About Time

A new watch from Hermès packs unexpected graphic punch.

Hermès gold and diamond watch

It’s not every day that Hermès debuts a watch. In fact, it’s not every decade. Slim d’Hermès is the first new collection from the house since 1992. And to ensure that the minimalist-chic timepieces were worth the wait, it teamed up with another big French name: the graphic designer Philippe Apeloig, a former art director at the Louvre known for his eye-catching exhibition banners and posters. His Slim numerals don’t just mark the passing hours: “The numbers are drawn with one simple line, and, on occasion, the lines are interrupted,” Apeloig explains. “Those silent spaces subtly allude to the concept of time.”

Apeloig’s ongoing relationship with Hermès—a men’s scarf he designed will hit stores later this year—began in 2012, when he created a poster for the brand’s collaboration with the flatware company Puiforcat. “He understands the philosophy of Hermès very well,” says Philippe Delhotal, the creative director of the watch division. “We wanted to have a coherence between the case and the typography, and his graphical approach was exactly what we were looking for.”

As an art student in the ’80s, Apeloig was into painting, set design, and choreography. That varied background, he says, fed his unconventional aesthetic, which “connects typography to the human figure in motion.” The onetime professor at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York has also teamed up with Yves Saint Laurent on posters for its 2009 retrospective at the Petit Palais museum in Paris, designed book covers for Phaidon, and worked with Gagosian Gallery on exhibition catalogs. But where Apeloig’s impact has been most salient is on the cultural landscape of Paris: Since 2006, he’s designed the arresting billboards for the Théâtre du Châtelet (the city’s preeminent theater and opera house), and, in 2004, he dreamed up an ideogram now used to identify all French museums. “Letters are not only a vehicle for conveying thought,” he says. “They are the raw material for creation itself.”