Stepping into the Hermès leather workshops is a multi-sensory experience. First smell, with the heady scent of tanned hides. Sight is dazzled by the rainbow array of colors stretching from orange and yellow to classic brown, etoupe, Hermès red and various shades of blue… Touch is also brought into play, with the ever soft leathers revealing a variety of textures, from sturdy Barenia to the subtle grain of Epsom. Perhaps only taste is left out, since hearing also enables visitors to appreciate the exquisite ballet performed in these Bienne-based workshops where the artisans’ touch meets machinery in crafting the finest leather straps. Hands whirl and twirl in skilled and accurate movements, deftly fashioning goatskin, calfskin, buffalo skin, ostrich skin and alligator leather according to a dedicated ritual and using highly specific techniques.
It all starts with the rigorous selection of leathers. Wrinkles, veins and scratches are personae non gratae in the workshop. Then comes the cutting of two leather segments of the same width that will compose the two parts of the strap. They are flattened to achieve paper-thin outer edges. A tiny strip of fabric is then glued between the upper and lower parts of the strap to form a whole. The choreography serving to transform the raw material into an elegant and robust strap can begin. First comes the process of tracing and marking with a compass the sewing line and the stitching points. Using flaxen thread and two needles, the artisan creates the famous “saddle stitch”. Every detail counts and special attention is devoted to the edge of the strap, which is softened by rubbing and sandpapering. Then comes the stage consisting of shaping the two loops through which the strap tab will be threaded. Each strap is authenticated by a letter and stamped with the House logo or maker’s mark. One final detail will remain invisible to the wearer of the watch : the finishing stitch on the strap forms an H. The strap, designed and created to hug the wrist like a second skin, thus becomes an emblem of ultimate luxury