vacheron Constantin’s Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection, with applied precious metal powders on the enamelled surface

In lieu of regular patterns, Jaeger-LeCoultre opted for a twist on the technique, by distributing flecks of silver randomly on the dial instead. The result can be seen in the Hybris Artistica Duomètre Sphérotourbillon Enamel, whose enamel dial mimics the look of lapis lazuli. This technique was also used for the second dial of the Reverso One Duetto Moon.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso One Duetto Moon

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso One Duetto Moon

While not paillonné enamelling per se, Vacheron Constantin’s use of hand applied precious powder deserves a mention here. In the manufacture’s Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières timepieces, gold, platinum, diamond, and pearl powders are affixed to the surface of the enamel dial by Japanese enamel artisan Yoko Imai. Instead of being covered with a layer of enamel, these particles sit atop them, and catch the light variously to mimic a bird’s eye view of a city at night.

Brush Strokes

Enamel painting is simply painting with enamel pigments rather than some other medium. The technique is challenging not just due to the canvas’s size, which makes it miniature painting as well, but also because of the multiple firings needed to vitrify and set the enamels, colour by colour. Given the level of detail that can be achieved, however, this is one of the few techniques that are capable of making their subjects almost lifelike. Consider Slim d’Hermès Pocket Panthère, which has the eponymous animal rendered in this technique, for example. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso à Eclipse also showcases what enamel painting is capable of with its uncanny facsimile of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait as a Painter on its dial.

Slim d’Hermès Pocket Panthère being painted. Image © Pierre-William Henry

Slim d’Hermès Pocket Panthère being painted. Image © Pierre-William Henry

Grisaille enamel can be considered a subset of enamel painting, and is a specific method of painting white on black to create monochromic imagery. The black canvas is grand feu enamel that must first be applied, fired, and then polished to create a perfectly smooth surface that’s free of imperfections. This preparatory step is, in and of itself, already very challenging, as minute flaws are extremely easy to spot on such a surface this explains why most watch brands offer white enamel dials, but black onyx or lacquer dials instead of enamel. Upon this black canvas, the enamellist paints using Blanc de Limoges, which is a white enamel whose powder is more finely ground than normal. To create micro details, fine brushes, needles, and even cactus thorns are used, and the dial is painted and fired multiple times to create the nuanced paintings grisaille enamel is known for.

Grisaille enamel painting for Van Cleef & Arpels’s Midnight Nuit Boréale

Grisaille enamel painting for Van Cleef & Arpels’s Midnight Nuit Boréale

Owing to its complexity, grisaille enamel is rarely seen. There are brands that still offer metiers d’art watches with them though, sometimes with their own take on the technique. In its Métiers d’Art Hommage à l’Art de la Danse collection, Vacheron Constantin opted to use translucent brown enamel for the dial base to impart a greater sense of depth, while softening the contrast between the two colours. Van Cleef & Arpels used a midnight blue base in its Midnight Nuit Boréale and Nuit Australe timepieces instead, to evoke the night sky.

This article was originally published in WOW.

Art exhibition in Singapore: ‘Smart Objects’ by Le Gentil Garçon explores the human psyche at Hermès Liat Towers

The human psyche influences almost every aspect of our life. From human emotions to our responses to the environment, this influences our lives from an early stage. French artist Julien Amouroux who works under the name Le Gentil Garçon has chosen to use the human psyche as the main focus for his latest exhibition that is showcased at Hermés Liat Towers.

The exhibition, ‘Smart Objects’, is a playful take on the subject matter and even has sees a schematic human head that stands at the main window of the store. The sculpture resembles a paper cut out that is folded in an intricate way that allows it to stand upright. Within, the Lyon-based artist has sectioned off areas of the head to resemble “cells” that are similar to what is found on a phrenology map. Each compartment showcases an Hermès object that is linked to small characters which as said to evoke the cerebral zones linked with poetry and humour.

The artist drew inspiration for his work from not one but several sources to create an insightful exhibition. The first is most obviously the busts that are used in the pseudomedical study of phrenology while also highlighting elements of 17th century “mechanist representations” of the mind. The final source of inspiration comes from the illustrations that German doctor, popular science writer and infographics pioneer, Fritz Kahn, used to elaborate on complex scientific ideas.

“I realised that this idea of a playful representation of the human mind matched very well with the Hermés theme of this year: Sense of the Object. Any manufactured object is the result of a though, the materialisation of it. Concerning Hermès products, this thought is both linked to the memory and to the life of the creator of the company, and to a historic know-how” said the artist. He added “…Hermès products often hide very smart and fun tricks that you won’t discover at the first glance…We can say that they are smart objects, they’re the expression of a certain sense of both elegance and intelligence.”

The ‘Smart Objects’ exhibition will be on display from March 17 to June 2017 at the Hermès store at Liat Towers Singapore.

