With watches no longer worn to tell the time, those who still love to wear a watch tend to be very selective about what’s on their wrist. We talk to Tim Smith, founder of HERM Studio designing unisex watches for the open minded, alternative and progressive.
A watch is a testament to years of tradition and development, and a watch – with one function, there’s a thing – stops you from being distracted non-stop by the call of your smartphone when all you wanted was to check you’re not running late. A great watch is an item of beauty, but with so many dull watch designs out there, we agree with new brand HERM Studio and its founder, Tim Smith, that horology needs a revolution.
Coming from a background as creative director for luxury brands (Smith has worked with Hunstman, Savile Row, and Bang & Olufsen to name a few), whilst coming from the Wirral and loving Morrissey, Tim Smith created HERM Studio in 2016 to get away from big-money aesthetics. Non-conformist by nature, ‘HERM’ is an amalgamation of Her and Him – an androgynous fashion brand for a post-gender world.
It’s first launch of limited edition, unisex designs are sophisticated, minimalist and elegant; supported by the coup of a retail partnership with London’s iconic fashion emporium, Liberty. Crafted in four monochromatic colourways, the androgynous unisex watches reflect a high fashion aesthetic and the curated cultural desires of modern men and women.
The distinctive design features an oversized case (subverting the current trend for slim watch designs) and raised crystal sapphire glass and a gorgeously understated luxe strap of Italian calf suede. The watches feature a Swiss movement by Ronda, Swiss battery by Renata, bespoke date position, three-hand function and a delicately engraved copper dial. Designed in London and made with a passion for excellent quality, HERM Studio’s debut collection flaunts an unashamedly unconventional design feel.
The vision for Herm comes from Tim’s passion for beauty in the non-conformist. When we read his doctrine – “We believe that our watches – and their wearers – shouldn’t be constrained by stereotypes or outmoded expectations. Our vision has been to create an authentic brand that speaks to the way people live and interpret their lives through sub-culture styles” – we wanted to know more about Tim, Time and HERM. So we asked him some questions on the eve of the 9th June General Election. And wow – that seems an age ago now.
Who are your heroes?
Hard question as hero is a big statement! I suppose heroes come in the shape of certain family members and friends and what they have done, been through or achieved. But in the public eye Morrissey has told me a lot about myself, David Bowie’s progressive and alternative outlook, Lee Alexander McQueen coming from nothing and having a massive impact on fashion with his outlook and vision – all certainly inspire me to go for it.
Reading your biog and also on the HERM Studio site, I am picking up a passion for the idea of bringing great design and great aesthetics to people who may usually rebel against luxury and commerciality. Is that how you feel about big brands?
Yeah – for sure. Certain big fashion houses are creating extraordinary cool clothes for extraordinary un-cool people as price is so restrictive!
What fashion designers do you love/are you wearing at the moment?
I love Demna Gvasalia – Vetements take on street / gritty / chic fashion. What Hedi Slimane did to Saint Laurent and what Alessandro Michele is doing at Gucci – but I have purposefully picked these 3 to play in to examples of heroes from your earlier question – although Vetements is certainly different from the other two.
I would wear more from a broad range of brands including ACNE, Etudes, Aries to skate inspired brands such as HELAS, Pyramid Country, Gosha Rubchinskiy (I would put him in skate inspired too).
You grew up in Merseyside. When did you leave? Do you ever go back and if so where do you visit?
Yes I grew up in Pensby, Wirral. I left for Leeds University at 18, spent a couple of years in Liverpool after Uni and have been in London since. I still visit my Mum and family back there. Still in Pensby in our family home.
Describe your studio. Where do you go for lunch? Do you listen to music while you are working?
I have recently left my design studio. It was a Partnership between 3 of us but the culture was not entirely what I wanted it to be, therefore I decided it was time to set up my own – of which HERM Studio is a part of. It’s a nimble and open minded mentality – absolutely driven by design. We have no designated working hours or holidays and everyone is encouraged to work where they want, when they want. I actively encourage designers to set up in clients’ offices and work there to make it truly collaborative. Music in there is diverse but directional! An eclectic mix of post punk to progressive.
What’s the most rebellious or most daring thing you’ve done in your career?
I once pitched to one of Philippe Starck’ design related companies and I opened with a slide that stated in huge type LESS STARCK, MORE YOU. As it was clear that his style was no longer the future of the brand.
I have always been interested in watches. There is something very romantic about them, their relationship with the here and now from a constant time perspective. I’m interested in the fact they are redundant in the world of smart phones and tech – they will never tell the time as accurately as Digital which is why the desire is more romantic. There is also something cool in being a piece of jewellery that is androgynous – hence unisex watches, HER/HIM – HERM.
What make HERM watches unique amongst watch brands?
Open minded, alternative and progressive. We like to work with as little as possible.
What brands/movements/artists do you think HERM would get along with?
I think we would love to fit in the space of contemporary fashion and art. I would love to see us as the choice for people who love Vetements, Comme des Garcons, Etudes, Raf Simons – I know stylistically these are different to each other but for me they all have a contemporary, real and romantic element to them.
You seem like a multi-tasker. Do you have any other projects going on at the moment?
Yeah for sure. I’ve recently been working on or with car brands, sports brands, hospitality and interior design including Bentley, Hilton and Reebok.
Does HERM have a personality?
Yes. Real and romantic
I read a quote from Rick Owens where he said, “My mantra for everybody is better, not bigger” and that seems a bit like where you are coming from. What’s more important to you – commercial success or aesthetic success?
Absolutely – aesthetic success is the driver. Rick Owens is a great brand. I read a quote that resonated recently by Kyle MacLachlan that said “David Lynch has made a show that he wants see, not necessarily what he thinks the audience will enjoy.”
What next after Liberty? Congratulations on that by the way!
We will be in Paris Mens Week, and I’m desperately trying to speak with Dover Street Market and Colette – big aims, as a small independent – but got to go big right?
Will you be voting?
‘Corbynator’ – for sure. It shocks me how people ask for someone genuine who sticks to their position and doesn’t sit on the ‘centrist fence’ – but are then swayed by propaganda that he doesn’t fit the mould of a media person – its not celebrity status that people should vote on.
You have had a successful creative agency, and now HERM. Do you feel you have ‘made it’? Is there such a thing in the creative world?
Definitely not. I have been lucky enough to do nice stuff for nice brands, but I have not managed to really get my point across. That is what I hope to do with HERM Studio primarily and also more of that through my studio.