Created in 1975, the Hermès Kelly watch reveals new facets of its free-spirited attitude. Whether a metal bracelet, diamond-set or worn as a sautoir necklace, it demonstrates a light-hearted gift for self-reinvention. A powerful style statement expressing a distinctive take on femininity, it derives its padlock shape from the iconic handbag designed by Robert Dumas in the 1930s.
The new Hermès Kelly watch is the latest chapter in a luxury yarn that spins back almost a century. It was in the 1930s that Robert Dumas, future chief executive of the storied Parisian house, designed a strikingly contemporary trapezoid-shaped leather bag, complete with side straps and a jewel-like clasp and padlock.
The elegant yet practical design was unusual for a time when the predominant fashion was for women to carry small flat clutches, beaded evening bags and minaudières, delicate vessels that were focused more on adornment than practicality. It was not until the late 1950s however that Dumas’s bag, known originally as the sac à depèches, soared to icon status thanks to Hollywood star Grace Kelly.
Hermès Kelly watch had bought the bag at Hermès’s Paris store and later used it to conceal her pregnancy from a pack of press photographers. With her picture plastered across magazines around the world, the bag shot to international fame and was eventually renamed the Kelly in honour of the actress-turned-princess. Today, like its sister the Birkin, a Kelly bag is a collector’s item, carrying a long waiting list and fetching eye-watering sums at resale.
The Hermès Kelly watch next chapter came in 1975 when its distinctive clasp was reimagined as a timepiece, its padlock incorporating the dial, and wrapping around the wrist on a single or double tour leather bracelet that mimicked the bag’s side straps. “Even for a watch from 1975, I find it’s still something modern and liberating today with this lock dancing around on your wrist,” says Philippe Delhotal, Hermès Horloger’s creative director. The design was an immediate success and solidified Hermès’s place in the watchmaking world. La Montre Hermès, its watchmaking arm, has gone from strength to strength since its establishment in 1978, offering a broad range of designs that are a favourite with fashion editors and watch lovers alike. The USP of Hermès’s approach to time is that it does so with an enviable lightness of touch.
The brand now revisits the Kelly, elevating it to all-new heights of luxuriousness with a metal bracelet in gold or stainless steel. “We took the little metal plate from the bag and made it into links,” explains Delhotal. The geometric links provide a supple bracelet, which, together with reducing the size of the lock, creates what Delhotal describes as a more “feminine, more jewel-like piece that you can still wear everyday”.
The finishing touch? Diamonds of course. It also stays true to Hermès’s playful spirit “It moves with you as you walk. It frees you and gives you that elegance,” says Delhotal. That freedom extends to the way you wear it. Now bedecked in diamonds, the padlock can be detached from the bracelet and worn around the neck peeking out from inside an Hermès leather clochette. We say it’s fit for a princess.