Exhibitions in Singapore: Hermès houses artist Takashi Kuribayashi’s ‘Resonance of Nature’

Takashi Kuribayashi's ‘Resonance of Nature’ for Hermès Singapore

Hermès Singapore’s flagship store’s show window at Liat Towers displays Takashi Kuribayashi’s ‘Resonance of Nature’ till March 2017.

“The truth resides in places that are invisible. Once you are aware that there is a different world out of sight, you will be living in a different way,” says Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Kuribayashi, who reminds us of the philosophical dilemma of perception versus reality, and that the truth is only a matter of perspective.

No stranger to Singapore, Kuribayashi first visited the sunny island back in 2006 when he was invited to participate in the Singapore Biennale and Hermès Singapore’s previous Third Floor space; the former with ‘Aquarium: I feel like I am in a fishbowl’, and the latter with ‘Hermès Column’, both newly commissioned artworks. A year later in 2007, he came back again to suspend a small pond in mid-air at the entrance of the National Museum of Singapore with his work titled, ‘Kleine See’ (Small Pond). Then again in 2015, he created his unforgettably stunning and photogenic work, ‘Trees’, for Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) ‘Imaginarium – A Voyage of Big Ideas’, which was displayed at SAM at 8Q. Now back again, Kuribayashi has created ‘Resonance of Nature’ for Hermès Singapore’s flagship store’s show window at Liat Towers, which will be on display till March 2017.

Installation view of 'Trees', at 8Q, Singapore Art Museum

Installation view of ‘Trees’, at 8Q, Singapore Art Museum.

Art Republik catches up with our issue’s cover star to find out more about borders, serendipity and Kuuki ga Shimaru.

Your work often runs a critical commentary on nature. How and when did your relationship with nature and the environment come about? Was there a key moment for you?

I was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and lived there throughout my youth. And where I lived, around my house and all my surroundings were nature — you could even say that nature inevitably became like a teacher to me. What’s interesting also is that my father was a photographer of insects so his studio was out in the open. I was constantly surrounded by nature growing up — it naturally became a huge part of me.

What is it about nature and the environment that interests you?

As you know, humans can’t live by ourselves but yet we fear what nature can do to us; over time, we’ve found ways to ‘co-exist’ with nature. Humans first created a wall to protect themselves from nature; then they wanted to get closer to integrate with nature so they made parks and gardens; and now humans are so developed and capable that they want to overtake and disrupt nature. Before, nature was bigger than humans, but now, human development has gone too far to the extent that we are destroying nature; yet, we are still oblivious to that fact.

As an artist, what are your feelings towards taking nature and putting it in a man-made and enclosed gallery space? Does the act of doing this further emphasise your philosophies, messages and stories you want to tell? Or does this boundary or contradiction disturb you in any way?

To talk about this, we have to also talk about what art is. A good example of me taking nature out of its place and putting it in a gallery space is a work I made for an exhibition at Singapore Art Museum in 2015 where I literally took a whole tree and put them in boxes in an enclosed space.

As you know, Singapore is very artificial; even most of nature here is in a way created by man. In Singapore, people try to control nature by creating parks or creating space for something else, so that tree was already removed and chopped up for such a purpose, so I put all of it into glass boxes. This is a very symbolic work. You see this as one tree, but each box has created an individual world and new cycle of life for each piece of the tree. What I’m trying to do is make people think and be aware of what’s going on – that’s what art is; it should objectively encourage questions or provide awareness of something otherwise unaware of.

Inside of myself, there are two versions, two Kuribayashis so-to-speak: one is an artist, and the other is a human being. As a human being I want to protect nature, but as an artist, I want to objectively bring to surface certain truths.

So you think that being an artist and being a human being are separate?

Imagine a time when you are sad and you’re crying, and suddenly you feel like you are looking over, watching yourself cry; that other side or other view is the artist view.

Are you a spiritual person? Do you have a strong relationship with spirituality that you translate to your work?

No, I’m not. To me, being an artist is just I questioning myself, questioning the world, questioning things… an important question is: who am I? Most people do ask themselves that growing up till maybe their teenage years, but as an artist, I continue to ask myself that even into adulthood. So now what you have to think is: I’m here, I’m existing here. And you are here right now, but based on the people you have met in the past. The relationship becomes very important – you are created by the past. It may seem spiritual but it’s not. That said, I do believe anyone who has strong belief in their own respective religions, that aspect about them is not too different from me.

You’re currently based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Why did you choose to move there?

You’re going to say this is spiritual again but in my life, I have always trusted my intuition or gut feelings. I was previously in Japan for eight years, and before that 12 years in Germany. And then as you know on March 2011 (we call 311), it was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. At that time I was thinking of getting out of Japan again, but the Fukushima incident happened, and I felt like I should stay in Japan; so I stayed for two years and so many unexpected things ended up happening in those two years.

