In a new interview posted in the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s Jony Ive and Hermes’ artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas discuss Apple’s first partnership with a luxury fashion brand to create branded Apple Watch models. To recap, on Wednesday, Apple announced Apple Watch Hermes, a collection of watches code signed with the renowned Paris designer. The watches will be available in October.
Ive says the partnership is unprecedented and began before the Apple Watch was even announced to the public, breaking traditional Apple secrecy.
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To make Apple Watch Hermès, Apple had to break some traditions. Mr. Ive approached Hermès about collaborating on a watch last year, before Apple had announced its first wearable device.
“It’s something highly unusual for Apple to do—to talk about an unannounced project,” said Mr. Ive, 48 years old. They decided to partner over lunch in Paris, where Hermès is based, last October.
The watches feature custom watch faces exclusively available to those models. The bands are only available when bought alongside a new stainless steel watch. Despite this, Ive says the partnership is not made to be an exclusive product. Ive says the Hermes watches have as much thought and attention invested as the cheapest Sport watches do.
“We don’t think in those terms,” Mr. Ive said in an interview Wednesday, after the Apple Watch Hermès was unveiled. “I’m not comfortable with words like exclusive.”
In addition, Ive says that the promotion of Hermes brand over Apple’s is unprecedented in Apple’s history. When the Hermes-exclusive faces are used and the Watch is being worn, there is no Apple branding whatsoever visible. Like other Apple Watches, there is a small Apple logo engraved into the back of the watch however — alongside the Hermes logo.
Allowing Hermès’ symbols to upstage Apple’s is a first, Mr. Ive said. “I’ve been at Apple 23 years and this is conspicuous and singular. I’ve never known anything like this,” he said.
The interview also says that Apple and Hermes are open to future partnerships but does not provide details. This could mean more Apple Watch variants as well as potential collaborations on other Apple devices, like the iPhone. There has been a lot of speculation recently that Apple will soon make ‘luxury’ iPhones to match its wearable.
Ive calls out the Double Tour as his favorite of the new bands, which wraps twice around the wrist. Like any other product, there were problems to overcome. In testing, Ive says the second loop would slip on the skin and move underneath the Watch, obscuring the heart rate sensors. This caused the Watch to lock as the disruption made it think the watch was no longer being worn. The final watch designs include extra padding on the bands to stop them from slipping.
“We are a new tradition and an age-old tradition, and we meet at the center of the arch,” said Mr. Dumas, 49.
The Apple Watch Hermes collection is available from October, with prices between $1100 and $1500.