In conversation with Designer Ini Archibong on the art of gallop, the Hermès way.
“It was an invitation to create a strong timepiece with a real personality, one that can provoke emotion and challenge convention” shared Philippe Delhotal, Artistic Director of La Montre Hermès on his creative brief to Designer Ini Archibong.
With Delhotal and Archibong, we retrospected the design process, and inspirations behind the new Galop d’Hermès presented at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) this year.
Hermès is a very daring House. A House of Creation. If you are not audacious you cannot really offer something different.
This is a very apt conversation to start the 2019 year of ‘Dreams’ for the Maison.
Archibong was given free rein in his proposals, as the duo candidly alluded that commerciality of design was not a key criteria defined in the brief. “… because you should take the risk, it is part of creating something new.”
The Galop d’Hermès certainly stood out in the plethora of timepieces presented this year, with its case shape that had me thinking space-vessel, stop, backspace, a stirrup. The first impressions came surely from the domed case silhouette, and progressive typeface that Archibong proposed for the dial. The numerals are smaller and leaner at the front, inviting you to stop for perspective. And then there is the witty proposal of a 6 o’clock crown. The elements came together in harmony. Importantly it sits ergonomically on the wrist with the clever decision on the lug choices.
Curatedition: When designing a watch, which is more important to you, icon (heritage) or new (innovation)?
Archibong: Both are important, making this question difficult to answer. The idea that one needs to exist without the other… Or that one is more important than the other, is a fallacy. That’s one thing special about Hermès watch making, is that its a combination of both. Everything that Hermès has made in the watch making world, is a novelty. Because everything is quite special and does not follow the common codes of watch making. Because they are so novel, they become iconic. And without innovation, nothing is worthy of becoming heritage.
Curatedition: Typically, the most popular (also most commercial) watch shape is the round. You designed a watch that is not round. What were your thoughts when you went for something “not usual”.
Archibong: I didn’t think about what would be commercial. That is what’s perfect about the opportunity to design for Hermès. Simply when all the crazy ideas jump into my head, such as making the watch shape like this, putting the crown at the bottom, many other brands might have said… no.
Nothing was ever square or round, everything I proposed to Phillipe was like, organic. Even if they were square-ish, they were trying to break out of the square. Nothing I presented had straight lines. I presented nothing with perfect circles.
Delhotal: I absolutely support him. Perhaps for some, it was too original, because this shape is so strong. But it is our choice to choose this kind of shape even if it was daring and unusual. It was interesting for me to explore. Hermès is a very daring House. A House of Creation. If you are not audacious you cannot really offer something different. Commerciality is important, but you should take the risk, it is part of creating something new.
Curatedition (to Delhotal): Was it an immediate yes when you saw the design?
Delhotal: At the beginning, the sketches were… out of time. And it is normal, because it was Ini’s first time designing a watch. It is very complicated to design a watch, even more complicated to design something simple. You want to bring life to the watch, to provide a personality. It was important for Ini to spend time and be educated at the Conservatoire des créations Hermès, and the Émile Hermès museum.
Curatedition (back to Archibong): What inspired you the most during your training at Conservatoire des créations Hermès, and the Hermès museum?
Archibong: For the museum in particular, what came through was the silhouette of the stirrup. Émile Hermès collected stirrups from around the world. What I took away from it, not sure if that was the intention – that what put Hermès on point as a possible uniter of humanity – was that, this object that crosses all cultural borders has a very specific shape. No matter where you go, there is an icon of it in every country. There has been a horse that needs to be ridden, and there is a stirrup. The stirrups had different decorations and made of different materials, but they all had this, and this (gestures the shape of the stirrup). When you take away all the decorations, you draw this and this, with the line and delicacy of the Hermès shape, you get the watch. It was just that.
The goal was to make something iconic that could talk to people around the world. A shape no matter where you are, you see it, and you know what it references, and Hermès probably.
Curatedition: Did you have a size in mind? What was your proposal?