After that, I thought I should get out and live outside Japan again. I was thinking Brazil at first because I have a good number of friends there and I like the Brazilian art scene. So I started researching moving to Brazil but all of a sudden, people around me started saying that I should move to Indonesia instead; at the time, I didn’t know much about Indonesia. Then as I got interested in finding out more, people started saying Yogyakarta, and I wasn’t even searching for that. Then an Indonesian collector calls me to present works in Yogyakarta. Another thing is that I surf, and one of my surfing friends told me out of the blue that there is a point in Yogyakarta called Pacitan for surfers. So again, I’m now hearing Yogyakarta from just about everyone around me. That was the moment I was convinced my next move had to be to Yogyakarta. I’ve been living there for three years now.

How did the Fukushima incident affect you personally and as an artist?

Work from the series, 'Yatai Trip Project'

Work from the series, ‘Yatai Trip Project’

So the earthquake happened on 11 March 2011, and I was in Nepal in the mountains working on my ‘Yatai Trip Project’ until 10 March 2011. So on 10 March, 4,000 metres up in the mountains, pushing my Yatai food cart, I was just thinking to myself that we actually don’t need fuel energy to live. And then coming down and back to Tokyo, the incident happened. And I was back in Tokyo city still carrying all my backpacks and gear and everyone was just looking at me thinking I was so prepared but I actually just came back!

So for me, it was a chance for change. As a human being again, I was scared and should be getting far away; but as an artist, it was a chance to make something of this. As you know, my theme is borders, and the Japanese government created a 20-kilometre restricted area away from the nuclear plant, as a border. Now Japanese nuclear plants are all built near the coastlines because they require a lot of water. So while the border may extend on land, how do you create a border in the ocean? You can’t just draw a line. So as an artist, I thought, while the media focused on the 20-kilometre border on land, I would surf (yes, illegally) in the ‘restricted zone’ and highlight the unfelt or ‘invisible’ danger and damage done.

Of course, I consulted specialists and every one of them discouraged me from doing it, saying it was too dangerous. But the thing about plutonium is that it’s relatively safe to drink but not to breathe in where it will seriously damage your lungs. So if I really insisted on surfing in the restricted waters, I had to wear a protective suit with an air-filtration mask.

From afar, it looks like someone is surfing in beautiful waters. But if you look closely, that person is wearing a special wetsuit and protective mask. That’s the impact of the awareness of the message I am trying to convey. As artists, I feel it is our responsibility to report messages, almost like we are our own media outlets ourselves.

Takashi Kuribayashi, surfing in Fukushima.

Takashi Kuribayashi, surfing in Fukushima.

You’ve been working with Hermès for 10 years now. What is it you like most about working with the brand?

Hermès has the highest standard and quality about them and their products, and when incorporated with or into my work, it gives off a sense of… there is a Japanese word for this: Kuuki ga Shimaru. It directly translates to tightening the air, or not so literally, straightens your back. It’s a very unique word that would also be used, for example, when you see a glass mirror instead of an acrylic mirror, your sense can feel the seemingly invisible but obvious difference.

Can you tell us more about your latest work with Hermès Singapore, ‘Resonance of Nature’, for their window display?

The lightning is the most important aspect of ‘Resonance of Nature’. I want to show the energy and power of nature all around us, so the lightning is the best representation that connects the air to the ground and below. At the same time, that power is present no matter the backdrop, no matter the time; it may be snowing in Japan and sunny in Singapore, but that energy and power is all the same. Hence the lightning in my artwork connects everything together – nature is connected everywhere.

Also, the background of the display is made up of key photos: the sky is from Fukushima, above the nuclear power plant; the seaside is from the tsunami aftermath; and the mountain side is of Nepal, where I was at until the day before the incident. This additionally shows the connection and importance of time, that although it is just a one-day difference, nature had the sheer power to change things so much.

Do you keep in mind the ethos of Hermès when conceptualising their window displays? Or is that something that comes about coincidentally if any at all?

Amongst all the other fashion brands today, Hermès has managed to keep itself in a unique position. We are currently in the midst of the consumption culture, and there are a lot of other brands that have opened a cheaper line to stay competitive. But if say sales for Hermès declines, would they also create a more affordable range? The answer is no, they will stay true to their values and DNA. And I believe show windows are faces of a brand, so the only thing I do keep in mind is to maintain that standard and outlook when thinking of my work for them.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I don’t believe being an artist is an occupation; it is just a way of living, a way of expressing one’s self. And what I am is simply Takashi Kuribayashi.

Takashi Kuribayashi

Takashi Kuribayashi: ‘To me, being an artist is just I questioning myself, questioning the world, questioning things…’

What’s next for you?

