The Hermes custom Apple Watch face gives me hope for third-party clock faces

At iMore, we recently picked up an Hermès Double Tour for review purposes. The Hermès-branded Apple Watch has a few tidbits exclusive to its design: It's priced for high fashion, has custom engraving on the back of the watch, and comes with a genuine Hermès leather band. To me, though, the really exciting part is its custom clock face.

That's right: The Hermès Apple Watch has a special bit of software in watchOS, giving it the first-ever third-party (though built by Apple) clock face. And not only that: It's customizable, too.

The Hermès clock face

It's understandable why Apple offered Hermès the opportunity to design a custom face that they could implement for the new line: It's another way to distinguish the watch as a special edition item, especially as counterfeit bands start to hit the market. What I wasn't expecting, however, was the amount of customization in the Hermès clock face.

Apple could have let Hermès design a clock face like that of the Solar or Timelapse options: a single selection with no "Customize" option. It would have been a simple and easy way to incorporate the Hermès legacy without any major engineering work on the Apple's part.

Instead, the clock face has three separate customization screens including different typefaces, three settings for numeric detail, and even a small complication below the Hermès logo.

While unique to the Apple Watch, the three typefaces don't look out of place next to Hermès's classic watch line: there's a thin, slight-serif option, a more bubbly Art Deco-style font, and a thin, serif-less design made of straight lines and right angles.

You can also display how many of those numbers you want shown: just the 12; 12, 3, 6, and 9; or the full clock face.

There's also a small complication that can be set to show the date, stopwatch, world clock, or turned off altogether. Sadly, third-party complications aren't compatible with the face, in part, I imagine, due to design.

If you decline to use the Hermès face, you can still get a bit of the designer flair: On faces that offer color complications, there's a custom orange-red "Hermès" color option.

The promise of third-party clock faces

Apple may not offer a public API or store for building and selling clock faces yet, but the entry it built for Hermès shows that it's certainly possible to build complicated third-party clock faces and incorporate them into the system.

I'd initially assumed that Apple simply didn't have the framework in place for third-party developers to build faces with complications, but the Hermès face makes me believe they're further along than I'd thought. At first glance, the designer clock face looks like it's been loosely built using the Utility or Color skeleton, but it has a complication in a completely different spot than any of Apple's circular faces.

Moreover, no stock complication lets you change the font—that's an entirely new detail for the Hermès design.

Now, given the fashion prestige that the design company brings to Apple's smartwatch, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Apple's developers built whatever Hermès asked for—even if that included new complications. But I can't help but hope that it's also a hint that custom watch faces are possible—and possibly coming in watchOS 3.

Would you use a third-party clock face? What would you want from such a thing? Let me know below.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

