The confluence between and art and time is obvious and fine watchmaking brands have certainly noticed. As we have written previously (we’ll get to it), this connection can feel forced when brands push the commercial angle too hard. Contemporary art and fine timepieces are both collectible and are regarded by auction houses and institutions such as Knight Frank as so-called investments of passion.
As Jerome De Witt, the founder of DeWitt, once told us, watches are not works of art because art is not produced for commercial reasons. Wise words and worth remembering but there are still valid links between timekeeping and art, even if there no houses of fine art the way there are houses of fine watchmaking! You might think that it is only high art and very expensive watches, perhaps limited to unique pieces, that truly share a stage but that is not quite right.
We were reminded of this when watchmaker Arbutus (whose timepieces are quite accessible) revealed a collaboration with artists for charity in Singapore. Each of these watches had hand-painted dials, making each one unique, and had a very modest price tag of S$1,800. Credit Arbutus Singapore distributor Crystal Time for this bold move.
In truth, art and mechanical timekeeping share a certain quality, the ability to transcend time itself, that is evident in the above example. On higher ground, it is also evident in the marketing campaign of the most rarefied of watchmaking names, Patek Philippe. If you’re not familiar with this campaign, well, Google it! The point is that timepieces, like art, survive makers and owners alike.
Here at Luxuo, we love watches and we also love art. With this in mind, we put together a selection of watches that tie watchmaking and art together in forms both pleasing and challenging. While we split it into five watches, there are actually six below. If you want to quibble, the inclusion of Arbutus above takes well beyond six!
Hermès Arceau Tigre Watch
On the metiers d’art front this year, Hermès has unveiled the stunning Hermès Arceau Tigre, created in partnership with the husband-and-wife team of Olivier and Dominique Vaucher. The timepiece marks the first time the shaded enamel (enamel ombrant) technique is used in watchmaking, and sports the motif of a tiger in the likeness of an illustration by Robert Dallet, an artist with whom Hermès collaborated in the 1980s.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso à Eclipse Vincent Van Gogh
Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre and its iconic Reverso model pay tribute to another unmistakable star, this one from the world of art: Vincent Van Gogh. As you can see, the watch features a miniature enamel reproduction of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait as a Painter, painstakingly crafted by the manufacture’s artisans. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso à Eclipse features a shutter mechanism that can be opened to reveal the miniature reproduction.
MB&F LM1 Silberstein Watch
When you think about a timepiece like the MB&F LM1 Silberstein, concerns about instant gratification are rendered meaningless. The appeal here is so personal – and it really does grow on you – that we can’t imagine conventional marketing methods working well. Silberstein is a designer famed for bringing playful geometric designs to watchmaking, including three-dimensional elements such as pushers and crowns in square, triangular and round shapes.
Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quaestor Watches
Parmigiani Fleurier has chosen to turn to the Land of the Rising Sun for ideas to create the two latest unique pieces in its Toric Quaestor line. The first piece features a scene dominated by the branches of a great pine tree, which is a symbol of power, vitality, and immortality in Japanese culture. The second features the dry, level landscapes of Japanese rock gardens, often simply called Zen gardens. All manner of traditional artisanal crafts were applied in the creation of these timepieces.
Richard Mille RM68-01 Kongo Watch
The Richard Mille RM68-01 Kongo tourbillon wristwatch (top and above) marries fine watchmaking and graffiti, which is both amazing and unthinkable! Artists like Cyril ‘Kongo’ Phan are modern-day equivalents of muralists such as Diego Rivera so learning that one such artist managed to work on a canvas the size of a (large) stamp is remarkable. The entire mechanical movement has been decorated by Kongo, using specially developed paints and airbrushes.