The upcoming year will start me off as a stage designer, joining the performance named ‘The World Conference’, directed by stage director Hiroshi Koike. Following, I will present my work at Zushi Beach Film Festival, Japan Alps Art Festival and group exhibitions in Yogyakarta. Besides that, I will continue my ‘Yatai Trip Project’, and I am also thinking of making research trips around Japan to develop new ideas for new works.

This article was first published in Art Republik.

Hermès Cape Cod collection: 4 new masculine variations join the TGM timepieces

Hermès may be known for its historical link to the equestrian world thanks to its origins as a leather goods maker but the brand is now a leading fashion house. Far from stopping at clothes and accessories, the French fashion house has also ventured into the world of watchmaking. Some of its memorable creations include the Slim d’Hermès and the Cape Cod timepieces, both of which boast timeless designs suitable for all.

Before Baselworld 2017 begins in March, the brand released a few teasers that will se the Cape Cod family expand with a few new masculine models. First created by Henri d’Origny in 1991, the new timepieces feature the Cape Cod dial in new shades such as black, anthracite and black as well as lacquered versions in red and brown. True to its heritage, Hermès offers traditional leather straps in variations that showcase its craftsmanship. We take a closer look at the four new 33mm variations that are powered by the Hermès Manufacture H1912 movement and boast a water resistant of up to 30 metres.

Cape Cod TGM Manufacture

Suitable for those who love something understated but with just a hint of uniqueness, the TGM Manufacture comes in several colours. The middle of the dial, features a stamped central décor that sets this apart from the usual Cape Cod creations. Available in blue, black, anthracite or opaline, the timepiece comes with raid Arabic numerals that are seen in coated in rhodium. Sitting at the six o’clock position, is a date display. The steel case is completed by an anti-glare treated sapphire crystal and is accompanied by leather straps that come in matt graphite alligator leather for the anthracite dial, matt black alligator leather for the black dial, matt indigo alligator leather for the blue dial and natural Barenia calf leather for the silvered dial.

Cape Cod TGM Bicolore 

This variation sees a dial that is similar to the Hermès Cape Cod GM that displays the date at the three o’clock position on the opaline-silvered dial. Much like the TGM Manufacture, the raised rhodium-plated Arabic numerals that sit around a square minute track. The crystal glare proof sapphire glass protects the dial. The TGM Bicolore stands out from the new additions thanks to its two-tone calfskin leather strap. While both variations feature Malta blue, the colour can be paired with either etoupe or Hermès red.

Cape Cod TGM Cadran Laque

There is only one difference between the dials of the TGM Bicolore and the TGM Cadran Laque. While the former features a light silvered dial, the Cadran Laque boasts a darker lacquered dial in shades of brown or red. Unlike the others, this model comes with interchangeable calfskin leather straps in either Ebony Barenia or Hermès red.

Cape Cod TGM Bracelet de force 

This variation is perfect for those who prefer a wider yet less bulky arm candy. The dial on the Bracelet de force is that of the Bicolore, complete with an opaline silver dial and square minute track. However, the bracelet strap comes in Veronese green alligator leather, black alligator leather, Natural Barenia calfskin leather and Black Barenia calfskin leather.

Actress Jojo Goh debuts her first L’Officiel Malaysia cover

Ambassador of L’Officiel Malaysia for the second year in a row and a rising star in the world of entertainment, Jojo Goh has debuted her first ever cover for the reputed magazine’s November 2016 issue.

A bonafide, ultra-edgy, sophisticated beauty (and all dressed in Hermès for the cover, watch included) that many adore, Jojo makes the perfect choice for the magazine’s “#InstaEra” issue, which highlights the rise of social media influencers from various platforms.

Shot by Malaysian photographer Chintoo and styled by L’Officiel Malaysia’s managing editor Monica Mong, Jojo shows a different side of her that many have yet to see. One that is the complete opposite to her vivacious and outgoing personality that many have to be familiar with.

Along with the exciting fashion editorial, Jojo is also interviewed by the magazine in a round of quick-fire “Finish That Sentence” game.


To read the interview and to see the editorial spread of Jojo Goh, visit www.lofficielmalaysia.com.

Hermes Cape Cod 25th Anniversary: Beautiful Chains

The Hermes Cape Cod watch was brought to life 25 years ago and, unlike most timepieces, makes a virtue of its youth. The designer, Henri d’Origny, envisioned a timepiece that played with shapes, placing a square within a rectangle – an aesthetic that puts on in mind of the house’s Chaîne d’ancre link. Watch collectors will be tickled to learn that d’Origny was Hermes’ silk maestro, which probably speaks to the Cape Cod’s peculiar appeal; this is a watch that wants to be worn, not tucked away in a strongbox.

In 1998, Martin Margiela (yes, that Margiela) elevated the design by adding a double-wrap strap, giving the watch an element of style for both men and women. The strap, iconic in its own right, would later be an Hermes signature called Double Tour. One may interpret this era as the adolescent phase of the watch’s life.

