La Montres Hermes celebrates its 30th birthday next year, and on the eve of its third generation, the watchmaking arm of the Hermes brand has entered a new phase in its history. Last autumn, the Hermes Group acquired a 25 per cent stake in Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier, which specialises in the development, production and assembly of mechanical movements for watches. The partnership will allow Hermes to cross over into haute horlogerie and expand its reach worldwide. La Montres Hermes managing director Eric Grellety Bosviel said that until now the company had concentrated on the design side of the business, introducing every three to five years a strong line, such as the Cape Cod or the Clipper. 'It has taken us 30 years to reach maturity and we are now at the stage to pursue precious and mechanical watches,' he said. Hermes is best known for its leather goods and accessories, but its true craft can be traced back to leather making when Thierry Hermes opened a harness and saddle workshop in 1837. Hermes began providing straps for watches in the 1920s, but its watchmaking subsidiary, La Montres Hermes, was set up in 1978 in Bienne, Switzerland. The first watch under the subsidiary, the Arceau, was launched the same year. Since then, the Asha, the Clipper, the Cape Cod and the H-our have become iconic Hermes timepieces. The brand invests a lot more money in its workshops than it spends on advertising, and with its new acquisition will pour more funds into the research and development of haute horlogerie mechanical movements to be used in Hermes timepieces. The fruits of the partnership with Vaucher were unveiled at the BaselWorld fair. Mr Grellety Bosviel said it would take time for the public to accept Hermes as a maker of haute horlogerie watches, instead of a brand that produced fashion timepieces. He said the independent family business had a strong distribution network and a steady base on which to build. 'One of the strengths of Hermes is time. It takes time to produce, to train the craftsmen, to develop signature Hermes products. If we go too quickly we will lose the truth and natural rhythm of development.' Mr Grellety Bosviel said the future looked strong for Hermes. 'The signature of Hermes is we absolutely need creativity. After nearly 30 years we have four strong pillars in our collection. This we will build on and secure our development.' The brand hopes to sell more elaborate models and see more growth in value, rather than simply volume. At the end of last year, Hermes opened its first leather workshop in Biel, Switzerland. The workshop will be the base for turning hides into straps for all Hermes watches. The entire strap-making process, from pre-cutting and tapering to cutting, saddle-stitching and polishing, is conducted at the workshop. Mechanical genius Hermes has reinforced its strategy to move into complicated watchmaking by adding a mechanical watch to its existing Cape Cod collection. The Cape Cod Moon Phase (above) is fitted with a Vaucher Calibre H1929 self-winding movement. The moon-phase function is visible through a window on the dial at the 6 o'clock position. According to Hermes, the function is astronomically correct for 122 years and 46 days before the first one-day correction is required. A retrograde hand moving over a 225 degree section shows the date. The movement provides a 55-hour power reserve. The watch is available in rose gold or white gold with an alligator or calfskin strap. Each version is limited to 170 pieces - the number of years since the Hermes brand was established. The watch is an important part of the brand's step-by-step process to create and develop mechanical timepieces. Rich heritage The Passe-Passe showcases Hermes' origins as a saddle-maker. A new strap system features a screw on the back of the watch, which releases the strap that runs through the case-back. Straps are traditionally crafted. The watch case is available in three sizes: the largest offers more variety with either an off-white, copper brown, blue or silver dial. Dials for the smaller versions come in white mother-of-pearl; a steel version has hour-markers set with diamonds. Now with gems The Kelly handbag is one of the most iconic of all Hermes creations. The Kelly watch was first launched in 1975, and this year the brand introduces a gem-set version, the Kelly Diamonds. There are three variations: one has 52 diamonds set on either side of the dial; a second is set with 104 diamonds on both sides of the dial; and the third is paved with 186 diamonds. All versions have a white mother-of-pearl dial with four diamond hour markers.