In 2018, Hermès approached CSEM with an idea that would push the boundaries of creativity by harnessing the power of technology. The goal was to develop a silicon dial that would feature a sleek, pared-back dusk motif by designer and graphic artist Thanh-Phong Lê in an intense blue hue finished with three-dimensional detailing.
Hermès then transformed this one-of-a-kind design into the latest iteration of its iconic Cape Cod model, sealing a marriage between two seemingly disparate worlds.
Technology and Art
Silicon is commonly used as a semiconductor in microelectronics and photovoltaics. But this project marks the first time the material has been selected purely on esthetic grounds. CSEM engineers drew on their expertise to develop special wafers, adorned by an infinite palette of subtle and unique shades that depend on how much silicon nitride (Si3N4) is deposited on their surface.
The silicon dial of the Cape Cod crépuscule is made from a single silicon wafer just 0.5 mm thick. A vanishingly thin silicon nitride layer is then applied with incredible precision – a mere 72 nanometers thick, equivalent to less than 1,000 atoms stacked on top of one another – to achieve the desired intense blue hue.
The motif created by Thanh-Phong Lê is then printed onto this surface using photolithography: as the colored silicon wafer is exposed to ultraviolet light, the structure of the motif emerges in a photosensitive resin. Next, the motif is fixed by dipping the wafer in successive baths, much like traditional photographic processing. A 24-carat gold layer is then deposited on the motif, acting like a stencil to create the fine lines in negative relief. As a final step, the dial is cleaned and cut precisely in the shape of the Cape Cod case.
Image Credits: Joel Von Allmen
Poetry in a Timepiece
This groundbreaking method causes the dial to shimmer with hues of blue and of yellow gold below the sweep of gilded hands. This blend of creativity and nanotechnology was made possible by the two partners’ shared commitment to innovation. For CSEM, the project represented an exciting opportunity to apply its expertise in a different field.
Learn more at Hermès Watches : the Cape Cod crépuscule watch