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Minimalist charm

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 6 min read
Minimalist charm
In his first collaboration with Hermès, designer Ini Archibong has come up with a timepiece that transcends time and gender
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In his first collaboration with Hermès, designer Ini Archibong has come up with a timepiece that transcends time and gender

The world of horse riding is beautifully interpreted in the Galop d’Hermès timepiece by Ini Archibong. For starters, the shape of the case is inspired by the stirrup, the ring frame that the rider’s foot goes through and that is held together by leather straps. Archibong gathered these ideas and more when he visited the Conservatoire des créations Hermès in Paris, where more than 55,000 Hermès heritage objects are kept. The designer drew inspiration from every object and component of the harness.

To give the watch a fresh new look, Archibong designed a typeface for the numbers on the dial: the numerals gradually unfurling, smaller and leaner at the top so as to create a sense of perspective. In a final mischievous touch, the six o’clock crown creates a symmetrical effect.

Archibong has given the timepiece aerodynamic curves, functional purity and kinetic flow. To do this, he added soft corners that are easy on the eyes; light is reflected in the curves, injecting warmth into an otherwise cold metal. Of his design for the Galop d’Hermès, he says, “The material I work with is light. I create shapes to catch the light. I have learnt to design aerodynamic shapes and futuristic lines that use surfaces in order to explore light effects.”

Archibong is a graduate of the Lausanne Cantonal School of Art (ECAL) and the Environmental Design department of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. According to his official webpage he is founder of an independent design studio called Design by Ini. A son of Nigerian immigrants to the US, and a resident of the US, Singapore and Switzerland, he has a diverse personal and professional background that underlines his design ethic and ethos.

Options put forth the following sentences for him to complete:

Galop d’Hermès is about… curves. It stems from my perspective, but I always do my best to minimise any sharp edges. When I think of the curves of a woman’s waist, I am convinced beauty has to do with how you shape a curve and what happens in the middle of a curve. But I actually feel that the identity of this watch is somewhat androgynous. It is a good complement for a woman, especially when the traditional approach tends to be more about watches with diamonds. Androgyny is something beautiful, embodying both masculine and feminine aspects. It brings out beautiful qualities in both. I tried to design something that suits a contemporary context where globalisation allows everyone to see what’s happening in every corner of the world. It’s a watch that fits any women’s choice, no matter her culture or the way she dresses.

It is a new shape that is hard to describe, but I could say it reminds me of a rib vault. When I began studying architecture, I was obsessed with Gothic structures.

I created aerodynamic curves for the Galop d’Hermès timepiece to feature… the silhouette that is a stirrup, but I tried to modernise it in a way that would not have been possible without today’s technology. The way I created the shape of the surfaces is actually quite complex and would have been unimaginable at the time when stirrups were first designed. I saw a collection of stirrups from around the world in the Emile Hermès Museum and I tried to imagine the futuristic and modern shape of a stirrup using stateof-the-art technology. I wanted to create something out-of-the-box, to design a watch that would be perceived as futuristic. The idea was to think of what a watch could be… rather than sticking to the shape of the watch as it now is within the industry. The main watch categories are square, rectangular, round and I tried to think of something that hadn’t been done before. That is exactly what I see as the Hermès approach.

The specially designed typeface made a difference because… I played with the numerals. I wanted to offer a recognisable aesthetic. While this may not be immediately perceptible, repeated scrutiny shows that not all the numerals are the same size and, in fact, become larger towards the lower part of the dial — thus encapsulating the idea of movement and perspective. The font is an important part of the artwork and the pared-down design. I decided to work with Vincent Sauvaire, who is based in Lausanne and had attended one of my talks at ECAL. I’m not a typographer, so I explained the concept to him and he came up with several proposals that we reworked together so that Hermès could make its own selection. For example, I wanted a visual trick and suggested stretching the numbers. He was not so happy, saying that this was not in keeping with the rules of typography and I responded that rules are made to be broken at some point. Looking at the dial gives an impression similar to that of watching [the opening of] a Star Wars movie.

My latest design project is… the newly launched second part of Collection IV for the London brand Sé. We crafted 22 pieces of furniture and lighting that were presented over two years at Rossana Orlandi Gallery during the Milan furniture fair.

My latest acquisition is… a vinyl recording of Oneness of Juju’s classic album from 1975, African Rhythms. Most of my favourite songs have been from this record, including underground classics from James Yancey aka ‘Jay Dee’.

When I lived in Singapore I… dined on Dempsey Hill, worked on Duxton Hill and lived on Holland Hill. Home is… wherever my studio is.

I relax and recharge by… listening to music alone with a full-bodied wine or walking by Lake Neuchatel with my headphones.

My ideal holiday getaway is… either a beach or spa. I love being in water (even though I can barely swim). When I’m in the water I get some of my best ideas and I always leave feeling refreshed and energised to execute new ideas.

My next project is… an immersive museum installation for the Dallas Museum of Art and The High Museum in Atlanta. It is called the Oracle and it involves a modular analogue synthesiser, lots of colourful glass, and a vibrating pool of water. I’m excited because it is a collaboration with my brother Archie, an extremely talented aerospace engineer named Hideki, and my best friend from my time in Singapore who was head of audio for Marina Bay Sands, Richard Morris.

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