Now in 2016, the Hermes Cape Cod is exploring new territory with brand-new models for its 25th anniversary. First, a new mother-of-pearl dial that complements the latest gemsetting technique.


Second, interchangeable single and double wrap-around straps, now coming in a multitude of vivid shades – ranging from electric blue to iris and capucine, Veronese green, ultraviolet, and more.


Third, reimagining the men’s model in a cuff-style wristband.


Fourth, a new white dial with a calfskin or goat skin strap, its colors contrasting with the leather texture for your aesthetic pleasure.


And fifth, onyx and lapis lazuli dials, a nod to the Art Deco and Bauhaus movements of the past that shaped our present-day sensibilities.


Kellydoscope Exhibition By Hermès In Singapore

Hermès Kellydoscope Exhibition In Singapore

From now until October 16, shoppers at Ngee Ann City, Singapore will be able to experience a day in the life of a Hermès Kelly bag for themselves. We’re quite certain you never wondered what life as a bag would be like but getting a Kelly’s eye view of the world if certainly intriguing. Standing 12 feet high, the to-scale replica of the iconic Kelly is part of a traveling exhibition called Kellydoscope by Hermès.

Having already traveled to Hong Kong, London and Kuala Lumpur, the exhibit is one that will rock your world, literally. The interactive exhibit invites you to step inside (into the oversized Kelly) where three short films will be played as you sit on a stool fashioned after the unmistakable orange Hermès box. Make no mistake though, sitting still is not what this exhibition is about and you should prepare yourself accordingly. Just as bags are brought around in the world, experiencing lots of ups and downs, bumps and jostles, so too will you; the Kellydoscope moves around in a way that mimics the motions the bags experience in each of the three films. In terms of immersive experiences, this one is unique and somewhat unsettling even.

Carefree and charming, the short films explore the various lifestyles of a woman who owns and adores her very own Kelly bag. Explore these extraordinary moments for yourself by visiting the Kellydoscope exhibition. Only one person can experience the exhibit at a time so be prepared to wait your turn.

The Kellydoscope exhibition is located at Ngee Ann City Atrium from 10am to 9.30pm daily until October 16.

CEO of Italian design company Kartell, Claudio Luti

Sustainable Design: Improving Daily Life

Today, the design world embraces “green” and “meaningful” production more than ever. The concept dates back to the 1920s, when visionary US architect R. Buckminster Fuller advocated that “less is more” and that design should be “anticipatory” to help solve world problems.

“For both consumers and creators, interest in ‘the sustainable’ is growing each year,” said Franck Millot, director of the annual Paris Design Week – a major showcase of the latest trends in global furnishings and decoration.

“A designer doesn’t just create beautiful objects, they also think in terms of improving daily life,” he added.

French architect and designer Patrick Nadeau, a pioneer in urban hanging gardens and plant-based design, is typical of this line of thinking.

“Plants, vegetable material, with their colors, their matter, their translucence, they help create awareness, a living, evolving framework,” he said.

Nadeau received praise for an environmentally friendly social housing project in Reims, capital of Champagne.

Despite strict budget constraints, the homes were all made of wood and incorporated plants and sloping earthen walls – as well as optimal orientation – to enhance thermal insulation, lighting and harmony with nature.

Energy transition

Fuller’s notions hit home with the 1970s oil crisis. The embargo the Organization of the Petoleum Exporting Countries slapped on industrialised countries over US involvement in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War suddenly cut back supplies.

As a result, these nations began to rethink their dependency on oil. For Nadeau, the post-oil “energy transition” is also a responsibility for designers and architects.

“We must embrace these questions, if not we’ll resign ourselves to old standards rather than consider new ways of living.”

One who has taken up the challenge is Kartell, the high-end Italian design firm that has upheld plastics as a “vector” of modernity for 70 years. In April, it launched its first “biodegradable” chair made from plant-based waste and microorganisms.

“Such eco-design allows you to produce without destroying, it’s part of our strategy for the future,” Kartell president Claudio Luti told the French daily Le Monde.

The switch often involves a high-tech reinterpretation of age-old plant matter like linen fabric from flax, hemp, jute, seaweed and vetiver, an easily woven fibrous root common in Madagascar now much in demand in Europe and the United States.

Centuries ago, resistent linen was pressed in successive layers to make armour for Alexander the Great and painting canvas for the world’s great masters.

Today it is mixed with resin to produce snowboards, chairs, helmets and car doors – an eco-friendly substitute for products once reliant on fossil fuel-based carbon and plastic-based fiberglass. Similarly, tough jute is used to produce the solid hulls of boats.

Other materials find a second – often classier – life through “upcycling”, a movement to repurpose old or discarded objects so they do not add to the world’s garbage mass.

One specialist at the Paris Design Week was a Dutch firm with the motto “from waste to wonderful”. Called Rescued, it offers everything from paper chandeliers made of printshop waste to chair cushions fashioned from old blankets.

