Hands-On Re-evaluating the Hermès H08

By David Flett with photography by Allen Farmelo

The Skinny

  • Caliber H1837 – mechanical self-winding movement, 50-hour power reserve
  • 39mm x 42mm
  • Precision –/+ 9s
  • Water resistance 100m
  • Release year – 2021
  • $5500

In Search of Something Different

Innovation sometimes seems to be a rare commodity in the world of entry level luxury watches. Of course, everyone has their own definition of entry level and everyone has their own definition of luxury watches but for the sake of argument, let us define it to include watches between $5000 and $10000… The range that include this watch, the Hermès H08.

Think of the luxury brands in that market. Now think which of them are truly innovating? I’ll pause for a few seconds to give you some time… How did you do? The obvious candidates don’t fare too well. Rolex – nothing truly new there. Tudor – well they killed the one unique watch they made in the North Flag. Oris – new dials, albeit for good causes, and a new movement in 2020. Omega – the coaxial escapement is 20 years on. IWC – nothing new. JLC – nope. Chopard – no.

To find innovation in the sports watch space at the moment, one must be prepared to either spend a little more or, perhaps, look beyond the established herotage watch brands. That’s where Hermes comes in.

Hermes H08 on the wrist

It’s really no surprise. The bow called luxury has tradition as its primary string. Luxury watch brands have been built on years of tradition and past developments. So, is it a surprise the heritage watch brands keep making homages to their past glories? It is, after all, the reinforcement of their historical iconography that maintains the brand’s value in the eyes of the wider public. It’s also a very Swiss tendency. So the design conservatism is understandable, but it can get a little stifling when the only “innovations” are dial colors. 

Innovation from Hermès

It is then with open arms that I receive the Hermès H08 – a sports watch from a luxury brand that looks like nothing else out there right now. Announced at Watches & Wonders 2021, we’ve had this example on loan at BTD for a few days, so we thought it time for a hands on review and a little retrospective on how Hermès muscled it’s way into the luxury sports watch boys club. 

Hermes H08 dial closeup

Innovation in design is apparent from the ground up, from the typeface on the dial (we’ll come to that later), to the case architecture, layout and hands. Nothing here feels retro, everything here feels new, almost experimental. My mind draws a parallel with the Bulgari Octo Finissimo as a similarly innovative watch. It is perhaps not a surprise that the Octo Finisaino also hails from a luxury brand with a creative oeuvre much wider than mere watches.

Free from the shackles of a back-catalog of sports watch hits, (La Montre Hermès was only formed in 1978) Hermès were free to produce something refreshingly different to enter the crowded sub-$10,000 luxury sports watch market. The H08 is large and sporty but also modern and efficient in execution. Obviously Hermès knows how to make objects that resonate quality and he H08 is no exception. It draws on the company’s heritage of past luxury rather than a heritage of past watches. The watch is innovative while still on brand in a way that an established specialist watch maker would find difficult. 

Hermes H08 deployant clasp

In the Hand and On the Wrist

The case is 100% titanium and is light on the wrist given the size. And it is that lightness which makes for a perfect fit on my wrist.

Perfect? Really?

I know, I have made similar claims before in watch reviews… Phrases such as “it’s 42mm but it wears smaller and is perfect on my 7.25 inch wrist”. I hereby vow to never write such statements going forward. Now I have worn the H08, I cannot imagine how a sports watch could feel more comfortable. The zenith has been reached. 

The case, while sporty, is also curvy and sensual. We have have soft edges and a rich and luxuriant feeling DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating. The dark finish is punctuated with a sun burst bezel-like frame in raw titanium. The bezel shape is echoed in the watch font (we’ll come to that later) and provides a contemporary interpretation of the traditional cushion case. On the wrist, this watch draw immediate attention.

Hermes H08

Behind the sapphire glass is a dial of contrasting greys thankfully devoid of supplementary text. We simply have “Hermès Paris” at 12 o’clock, in their regular brand font. There’s no text proclaiming water resistance or the number of jewels. There is no historical subtext that needs to reiterated on the dial of each model. Dial finishing is subdued with alternate rings of subtle texture and smoothness. This is style through simplicity.

The minute track lies within the hour track and numerals which is certainly uncommon and yields a short second hand with a tail the same length as the pointer. At the pointer end we have an arrowhead cheerfully filled with on-brand orange. It’s a perfectly subtle highlight in keeping with the modern understated looks. Overall, there is significant attention to detail that is belied by the simplicity of the design. For example, the minute hand has an aperture that forms a window around the minute marker as the second hand passes 12 – a feature made possible by having the minute track so close to the center. It’s a delightful little touch.

Hermes H08 Dial and Hands

The H08 Font

The radially arranged numerals are rendered in a highly-stylized font created specifically for the H08. The font certainly does gives the watch a unique character. Do the variations in arm, leg and cross-bar thicknesses trigger my OCD? Yes, they do. As a font, I don’t think it is particularly attractive. The variations in radius and thickness seem jarring rather than complementary. I will say that I think this font works better when the light catches the applied numerals, thus obscuring the lume plots and presenting the numerals as a solid, unified form. This may be a case where solid numerals and external lume dots may have fared better — at last vis-a-vis my OCD.

Hermes H08 font macro

One thing I do love, however, is the use of the same font on the date wheel. Hell yes! If you commit to a bold choice, go all in. I have said it before and I will say it again, more manufacturers should do this. I hate to see a watch manufacturer use a generic font on the day or date wheel that has nothing to do with the rest of the watch’s design. I have to admit, after one week, the font did grown on me although the ‘5’ and the ‘2’ will always seem a little awkward to me.

Hermes movement decoration

A Diminutive, High Quality Movement

Flip the watch over and the sapphire display caseback reveals the highly decorated H1837 Hermès-exclusive movement. As Allen recently wrote, it can be hard to define what is in-house these days, but with the H08 it is relatively simple. The H1837 is sourced from Vaucher, the movement manufacturer which split from Parmigiani Fluerier in the early 2000s. Hermès has owned 25% of the Vaucher operation since 2006 and so can be assured that it really is getting an exclusive movement.

Hermes H08 H1837 movement

The 28-jewel, 28,800 vph movement is adorned with Hermès’s familiar ‘Infinite H’ design etched into the rotor, train bridge and balance cock. Unfortunately, other than that, there is not much else to see. The H1837 is relatively small, and while the compact nature is good for powering multiple watches of differing sizes throughout the Hermès range, it doesn’t provide much of a view of the mechanism. Other than the balance swinging back and forth, it’s hard to see anything else moving. While the precision of our loan example at +9 seconds/day was a little worse than expected, there was no positional change which indicates to me that the watch simply needed some regulation to bring it into the 1-2 seconds per day precision I would expect of a movement from Vaucher. This is par for the course when it comes to loaner watches.

H1837 balance cock

Something Fresh in a Crowded Space

The Hermès H08 provides an eye-catching and sophisticated sports watch, with the brand’s expected emphasis on luxury and design. While I have nothing against the Tudors, the Omegas, the Chopards and the IWCs of this world, for me Hermès provides something more with the H08, something different than the established watch companies offer: a heritage of luxury with space for new ideas.

Hermes H08 buckle closed