The momentous occasion of reaching a quarter-century is a laudable milestone in any book, and certainly more so in the chronicles of the Hermès Cape Cod. Famously known for its free-spirited insouciance that went against the norms of '90s era haute horlogerie, this icon was a vision (and a desire) made tangible by Henri d'Origny — the maison's legendary artistic director. Taking inspiration from the maison's Chaîne d'Ancre motif to fashion that emblematic 'square inside a rectangle' silhouette, the Cape Cod was undoubtedly one-of-a-kind; a status cemented with the introduction of the Double Tour strap by Martin Margiela in 1998, marking the watch with a timeless stylish prominence like no other.
Having turned 25 this year — that liminal age where anything is possible — the next exciting and playful chapter of the Cape Cod is only just unfolding. And as we toast to this milestone, its latest rendition reminds us that this talismanic timepiece is a style staple characterised by contemporary design elements. Essentially whimsy and unique ingenuity reincarnated, Henri d'Origny and creative director of Hermès, horloger Philippe Delhotal, lets us in on what makes the allure of the Cape Cod perennially irresistible.
As designers and creators of this Hermès icon, what is the personal significance of the Cape Cod's 25th birthday to you?
Henri d'Origny (HD): Cape Cod has become an iconic Hermès object. It has succeeded in evolving across time by combining high style standards, judicious use of design codes as well as a light-hearted and fanciful approach. I am thrilled to see that it has found its way unscathed through the years. Its distinctive design ensures that it remains as surprising and indeed, astonishing as ever.
Several fresh elements have been incorporated into the Cape Cod, such as a new gem-setting technique as well as stone and mother-of-pearl dials. What are the inspirations behind these aspects?
Philippe Delhotal (PD): It was mostly in the purpose of giving another dynamic to the Cape Cod line. By its richness, this new collection can seduce any generation as it goes from coloured burnishing to white lacquered dials, which gives a more contemporary look to precious stone dials. But its very essence, its singular design, has remained unchanged.
Inherent characteristics of the collection include the Chaîne d'ancre shape, Art Deco typography and the Double Tour strap. How have these traits carried over? Have they been reinvented in some fashion?
PD: Cape Cod is also about the balance between the case — inspired by the anchor chain —and the special typography both created by Henri d'Origny, the house designer, as well as the spirit around the leather which became even more emblematic in 1998 when Martin Margiela invented the double tour strap and signed the birth of a new icon. Consequently, it is important not to modify the original form of the watch as well as the typography because they are core elements of the model's identity.
The Cape Cod has always been about expressing a sense of free spirited whimsy. How is this aesthetic interpreted in the 2016 edition?
PD: In 2016, the Cape Cod is 25, which reminds us that along the years and trends, this watch has kept its modernity, lightness and is still considered as an object paying tribute to the feminine and masculine universe of Hermès.
There has always been a strongly distinctive Cape Cod man and woman. Who would you envision as the modern representative of these qualities? Is it someone stylish, sporty or urbane?
PD: Wearing a Cape Cod is like being non-conventional and audacious while staying sensitive to a rigourous and timeless style, free of any kind of formalism.
Can you share with us the state of mind and sentiments associated with slipping on the Cape Cod?
PD: The Cape Cod is not merely a distinctive timepiece. It is an emblematic and enduring Hermès accessory that has managed to keep step with the times and find its place in the ready-to-wear universe. It combines high stylistic standards, specific design codes and lightness, infused with a fanciful touch.
Moving forward, how will the Cape Cod and Hermès continue to make strides in the haute horlogerie universe?
PD: These are two distinctive questions. The future of the Cape Cod, give or take a few details, will continue to look much like it does today, with new interpretations in terms of dials, finishing, animation features or straps.
And as to the future of haute horlogerie at Hermès, our mechanical complications have to bring something different. With our manufacture-based movements, we will continue to express our specific vision of time, which includes fantasy, humour and lightness.
The Cape Cod collection is available at Hermès boutiques.