Luxury firms have also joined the trend, like Hermes whose “Petit h” laboratory recycles its high-end scraps for resale as mug holders, bracelets, even leather pinwheels.

One French designer adds modern bells and whistles such as wifi and bluetooth to big old vintage radios.

Slow design

Along with “upcycling”, another mantra these days is “Slow Design” – which took its cue from the Slow Food movement – “a holistic, sustainable approach that emphasizes the long-term benefit of products and their impact on the well-being of consumers and the planet”, said Design Week director Millot.

With “Slow Design”, “there is renewed interest in old-fashioned knowhow and craftsmanship, objects that have a history, where there is a human touch and a desire for reasonable consumption,” he said.

Millot concedes that touting ecology in what is basically a product-driven sales sector may be contradictory, but says he feels the young generation of designers are more “aware of the stakes”.

They include French industrial designer Julien Phedyaff who in 2014 created a washing machine dubbed “Unbreakable” – which won him the prestigious James Dyson award, named for the British inventor best known for his vacuum cleaners.

Designed to last a half a century, the machine comes in a kit to be put together and taken apart when parts need replacing or repairing – Phedyaff’s direct challenge to “planned obsolescence” in high-tech items and household appliances whose manufacturers are often accused of deliberately limiting the lifespan of their products.

Two years on, he is looking for partners to help commercialize his product.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu: Daily Beater

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu: Daily Beater

When you look at the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu, you’re looking at both fire and ice. Fire, because the enamel dial is fired in a kiln at 830°C, which is why watches with such dials are called ‘grand feu’ (great heat, literally). The ice bit is more metaphorical is it refers to the precision of crafting the in-house H1950 ultra-thin automatic movement as well as the font. Yes, graphic designer Philippe Apeloig specially crafted the font of the Arabic numerals for this watch. Take a good long look at the dial, see how those gorgeous baton hands work with the Grand Feu dial and the font, and let it grow on you.

We first saw this watch at the La Montre Hermès stand at BaselWorld this year, where by all accounts it was an unqualified success, but the appeal of it really hit home for us when we experienced the Slim d’Hermès exhibition in Singapore a couple of months ago, where the font sprang to life. The beauty of the lines might be hard to appreciate on such a small canvas as a watch dial but it is something you feel, over time. This is important because Hermès says this exquisite watch is designed to be a daily beater.

Firing of the dials. © Sandro Campardo

Firing of the dials. © Sandro Campardo

Returning to that canvas for a moment, you can’t understand the distinctive appeal of Grand Feu enamel in pictures. Ultimately, you have to see it in person. When you do that, recall that this is a three-part structure that is largely built manually, and that the beauty of the dial depends entirely on how long the artisan who fires the kilns keeps the dial exposed to heat. The resulting glaze you see here is permanent and requires no polishing – from the moment it emerges from the kiln for the final time till the end of time, its properties will not change. This of course contrasts with simple lacquer, which changes over time; a white dial like this one would slowly acquire a yellow tint.

Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu: Daily Beater


  • Dimensions: 39.5mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic (micro-rotor), calibre H1950
  • Material: Rose gold (5N 750)
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Matt Havana alligator
5 Watches Bridging Art and Time

5 Watches Bridging Art and Time

The confluence between and art and time is obvious and fine watchmaking brands have certainly noticed. As we have written previously (we’ll get to it), this connection can feel forced when brands push the commercial angle too hard. Contemporary art and fine timepieces are both collectible and are regarded by auction houses and institutions such as Knight Frank as so-called investments of passion.

As Jerome De Witt, the founder of DeWitt, once told us, watches are not works of art because art is not produced for commercial reasons. Wise words and worth remembering but there are still valid links between timekeeping and art, even if there no houses of fine art the way there are houses of fine watchmaking! You might think that it is only high art and very expensive watches, perhaps limited to unique pieces, that truly share a stage but that is not quite right.

We were reminded of this when watchmaker Arbutus (whose timepieces are quite accessible) revealed a collaboration with artists for charity in Singapore. Each of these watches had hand-painted dials, making each one unique, and had a very modest price tag of S$1,800. Credit Arbutus Singapore distributor Crystal Time for this bold move.

Arbutus Of Passion and Imagination Limited Edition timepiece collection, by Lovage

Arbutus Of Passion and Imagination Limited Edition timepiece collection, by Lovage

In truth, art and mechanical timekeeping share a certain quality, the ability to transcend time itself, that is evident in the above example. On higher ground, it is also evident in the marketing campaign of the most rarefied of watchmaking names, Patek Philippe. If you’re not familiar with this campaign, well, Google it! The point is that timepieces, like art, survive makers and owners alike.

Here at Luxuo, we love watches and we also love art. With this in mind, we put together a selection of watches that tie watchmaking and art together in forms both pleasing and challenging. While we split it into five watches, there are actually six below. If you want to quibble, the inclusion of Arbutus above takes well beyond six!


