January 8, 2016
By Leah Melby Clinton
DOES THE HERMÈS APPLE WATCH HAVE FASHION CRED?
From the very moment that Apple revealed leather Hermès bands for the Apple Watch, the relationship between fashion and technology officially changed. Apple was ready to go from making the iPhone, an essential that the style tribe carried in a designer accessory, to being the designer accessory.
Pre-Hermès, the watch was a tech gadget that failed to captivate the fashion flock. Afterward, thanks to the legendary house’s rich fashion history, the watch felt lightyears away from hardy rubber fitness trackers. Now, four months out from the release, are we ready to call them a must-have?
“It’s one of the strongest fashion and technology partnerships that’s happened in quite awhile,” fashion writer Tara Lamont-Djite mused. “It made me want to buy one, whereas I didn’t when they were initially introduced.” She says most everyone she knows wants one, but no one’s pulled the trigger. “There needs to be a capability we don’t have on anything else. My phone already has everything it’s offering—and on a bigger screen. Smart watches need to discover a niche.”
Leslie Hsu, the accessories designer behind Punchcase and a fashion industry vet with over 15 years of experience, hasn’t replaced her classic Hermès Double Tour with a digital version and reports no plans to make the switch. “I adore my watch, and it gets better with time. I have no need for a tech watch because I always have my iPhone with me,” she said, adding that she thinks the collaboration actually tarnished Hermès’ classic brand. “I’m sad that they’d tech out such a classic item.”
Apple is no doubt looking for a long burn with the watch (rumors have it that a second generation will be announced this spring), and Hsu’s response perfectly illustrates what Michael Groffenberger, The Real Real’s Senior Fine Jewelry and Watches Director, predicts will happen to the luxury watch industry: Classic names will continue to stand the test of time, but companies that opt in to competing with Apple for a share of the market will suffer.
“Brands without a strong identity or following will be hurt. At a certain point, buying a luxury watch is about your relationship with the brand, and if they’re focusing on making a competitor to the Apple Watch, they’ll lose what makes them special,” he said. “Brands like Rolex and Cartier will survive because they’re not trying to compete. They understand that the reason consumers are attracted to their watches has less to do with functionality and more to do with it becoming an extension of their identity.”
To see the devotion he’s talking about, look no further than Hsu, who says one of the chief reasons she doesn’t want to switch over (and would never consign her current Double Tour to do so) is purely sentimental. “My husband bought it for me for one of our anniversaries—it’s one of my most precious and timeless fashion pieces.”
Images courtesy of Apple