  • I *really* want this double tour, but it's not available anywhere near me, or the two cities I regularly visit...(DFW or CHI)...or online. I am debating seeing if it's still around when the next Apple Watch version comes out, which everything I read says is summer. If so, I will likely pull the trigger then.
  • My friend said the same thing. I debated going to San Fran last weekend since I'm in Seattle but I didn't feel like flying. I'll probably get one at The Grove when I'm in LA in a few weeks. I never wanted one until this version & I'm pretty positive I won't bat an eye at the next version.
  • Don't count on it. Apple is about absolute control. There may be an exception or two, like in this case, but you won't see the doors open to 3rd party watch faces.
  • what you're saying might be true but..... post jobs apple is way different than jobs apple. in the past two years... i've seen apple doing things i never thought would happen cuz tim cook actually listens.. i like where he's heading... apple is control freaks cuz they're perfectionists, so this feeling of absolute control comes with the territory... but tim is taking his time to perfect things rather than shut this window completely like jobs did. so yeah, why Not?
  • I've been wondering - how does the watch face get activated? The the watch recognize the band somehow? Is there software you download from the App Store with an activation code?
  • Custom firmware when you first pair the watch.
  • Oh- so you have to by the watch with the strap. You can't just buy the stap as an add on?
  • That seems to be the case.
  • I wonder how the custom face is added to just the Hermes watches. I.e. is it included on all watches (i.e. as part of the standard WatchOS build) and is activated via some sort of serial number, or similar, lookup, or do they ship a custom firmware to the Hermes watches.
  • Customizable watch faces would be huge! The watch face is what I use most frequently so why not. The ability to add a custom background with the watch face would be highly desirable, too.
  • too bad the body of the watch looks like a bulky piece of 80's junk
  • You know what they say about opinions...
  • It's a shame that the Hermès clock face doesn't offer more complications. For me, that relegates it to an after-hours only option when less utility is needed.
    Ame: I think Apple is creating an artificial buying struggle to overinflate the exclusivity factor. I made two trips to NYC before I found an Apple Store with one in-stock. There's always paying a premium for one on eBay.
  • Yea I am definitely going to avoid eBay. I can wait to see if the Chicago or DFW stores get any stock in the future, though I am going to see what happens with the next iteration, since a slightly less bulky face with potentially new features is something I'd like to see. I am hoping they keep the Hermes version around for the new ones, like a permanent edition.
  • Let me start by saying that this is a great article with interesting insights! However, at the risk of sounding like "that guy," I thought I'd let you know of an editing error I found, so that you can correct it. "especially as counterfeit bands start hit the market.," should obviously read " especially as counterfeit bands start to hit the market." Cheers!
  • Also "At iMore, we recently picked up an Hermès Double Tour for review purposes"
    Should be "a Hermes" not an
  • The H is silent.
  • It is pronounced "Er-mess" so it would be AN not A as the H is silent. It is even used with AN on Hermes official website.
  • I would really love it if Apple offered a rectangular watch face similar to this for the regular Apple Watch. This is really classy.
  • Agreed. Even though I'm not really that big a fan of the Apple Watch, I love this watchface.
  • This is spot on. There is a huge opportunity with Apple Watch as personalization. Buying a custom band that comes with a digital watch face should be the norm. That's why I started this design experiment!
  • I can imagine this leading to such things as Apple offering a custom PRODUCT (RED) watch face on the App Store for $10.
  • lol so is "counterfeit" now synonymous with "third party?" Sent from the iMore App
  • The ability to add third party faces has to be a priority. I'm not really feeling it with any of those that are included. Making the time a complication on the digital watch faces that can be moved/changed per the wearer's preference is also high on my list.
  • Apple Watch NEEDS third-party watch faces! I hope that would happen someday... Sent from the iMore App
  • Will never happen. Ive will never allow anyone to alter his masterpiece. After all, according to him, he and Apple are the only ones in the world that know anything about design.
  • If I had already purchased an Apple Watch, I'd be flippin' out. These Hermes faces are the first full screen analog faces that come close to mimicking a luxury time piece's dial. The circle in a square faces on the Apple Watch, practical and utilitarian as they are (allowing complications on the corners), don't satisfy my wish for a pleasant, clean, watch-like face. If Apple doesn't release at least a single simple full screen analog face to the masses, I think they deserve much criticism. "Thanks to our millions of early adopters, but it's Mickey Mouse for you SUCKER!" Having said that, I just scored the Hermès 42mm single tour on ebay for the in store price, and I am stoked to receive it (Don't tell my fellow truckers). The face did it, and the hand-made and stitched strap helped. The Hermès name? We'll see how it goes with my Carhartt jacket. Considering Hermè's equestrian heritage, I don't forsee a problem.
  • Really, I think the Hermes watch face is pretty ugly.
  • "If you decline to use the Hermès face, you can still get a bit of the designer flair: On faces that offer color complications, there's a custom orange-red "Hermès" color option." I didn't know that! Here's another tidbit: When the date changes from single to double digits the borders expand and the font size remains the same. Pretty cool.
  • saved 1000.00 by switching to jailbreak..
  • Jailbreaking your phone doesn't do a hell of a lot for the Apple Watch. It certainly doesn't provide the ability to add faces.
  • So I love the Double Tour band. Had one made by a friend that is a leather smith. He stained the leather burgundy. It looks pretty good with my sport model. it would look AMAZING with the Rose Gold sport model but I will wait for the next version of the watch for that.
  • While there is something to be said for quality control and curation to make sure the best is offered its also ridiculous that Apple has such a myopic vision when it comes to allowing customers choice. I talk to Apple employees and long time Apple users who like me would actually wan to see a gold/black (display) phone instead of space grey/black and white/color only options. Same can be said for the watch, why are we not able to have watch faces to suit OUR taste and needs.
  • I would welcome as many watch faces that could get. I hope they make many more time-lapes watch faces
  • apple watch is awesome, check out the preinstalled here ...
  • Hi, My husband bought me the Hermes Double Tour Ladies Watch in Etain for Christmas. We went to the Apple Store on Madison Avenue UES in NYC because it's only available at certain Apple Stores and Hermes. When I tried the watch on, the band was too small so they allowed me to order the watch with large strap online on a special computer in store. I was told it would arrive in early January 2016 when we purchased on 12/22/2015. To my surprise, it shipped on Christmas Eve and would arrive before New Years Eve. The biggest shock was that it was shipping from Suzhou, China and not France. Nowhere in the description of the watch does it say the watch is made in China. On the same day, I purchased a Stainless Steel Apple Watch for $399 plus NYC Tax for my son. The only difference between the Hermes Watch with the Paris Face for $1377.00 and my son's Apple sports watch is $1000.00 premium for the same chinese made watch is 12" leather band and that's it. Apple completely misrepresented themselves in the advertising of this watch which is why they insist you buy the watch in store rather than through the Apple Store. I may love the watch when it comes tomorrow but may have considered adding additional funds for a Swiss made watch would I have known this watch was neither made in France or California...
  • Everything you just typed makes me want to vomit into a $4000 apple mixing bowl and then drink it again.
  • I would love the option to hide the complications until a tap on the watch face, I love having the extra info but for a real sleek watch face design the extra time when I'm not busy or need the extra information right away would be amazing