Hermès Arceau Tigre Watch

On the metiers d’art front this year, Hermès has unveiled the stunning Hermès Arceau Tigre, created in partnership with the husband-and-wife team of Olivier and Dominique Vaucher. The timepiece marks the first time the shaded enamel (enamel ombrant) technique is used in watchmaking, and sports the motif of a tiger in the likeness of an illustration by Robert Dallet, an artist with whom Hermès collaborated in the 1980s.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Vincent van Gogh with a Reverso watch featuring an enamel miniature of "Self-Portrait as a Painter."

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso à Eclipse Vincent Van Gogh

Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre and its iconic Reverso model pay tribute to another unmistakable star, this one from the world of art: Vincent Van Gogh. As you can see, the watch features a miniature enamel reproduction of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait as a Painter, painstakingly crafted by the manufacture’s artisans. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso à Eclipse features a shutter mechanism that can be opened to reveal the miniature reproduction.


MB&F LM1 Silberstein Watch

When you think about a timepiece like the MB&F LM1 Silberstein, concerns about instant gratification are rendered meaningless. The appeal here is so personal – and it really does grow on you – that we can’t imagine conventional marketing methods working well. Silberstein is a designer famed for bringing playful geometric designs to watchmaking, including three-dimensional elements such as pushers and crowns in square, triangular and round shapes.

5 Watches Bridging Art and Time Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor Watches

Parmigiani Fleurier has chosen to turn to the Land of the Rising Sun for ideas to create the two latest unique pieces in its Toric Quaestor line. The first piece features a scene dominated by the branches of a great pine tree, which is a symbol of power, vitality, and immortality in Japanese culture. The second features the dry, level landscapes of Japanese rock gardens, often simply called Zen gardens. All manner of traditional artisanal crafts were applied in the creation of these timepieces.

Richard Mille RM68-01 Kongo

Richard Mille RM68-01 Kongo Watch

The Richard Mille RM68-01 Kongo tourbillon wristwatch (top and above) marries fine watchmaking and graffiti, which is both amazing and unthinkable! Artists like Cyril ‘Kongo’ Phan are modern-day equivalents of muralists such as Diego Rivera so learning that one such artist managed to work on a canvas the size of a (large) stamp is remarkable. The entire mechanical movement has been decorated by Kongo, using specially developed paints and airbrushes.

6 Home Styles for Successful Gentlemen

As fashion and furniture continue to merge their ideals of beauty and form, homes can now dress to express their individual personalities – shaped and driven of course by the personalities and decisions of their owners. Basically, if you can sort of guess which brand is responsible for the look pictured top, you have the style chops to draw something useful from this story. So, leaving aside the admirable projects of refreshing your wardrobe or tricking out your vehicle, you might care for a bigger challenge this season. Our friends at Men’s Folio selected six different brand names to match six different personal styles. This is just the sort of thing magazine folks love to do and we thought we’d share it with you.

For an added sense of character (and better UX!), each of the suggestions is modeled on specific personalities.

The extravagant hedonistversace_home_les_etoiles_de_lamer_dining

Versace Home stays religiously true to its iconic over-style even as the lifestyle arm is brought in-house to complete the brand universe. Under the artistic direction of Donatella Versace, the ritzy collection fetes four brand new lines: Inspired by the Rosenthal-meets-Versace porcelain collection, Les Etoiles de la Mer commits to absolute opulence through precious materials such as Fiore di pesco marble, printed velvets and mercury wood, with prints awash in marine motifs; Vasmara evokes wildlife exoticism with leopard and zebra print decors; futuristic Gvardian is defined by clean lines and a neutral palette, with a carbon fibre table top conveying spacey visual and tactile effect; finally, the established Via Gesù Palazzo Empire range is expanded with a one-of-a-kind sky blue nubuck sofa shaped in the defining “V” of the brand. Standing out from the christened collections is the new climate-proof aluminum chair Mesedia. Crafted in the image of Versace’s unmistakable Medusa head, Mesedia is emblematic of the new Home collection and is available in five colours that remind of shifting skies: Haze, storm, cloud, purple sunset and sunrise.

Versace Home

The sensitive homebody_bcd5174-tissus-et-papiers-peints

They say home is where your heart is set in stone; is where you go when you’re alone (that there’s some catchy lyrics from Gabrielle Aplin’s 2013 hit single, “Home”). In any case, if home is truly where your heart lies, then no doubt you’ll be a fan of Hermès’ latest home collection inspired by the ideal of the home as shelter for body and mind. Under the aegis of artistic directors Charlotte Perelman and Alexis Fabry, the home is transformed into a refuge of relaxation with simple yet elegant touches. Different threads of the collection — ranging from the re-edited Oria chairs by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo to the showpiece Sellier sofa demonstrating the equestrian heritage of the Maison — collectively address the theme of balance, which Hermès believes thrives and reigns in enclosed spaces. This balancing act is also cleverly propagated in the Équilibre d’Hermès assembly of desk and decorative accessories, consisting of a harmonious blend of functional and whimsical pieces: A magazine rack in the form of a horse saddle, an icosahedron paperweight, a magnifying glass held in perfect equipoise atop a conical base.


