Ever look at a watch and marvel at the dial, the case shape, some element of its design? More and more, today, watch brands are making important innovations in their designs to attract new sets of eyes. Art is one of those realms that can achieve a singular and expressive look. While some of the finest brands in the world turn to enamel painters and sculptors to bring Métiers d’Arts to the dial, others team with real-life artists and designers to create substantive looks on the dial.
Sometimes those designs are subtle, and other times they are so distinctive that art lovers know immediately who was behind the dial or casework. Teaming with artists was a practice that many brands were attracted to in the 20th century. Artists like Andy Warhol worked on collaborations with brands like Movado (for the Times Five watch) and with Rado, while Peter Max, Keith Haring, and others made some important dials for a host of watch brands as we turned the corner into the 21st century. In fact, Keith Haring and Swatch collaborated on their latest collaboration. Here we look at some modern-day artistic collaborations that have stolen the limelight in the art and watch world.
Bvlgari Octo Roma Naturalia x Wang Yan Cheng – Price
In 2022, Bvlgari presented a limited edition of eight one-off timepieces created in collaboration with the Chinese-French artist Wang Yan Cheng. Born in 1960, Wang Yan Cheng is considered one of the most important painters of the Chinese contemporary art scene. He paints large formats in oil in several successive layers, dripping fluid paint onto textured backgrounds.
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The 44-mm Octo Roma is in black titanium with a black onyx middle case, with a skeleton flying tourbillon movement and sandblasted surfaces. Each of the eight watches features a different canvas from the artist. The Octo Roma Naturalia x Wang Yan Cheng carries the inscription “Pièce Unique.”
Jacob & Co. x Alec Monopoly Collaboration Timepiece – Price USD 600,000
Jacob & Co announced a partnership with the internationally renowned contemporary graffiti artist Alec Monopoly in July 2021. Monopoly and Jacob were introduced by a mutual friend a few years ago while in St. Barth’s. Monopoly fell in love with the Astronomia Tourbillon, going as far as to purchase one for himself.
Their first collaborative timepiece: The Astronomia Alec Monopoly, contains miniature pop characters and images instantly recognizable as Monopoly’s artwork within the iconic Astronomia four-arm vertical movement and its unique complications. The Jacob & Co. x Alec Monopoly Astronomia is limited to nine pieces.
Swatch and Keith Haring – Price Around USD 100
Keith Haring has had a prolific image in the watch world, having worked with brands like Movado and now Swatch, among others. The 2021 collaboration with Swatch (the first one was in 1986) is for the Disney Mickey Mouse X Keith Haring line.
The watch dials are inspired by Haring’s love of Mickey Mouse and feature watches that play on the favorite mouse colors, including red and white. The Mouse Marinere watch, for instance, offers movement and depth thanks to the character being printed on the crystal while the red and white striped motif is on the dial. There are several watches in the lineup.
Zenith and Felipe Pantone – Price USD 19,100
In its first art collaboration with a contemporary artist, Zenith teams with Felipe Pantone for the Defy 21 Felipe Pantone. The visually striking watch reflects the Argentinian-Spanish artist’s take on color as a key design feature, or as he calls it, his “visible spectrum concept.” The Defy 21 Felipe Pantone watch houses the brand’s 1/100th of a second El Primero 21 high-frequency chronograph movement. The watch boasts multi-colored bridges in metallic rainbow tones via a three-dimensional PVD and silicon particles process. The central hour and minute hands resemble lightning bolts and are created using the same process, and other color accents are achieved via laser engraving and lacquering. Just 100 pieces will be made.
Hublot and Richard Orlinski, Shepard Fairey, Takashi Murakami, and More
Hublot is a brand that regularly turns to artists from all walks of life for collaborations. However, the partnership with Richard Orlinski may be one of the most powerful to date. Orlinski is known for his colorful Pop-art style and for his sculptures such as the Wild Kong Gorilla that is faceted and highly geometric in style.
He brings that geometry and faceting concept to Hublot in the Classic Fusion Orlinski watches that boast faceted dials and cases. They are crafted in high-tech ceramic in colors as bold as his sculptures, including red and blue, and also in Hublot’s proprietary King Gold with diamonds and more. In 2022, Hublot launched the Classic Fusion Orlinski Bracelet Titanium and Classic Fusion Orlinski Bracelet Alternative Pavé. They range in price, from $15,700 while the pavé models retail for $45,200.
Hublot also works with French contemporary artist Shepard Fairey for its latest Classic Fusion Chronograph watch, with tattoo artist and brand ambassador Maxime Plescia-Büchi to create the powerful Sang Bleu line of sculpted watches, and with contemporary artist Takashi Murakami for several other pieces, among others.
Movado and Alexi Lubomirski – Price USD 595
For its newest Movado Art Series watch, Movado turns to photographer Alexi Lubomirski to recreate the dials of its watches. This is Movado’s first artistic collaboration in more than 10 years. Lubomirski, the official photographer for the 2020 Golden Gloves, and the official photographer of the 2017 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle interprets water, light, illumination, and New York city life on the dials of the watches. Essentially, the Alexi X Movado Artists Series is an “interpretation of time through a lens.” The series also marks the first time that Movado uses a vegan strap. Lubomirski is a dedicated vegan and animal rights activist.
Parmigiani Fleurier and Marcello Lo Giudice – Price USD 39,000
Created in a limited edition, Parmigiani Fleurier worked with Italian artist Marcello Lo Giudice to create a Limited Edition Tonda 1950 with a dial that recalls a painting he created for the “Eden Universe, Eden Ocean” exhibition a few years ago in New York. Each dial is created using a special laser technique that engraves and traces the design on the raw dial plate and then builds volume and dimension. A painter then applies the color pigments that are identical to Giudice’s work. There are just a few pieces left of this 2018 creation.
TAG Heuer and Alec Monopoly – Price USD 1,250
It is a relationship that started about six years ago when TAG Heuer turned to street artist Alec Monopoly to create dials reminiscent of his spray-painted murals. Several watches have evolved from that relationship, including two special editions of the Formula 1 watch and the Carrera Heuer 01.
Always seen wearing a bandana from the nose down – even before the pandemic – he uses vibrant colors to create his graffiti art. The same is true of the watches, which often boast Mr. Monopoly (the top-hat character from the famed board game) on the dial. The 2017 version of the Formula One watch retails for $1,250. Newer watches continue to emerge from the collaboration.
Rado and Le Corbusier – Price USD 2,100
Rado is the proud winner of a host of Red Dot awards for its outstanding designs. The brand regularly turns to artists and graphic designers for inspiration. One of its more successful lines is the True Thinline Les Couleures™ Le Corbusier limited edition watches. To create them, the brand turned to the essential colors the artist and architect deemed to be the essence of his Architectural Polychromy color theory. There are nine color cases with matching dials and bracelets in the line, each created using high-tech ceramic. Only 999 pieces will be made of each color.
Corum and Elisabetta Fantone – Price USD 3,500
The sensation that is the Corum Bubble watch began 20 years ago when the brand unveiled its oversized watch with a huge domed crystal. It quickly garnered a cult-like following thanks to the unusual and artsy dials. Over the years, the brand has evolved the collection, sometimes working with artists to create highly alluring dials. It was just a couple of years ago that the brand embarked on a whole series of artist dials, including the Bubble 47 Magic by Canadian artist Elisabetta Fantone. The watch made its debut during Art Basel Miami in late 2016 and is inspired by Fantone’s collection of Mona Lisa portraits. Versions of this watch can be found on the second-hand market for around USD 3,500.