Archibong: This is the size I proposed. Its bigger than most would expect for a woman. To me, there is this “magical” size. One that fits large for a woman, and small for a man. The idea – that a watch can be a right size for a man comfortable with wearing a smaller watch, and a right size for a woman who is comfortable with wearing a larger watch – is interesting to me. That’s why I like this size. I understand that commercially there will be a range of sizes, and once that is done, there is a size for everyone. But this is the size that I would wear.
Curatedition: If you had an opportunity to design another Hermès product, what might it be?
Archibong: I have never designed anything soft before, a bag would be nice.
Curatedition: Last question to wrap the interview. As a designer, what would you like to be known for?
I want to be known… for the experiences that people have, that I have been able to have the benefit of giving them, with the things that I create. Regardless of whether it is architecture, or a watch, or a chair… or a table. I am not designing the thing, I am trying to curate an experience, which says to me that: if people enjoy it, that means I have learnt to speak a foreign language through an object or space that can translate into any culture, any language. That’s my goal.
Galop d’Hermès (Steel)
Dial: Grained silvered, opaline centre, Silver-powdered transferred Arabic numerals, dark grey contour, rhodium-plated hands
Case designed by Ini Archibong, shape inspired by the world of equestrian tack, 316L steel set with 150 diamonds (≈ 0.66 ct) or non-gemset, 40.8 × 26 mm, 10 mm interhorn width, antiglare sapphire crystal, water-resistant to 3 bar
Movement: Quartz, Swiss made
Functions: Hours, minutes
Strap: Barénia calfskin in natural or black, polished alligator, sapphire blue, ember, raspberry, elephant grey or black, matt alligator, étoupe. Pin buckle in 316L steel, 10 mm
Galop d’Hermès (Rose Gold)
Dial: Grained silvered, opaline centre, gilt-powdered transferred Arabic numerals, dark grey contour, gilded hands
Case designed by Ini Archibong, shape inspired by the world of equestrian tack, rose gold set with 150 diamonds (≈ 0.66 ct) or non-gemset, 40.8 × 26 mm, 10 mm interhorn width, antiglare sapphire crystal, water-resistant to 3 bar
Movement: Quartz, Swiss made
Functions: Hours, minutes
Strap: Polished alligator, sapphire blue, ember, blackcurrant, elephant grey or black. Pin buckle in rose gold, 10 mm.
Founded in 2010, Design by Ini is the independent design studio of designer Ini Archibong.
Archibong’s work is characterised by a deep interest in craftsmanship and integrity to his chosen material. His designs are enthralling, confounding and inspiring- inviting viewers to touch beyond the sublime in their encounter. His work draws from architecture, environmental and product design, as well as lifelong passions for mathematics, philosophy and world religions.
As a son of Nigerian immigrants to the United States, and a resident of US, Singapore and Switzerland, his diverse personal and professional background underlines his design ethic and ethos. “Ini has become one of America’s design ‘storytellers’, where product and narrative share equal billing”, said longtime mentor and collaborator Jerry Helling, Creative Director, Bernhardt Design.
Archibong’s work has been exhibited globally at design events and in galleries including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Alycede Roulet Williamson Gallery in Pasadena, Triode in Paris, and the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi in Milan, amongst others. Ini’s much-anticipated collaboration with Sé launched in 2018 at Rossana Orlandi during Salone del Mobile Milano and featured a 22-piece collection of sumptuous and sculptural pieces to be released over a period of two years. Working intimately with a variety of materials including glass, marble and leather, Ini’s practice is informed by the inherent properties unique to these materials. As a result, leading houses such as deSede, Ruinart, Christoe, Bernhardt Design and Herman Miller have consulted Archibong’s expertise in design and brand strategies.
His creative vision and projects have been featured in various international print and online publications including: 1843, AD, AZURE, Dezeen, Elle Decoration, GQ, NOWNESS and SURFACE. Archibong graduated from the Art Center College of Design and ÉCAL and has previously been an ICFF Studio and Best of Neocon Award winner.
He has taught at the National University of Singapore and has been on lecture panels at both the College Art Association Conference NYC, and USC School of Architecture with esteemed architects and designers such as Frank Gehry and Karim Rashid.
Archibong currently lives and works in Switzerland.
Images courtesy of Hermès.