The way he sees it, Mr Laurent Dordet’s work has been cut out for him.
The chief executive of La Montre Hermes – the watchmaking arm of Hermes – wants to grow the division, which now contributes just 3 per cent of the group’s nearly €5.2-billion (S$8.2-billion) revenue.
The top three things on his to-do list?
Make its women’s watches, such the Cape Cod, H Hour and Arceau, some of the most aspirational products for women.
“Our second challenge is to emerge as a masculine watchmaker also. Hermes has always had two legs – feminine and masculine. We are now considered by specialised journalists and bloggers as a genuine high-end watchmaker: We must convince more and more customers that our range is at the best level.”
The third is to improve his distribution network by taking advantage of Hermes’ network of more than 300 boutiques around the world.
“We’re also emerging digitally with Hermes’ new e-commerce site,” he said.
Although just two years into his job, the 48-year-old, who has spent his entire career at Hermes overseeing divisions such as textiles and leather goods, is off to a good start.
Under his watch, Hermes made quite a splash releasing several collections. The most noteworthy is the Slim d’Hermes line, which boasts head-turning models such as the Slim d’Hermes QP, which won best calendar watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in 2015; and the Slim d’Hermes Email Grand Feu, which incorporates the exquisite art of enamelling.
Mr Dordet was in town recently to launch the brand’s Time: A Hermes Object exhibition, at the atrium of Ngee Ann City, which is on until Sunday.
Launched in Baselworld this year, the exhibition – with whimsical booths that give visitors an immersive experience of Hermes’ playful riff on time – has also been staged in Japan and the United States.
You have been at La Montre Hermes for two years. What are you most proud of and what do you want to do better in?
This period has been for us a continuation of Hermes long-term strategy regarding watchmaking.
We will continue to strongly invest in our manufacturing facilities in Switzerland (where we established our production 40 years ago) and make internally almost all our components.
We want to express our singular vision of this metier (profession), which is different from our competitors. Time is not mainly quantitative for us.
Of course, our timepieces are highly precise, but Hermes Time must be also qualitative, full of fantasy and playfulness.
This “step sideways” is expressed through all our watches, which have their own style and also specific Hermes complications.
In a nutshell, Hermes – firstly known for other products, such as leather goods and silk accessories – is also now a genuine and credible Swiss watchmaker with its own French creativity and style.
These two years have been marked by the release of a lot of novelties.
For example, the 25th birthday of Cape Cod was an opportunity to totally renew the line and propose unexpected versions.
Cape Cod has since become a hot product everywhere in the world.
On the masculine side, our Slim line has welcomed this year our new Impatient Hour complication (which has a countdown function ending with a single chime).
It magnifies the “time to come” and the emotions preceding a rendezvous.
The luxury watch industry has been in the doldrums for the last couple of years. How has Hermes fared and do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?
Our trend has been quite positive in our stores for the last three years. This year also brought a two-digit growth to our main collection.
But at the same time, our performances have been impaired by a poor global trend within our “external” distribution, mainly made up of independent retailers, which accounts for 20 per cent of our sales.
We hope to maintain the trend in retail next year and to recover in a downsized and improved external network.
You once said that women are the future for Hermes watches. Explain why.
A famous French poet said “women are the future of men”.
Business-wise, women’s watches are still our core business, but our men’s lines are growing even more quickly.
For men, it is firstly a matter of awareness.
Too few watch amateurs know that Hermes is also a high-end watchmaker with the same demanding know-how philosophy it has for its other products.
Once more of them know, they will discover our lines and I hope they will be seduced by the authenticity of the Hermes approach.
Would you say your experience in the textile and leather divisions helped you in what you do at La Montre Hermes?
I know the Maison Hermes well, as I have been working for it for 20 years, previously managing other emblemmatic metiers.
Knowing the Maison philosophy is firstly helpful. It helps to ensure we are always aligned with Hermes’ other metiers and a rich cross-fertilisation of ideas and creativity.
The other important point is knowing our distribution network: As long as we think “retail”, as long as we bring to all our stores the right products at the right time, the right service and the right tools, the stores will convey a pleasant experience to our customers.
This article was first published at The Straits Times.
ALSO READ: THE 5 BEST-LOOKING THIN WATCHES OF 2017