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Today through April 13, Watches and Wonders Geneva is presenting a digital edition of its annual watch fair. As watchmakers continue to adapt to an online model, many aim to reinvent their showcases altogether—unveiling monumental partnerships and collaborations with creators from around the world.
Hermès is introducing its latest “H08” collection today with an installation entitled “The Texture of Time” that combines architecture, technology, and the house’s traditional codes by the artists Clément Vieille and Pierre Pauze. At Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, an industrial 19th-century performing arts center in Geneva that was once a hydropower plant, the artists unveiled a scenography that combines videos and sculptures with works inspired by the maison’s approach to time. Centered around its new “H08” collection, it reflects science and artistic creation while reflecting on horology.
Vieille’s sculpture was installed in the luminous hall and communicates the power of light and the balance of forces. The expansive display encompasses thousands of transparent structures that retrace the origin of the new H08 watch. For Pauze’s piece, he exercised his interest in quantum physics and also presented a work highlighting the strength of light and time. He explored the physical construction of the house’s latest watch with a video presented on 16 screens that underline its resonation with the cycles of natural elements, like the motion of waves in the ocean and sand that produces geometric forms.
Whitewall spoke with Vieille and Pauze about creating their installations for Hermès, how their practice relates the world of watchmaking, and how storytelling is the gear that moves each element in art and watches.
WHITEWALL: What most intrigued you about the process of watchmaking and its innerworkings that you wanted to show in your film?
PIERRE PAUZE: In watchmaking, as well as art, production process is of paramount importance. I wanted observers to understand the process involved in making the product, so I used the principle of unveiling. By providing glimpses, I tried to ensure that the experience of the product is unique and exclusive.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the creative process behind filming and producing this piece, now seen across 16 screens?
PP: The concept for the videos stems from a project I started three years ago with June Balthazard, which was a reflection on science and mysticism. This concept seemed to be gradually infused with ideas of organic and mechanical fluidity, which is when we suggested to Hermès that we merge these ideas into two parallel projects. The form took shape over time, and each project fed the other both aesthetically and symbolically.
WW: What details of the new H08 are seen or sourced for inspiration?
PP: The watch is integrated through evocation. I wanted to move away from the usual aesthetic that puts the product at the forefront. I think that both the watch and art should be experienced so that they retain their respective strengths. I wanted the two to echo each other while each living in their own ecosystem.
WW: Do you see a link between film and watchmaking—a presence or preservation of time?
PP: Watchmaking is a medium which combines excellence across design, goldsmithing and mechanics. It's somewhat of a fusion between a beautiful, practical object, a piece of jewellery, and a technical feat. What is special about Hermès is that the object created also tells a story, similar to film.
WW: Clément, how was your sculpture inspired by the house's jewelry-making, specifically the weaving of a watch strap?
CLÉMENT VIEILLE: This piece was inspired by the house in many ways, and as the project progressed and I became more familiar with the Hermès world, inspiration began to emerge in certain details. For example, a visit to the Manufacture in Le Noirmont in the Jura region of Switzerland led me to anodize the metal joints of the structure in color, like the hours dial.
WW: What does the artwork reflect about the house and its latest H08 launch?
CV: The H08 was the initial pretext, and had to be interpreted, piece by piece, throughout the entire display case. Hermès time is contemporary and technological, and the H08 is a reflection of contemporary masculinity. Therefore, we had to understand technical shapes, materials and mechanisms while remaining measured and precise, so that this masculine appearance could easily integrate a less gendered universe.
In the end, the integration becomes almost imperceptible, yet the thousands of translucent sculptures featured in this display are taken from a 3-D file of the watch that I was given at the start of the project. The H08 is everywhere, yet without one really noticing it. Moreover, within the "tensegrity" structure, the joints echo the technical precision and the noble materials of the watch.
WW: What was the creative process like creating this piece in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL)?
CV: The process of developing the tensegrity structure involved formal and technical research. I worked in conjunction with the EPFL and involved many different specialists, since the final object is a structural feat. I am grateful that Hermès grasped the scope of this challenge right away and provided moral and material support, as well as trust since the very beginning of the project.
WW: How do you feel your practice relates to the world of Hermès?
CV: The Hermès world is one of skilled hands, expertise, craftsmanship at its highest level. This called for something eminently technological, yet at the same time palpable, apprehensible in space, non-virtual, built with care and passion.