Watch brands team up with the art world


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Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph Shepard Fairey, with symbols representing natural life cycles and multicultural unity.

Courtesy of Hublot

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Watch brands frequently seek the help of celebrities and star athletes to endorse their products, but a growing number have broadened that focus to include contemporary artists and designers who turn watches into canvases expressing their creative visions.

Unsurprisingly, LVMH brands seem to have a natural affinity for such partnerships, given the conglomerate’s Louis Vuitton Foundation, a Parisian contemporary art museum and a cultural center dedicated to supporting international contemporary artists.

At the head of this watchmaking art movement, Hublot joined forces with Brazilian artist Romero Britto in 2015 to create a pop-art version of its Classic Fusion using the ancestral technique of champlevé enamel to transfer its patterns. vibrant graphics on the dial. .

Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black

Courtesy of Hublot

Since then, the brand has built up a large panel of designers ranging from French sculptor Richard Orlinski and American graphic designer Shepard Fairey to contemporary French painter Marc Ferrero and Maxime Plescia-Büchi, Swiss tattoo artist and creative director of the creative services agency. Blue blood. . This year, Hublot unveiled its first piece created with world star of contemporary art Takashi Murakami.

Although he has a long-standing relationship with Hublot’s parent group, LVMH, Murakami took some convictions to sign a watch project, as he wasn’t content with just a simple packing exercise. But after visiting the Hublot factory in Nyon, Switzerland, in 2020, he was confident he could be involved in the development of an original watch.

Released in the spring, the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black in 45mm Black Ceramic ($ 27,300) surprised those familiar with Murakami’s vivid and whimsical work, as he chose to create an all-black design based on his famous smiling flower pattern.

The 3D flower is paved with black diamonds and the petals rotate around the dial when you move your arm thanks to a new ball bearing system developed by Hublot watch engineers. The limited edition of 200 pieces quickly sold out. A second edition of Murakami is scheduled for a winter release.

“We want [the artists] to really use our engineering capacity to meet the challenge, to take a few key elements of their art and see how we can do it miniature inside a watch, ”explains Philippe Tardivel, Marketing Director of Hublot.

Big Bang Sang Bleu II

Courtesy of Hublot

This year, the brand also released new limited editions with Sang Bleu and Richard Orlinski in addition to its second piece with Shepard Fairey, the Classic Fusion Chronograph Shepard Fairey ($ 22,000) in titanium, with symbols representing the cycles of life. natural and multicultural unity. And last year, he translated Marc Ferrero’s painted canvases into a series of animated dials for his Big Bang E Connected smartwatch. Eight different works of art are programmed to appear on the dials, changing every three hours.

According to Tardivel, the common thread between these artists is the graphic nature of their work, which translates well into a small watch face.

“Some artists are extremely figurative, and that’s not who we are,” he explains. “All artists have common links with graphic art. The face of the watch is a limited space and the nature of time is quite mathematical. Therefore, we are more comfortable with artists who have an understanding of this way of transporting lines, of the division of time and the division of space. “

Zenith Defy 21 Felipe Pantone

Courtesy of Zénith

Last spring, Bulgari, another LVMH brand, unveiled its second piece made with the famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Its design represents a burst of golden crescent moon on a dark blue background, evoking a night sky, engraved with a spiral pattern.

Ando explained that he’s looking to express something that goes beyond the basic functions of a watch with the Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando Limited Edition Ref. 103534 ($ 18,100). “Using the image of the moon, I wanted a more mystical watch,” he said in a video released at the launch. “I think the moon is mystical and full of hope.”

Meanwhile, Zenith, another LVMH brand, invited Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone to bring his vivid expressions of the color spectrum to the face of the Defy 21 ($ 19,100). With its El Primero 21 chronograph escapement at 1 / 100th of a second beating at 360,000 vibrations per hour, it is the highest frequency chronograph in production.

Bulgari Tadao Ando Limited Edition

Courtesy of Bulgari

Zenith has performed two limited editions with popular music producers / DJs, including Defy 21 in 2018 with Swizz Beatz and Defy 21 this year with DJ Carl Cox. This fall, Hublot is following suit by launching a special edition with DJ Snake, French music producer and DJ.

“It’s very important for us to be a forward-looking builder,” says Tardivel from Hublot. “We are 40 years old and we are proud to still be extremely contemporary. Artists open our eyes and bring a new perspective on society or on graphic expression, and that’s important.

All time design

200

The number of parts manufactured in 45mm Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black by Hublot.

$ 22,000

The price of the Classic Fusion Chronograph Shepard Fairey.

360,000

The number of vibrations per hour of the El Primero 21 movement by Zenith.

This article appeared in the September 2021 issue of Penta magazine.

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