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When art and design meet: Ini Archibong talks about his first women’s watch collection for Hermès

Introducing La Galop
In his first women's watch collection for Hermès, California creative Ini Archibong speaks exclusively to Buro. Middle East about fusing art and design together for La Galop and how he's come to understand a woman's inner strength in the process...

Just by way of his background, you can tell Ini Archibong is a creative. Having grown up in a visual culture between the golden reflective landscapes of southern California (where he was born) and the bold colours of west Africa (his parents), Archibong was almost destined to bring this rich mix together in art form. As a graduate of the Lausanne Cantonal School of Art (ECAL) and the Environmental Design department of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, he’s bolstered his position as a design doyen. And because of that, his special collaboration with Hermès seemed only natural. 

This year at SIHH 2019, he unveiled La Galop, his first women’s watch collection for Hermès. There were a lot of trends we picked up on from SIHH 2019 but no collection was as intriguing as this special collaboration. Speaking exclusively to Buro. Middle East, he weighed in on his creative process, some default design elements that surprised him and why he hopes the watch speaks to a woman’s inner strength. 

How did your background in architecture influence the design of La Galop?

In a very formal aesthetic way. When I first started architectural design, the beginning is about studying holy and spiritual places like cathedrals. I applied this eye to the design of the watch. Because when you look at the centre of a watch, it’s like looking through a cathedral window: there’s so much beyond it. Also, this watch is designed to interact with its surrounding space. The shape of this watch is determined by how light runs across its surfaces. And of course, light is also part of the watch’s architecture.

When Hermès gave you this opportunity you said you started off by looking at a woman’s picture. Was there anything else that helped kickstart your creativity? 

There was nothing before the picture of a woman. That was probably the most exciting part.

What’s the process of bringing art and design together? 

It was definitely organic, but still a process. But it’s not a step by step process. It is like cooking a stew, you get a bunch of ingredients and you start putting it together until you feel like you have enough. You put things in and you let it cook and then when it’s time, it’s ready. That is my design process. When it came to executing the ideas for the watch, I carved out a month of my life and spent a lot of time walking around the streets, people-watching and filling my head with ideas. It wasn’t like I placed a deadline on it – I knew it would be a case of thinking about it all the time.  

The watch has many unique features. What is your favourite one?

My favourite feature is something that I didn’t do, actually. I designed the watch. But I wasn’t responsible for actually making it. So there are things that I didn’t think about. When I first saw the watch and I saw this little screw, it almost looked like a dot with an exclamation point to me. I did not do that but that is my favourite part of the watch. It’s purely functional for the watch to operate. They did it in a subtle and elegant Hermès way. It completed everything.

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Is this watch for a bold or a delicate woman?

I think every woman is both. Women deep down have this inner strength but are also delicate. I would hope that there will be a version of this watch which speaks to every woman out there. 

And finally, what is your favourite colour combination from the collection?

I like the blue alligator with the steel  – in case anybody from Hermès is reading and wonders what I might want for my birthday! 

Now, read about the art of watchmaking from Vacheron Constantin’s Style & Heritage Director Christian Selmoni