The space rockerdiesel-living-at-salone-del-mobile-2016-3                                                                            

Imagine serving your favourite pasta on Venus, or scooping ice cream from moon craters — if you’re obsessed with astronomy and the stars, you’re in for a treat. For 2016, Diesel Living parades its latest collaboration with Italian design brand Seletti in its Cosmic Diner tableware line. Inspired by the universe, the heavenly (as close as it gets) collection comprises of porcelain plates representing the planets of the solar system, a Starman vase, salt and pepper grinders in the shape of rockets, as well as meteorite glasses to end the poetic set up. The collaboration with Seletti is among five ongoing projects that Diesel Living has going on, including Moroso for furniture, Foscarini for lighting, Iris Ceramica for ceramic tiling, and Scavolini for a new kitchen concept. The Moroso and Foscarini collections illustrate Diesel’s individualistic lifestyle with industrial design and rock styling, while the Diesel Open Workshop Kitchen with Scavolini celebrates the ethos of “Come in, we’re open!” with an open-concept social kitchen the builds on the brand’s creativity and free expression.

Diesel Living

The ethereal minimalistarmani-casa-store-in-corso-venezia-14_06-by-davide-lovatti

Unlike those of us who express our feelings through intense rituals — entire mornings spent painting, shouting out at open seas, retail therapy on useless junk — designer Giorgio Armani conveys his thoughts in a more refined manner. More often than not, he translates his obsessions into an elegant collection of timeless creations, and judging from his latest set for Armani/Casa, it’s pretty clear his current fixation is on light. The Time Of Lightness experiments with the notion of light and how its interplay (through shadows and reflections) can transform regular architecture into irregular elements, with Armani putting this sophistication into the perspective of minimalism and simplicity. The collection is gratifyingly considerate, keeping in mind all aspects of one’s lifestyle. It first offers a selection of tables — the Luna rotating table, Lewis oval table and Egidio low table, to name a few — then accompanies them with a complete tableware set. It also pieces together other home elements such as the Leonard buffet (two versions, with drawers and shelves or as a television unit) and Club bar cabinet, the latter a 50-piece limited edition hand-made with black straw marquetry and dramatized in an Ocean lacquer finish that calls to mind The Great Wave off Kanagawa by renowned Japanese artist Hokusai. These are topped off with resplendent Murano glass pieces and exquisite textiles by Rubelli.


The pop artistrock-valley-coffee-table_

Following last year’s series of ceramics-inspired leather bowls, Spanish luxury brand Loewe is back to win hearts with an entire bag of striking and eccentric designs crafted in leather marquetry. Conceived by creative director Jonathan Anderson, this latest collection of oak furniture is embellished with leather cut-outs in an array of shapes and colours pieced together to form mosaic drawings of flowers and landscapes. The project is partly inspired by the radical design ideas of pioneering artist-critic Roger Fry (furniture covered in bold, hand-painted patterns, for example), and the motifs are taken from silk prints found in Loewe’s archives, including a recurring carp adapted from a set of centuries-old Japanese wood screens Anderson found in Hong Kong. The end product is stunning, with six new creations, including a large wardrobe and two Baillie Scott chairs, along with lamps and cigar boxes as well as notebooks and leather pouches, all coated in fun to brighten up your living space.

Casa Loewe

The unrepentant gentlemanbottega-veneta-home-collection-bottega-veneta-via-borgospesso-home-boutique-3

Bronze tables surfaced in the signature intrecciato leather weave (an exclusive collaboration with Italian designer Osanna Visconti di Modrone), Murano lamps in new cigar and nero colorations, suede and leather drawers fitted with iconic bronzed handles — there’s nothing in Bottega Veneta’s home collection that doesn’t spell masculine decadence. When set against a backdrop of historic frescoes, coffered ceilings and stone walls found in a profound 18th century palazzo (Palazzo Gallarati Scotti in the heart of Milan, to be precise), the curated creations by creative director Tomas Maier even provide a taste of medieval excess. Apart from the aforementioned pieces, the collection boasts a suede seating set (club chair, foot rest, three-seat couch and day bed) named Rudi in collaboration with Poltrona Frau, a series of sterling silver collectible boxes each bearing semi-precious stones and planetary names, and a delicate hand-painted porcelain dining service. It’s a long list of complementary pieces that come together coherently to exude sophistication in the homes of those with discerning tastes.

Bottega Veneta

This article was first published in Men’s Folio.