The Hermes Slim d’Hermes was released about three years ago in late 2015, and I’ve always held it in high regard due to its original & whimsical design, quality, and price of $7,650. The Slim d’Hermes provides so much solid value in an industry and category that seldom does so. Even so, the difference between those watches that reach truly “timeless” status and, well, everyone else lies in an enduring appeal that can transcend ephemeral trends.
So, the question here is, has the French fashion house & watchmaker done this with the Slim d’Hermes? Funny enough, it’s probably too early for me to make that call. But, three years in and I am hard pressed to find a dress watch at this price point that excels in so many aspects while having a design that doesn’t rely on being derivative. Quality in finishings, perfect proportions, and a dial that perfectly utilizes the underrated art of typography come together and result in the one dress watch I’d ever need.
The purpose of this article isn’t really to serve as a typical “review” that we do, but rather as a rundown of the piece I spent several weeks with followed by an extensive survey of the “slim dress watch” landscape across similarly priced watches and those priced somewhat lower and higher than its $7,650 price tag. I think time and distance is necessary when evaluating a simple time-only piece that contends to be a “modern classic” and that is one reason I held off for so long before reviewing the Slim d’hermes three years after its initial release.
The Hermes Slim d’Hermes was a hit when it came out in 2015, but there’s been a lot of Hermes news since that’s overshadowed this humble dress watch by now. Most notably, the relationship between Apple and Hermes is stronger than ever, with the latest Apple Watch Series 4 Hermes edition retaining its status symbol reputation. Of course, it’s a deserved, if somewhat tenuous, reputation as being the smartwatch priced at around $1,500 (that’s about a $1,000 premium over the standard Apple Watch).
The Hermes Slim d’Hermes line itself has grown, with sexier and more eye-catching models like the Quantième Perpétuel Platine which is a perpetual calendar piece priced alongside watches from brands like Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Soehne. More recently, a Slim d’Hermes GMT version was released which I haven’t gotten the chance to spend much time with yet, but being limited to 90 pieces will keep it off the wrists of most people. I’m going to venture to assume that there are more than a few people out there who want this watch but can’t get it due to this two-figure production number. Fingers crossed for a non-limited edition version of that one in steel as opposed to palladium, which pushed the price up nearly $15,000.
Hermes has very distinct watch lines that have little overlap with each other. For example, you take the Slim d’Hermes line, the square-dial Cape Cod line with its lugs and rectangular case, the square case Carre H, and something like the Arceau Chrono and you have four very diverse aesthetics for very different types of buyers.
The story of the Slim d’hermes really goes back to 2006, when Hermes acquired a 25% stake in Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. The famed movement maker is still 75% held by the Sandoz family, who are also behind Parmigiani Fleurier. The relationship extends beyond sharing movements as Hermes creates the leather straps used in Parmigiani’s watches. I go into this relationship in my piece on the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Métrographe.
The Hermes Slim d’Hermes runs on the Hermes H1950 movement, which is a modified version of the Vaucher 5401 (if you’re interested in knowing as much as possible about this movement, then read this piece by Jack Forster). This manual wind movement is used in pieces priced at less than $10,000 like the Slim D’Hermes but is also found in the Richard Mille RM 033 which retails at over $70,000. You’re not going to get the hand finishing and decorative work on the Hermes that you would on pricier pieces, but the movement itself is absolutely top notch.
The H1950 adds the seconds sub-dial to the base Vaucher movement, but that’s about it. The movement measures 30mm wide and 2.6mm thick and is obviously a necessary component for the “slim” nomenclature. Several people have assumed the movement is manual, but it has a micro-rotor which allows for automatic winding. It operates at 21,600 vph and has a 42-hour power reserve.
The movement here is arguably the most important single aspect of this watch, but it also is the cause of my single biggest complaint about the watch. First the good, though. The movement looks handsome overall and fills out the large exhibition case back. On that second point, there’s nothing sadder than an exhibition case back that only takes up something like 65% of the case back.However, I just can’t get into the repeating H pattern decorating the movement. It’s just too reminiscent of a handbag pattern that’s long since become associated with either desperate gaudiness or a knockoff. Neither of these applies even closely to the Slim D’Hermes because 1.) it’s on the case back where you can’t show off a designer name and 2.) it’s obviously real. I’d prefer if Hermes kept the design to the micro-rotor while sticking to a simple Cotes de Geneve for the rest of the movement. The repeating pattern comes off like a distraction, but one in the form of a design choice that I’d rather be distracted away from.
The case of this watch has a singular goal that justifies its entire identity and that is that it must be slim. The watch measures at 39.5mm wide and my closest estimation of its thickness lands at somewhere just around 8.2mm. That’s an impressive figure, but I think pictures speak louder than words here. The watch just works when you look at its proportions and how it wears on the wrist. It’s not claiming to be “ultra thin” or “the most (insert adjective here)” but rather an impressively slim and practical dress watch that wears its identity on its sleeve (or, uh, wrist). My wrist measures 7.5 inches in circumference, so a 39.5mm wide watch is usually on the smaller end of what I wear. That’s actually something that I took a strange pleasure in, because I realized I so often find that my peers or fellow horologically-inclined friends categorize me as someone who only wears “bigger” watches. I started to think this way too, often prejudging anything under 42mm to be “too small” and halfway writing it off before I even try it on. The thin bezel of the Slim D’Hermes makes for a watch that wears bigger than the 39.5mm wide case would lead you to believe. The lugs are short but have that distinctive look of pointing inwards at the strap. It’s such a small touch, but one that goes so far in creating the final product of the watch.
And that’s why the Hermes Slim d’Hermes is such a success. It’s an amalgamation of very subtle design-conscious choices that make for a watch that actually stands out in its category. I realize I just went through quite a lengthy list of watches, but my goal here was to really take the inventory of the comprehensive set that the Hermes Slim d’Hermes is competing with. I’m sure you can guess my final take if you read this entire article, but here it is:
There are several thin, steel dress watches out there that do certain things better than the slim d’hermes, but almost all of them fall into the same trap of being generically designed and relatively safe dress watches. Hermes smartly understood that at this budget, a buyer will want a dress watch that stands out from the pack precisely because it will likely be the only dress watch in their collection.