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The Dial as Canvas: 5 Artists Who Turned High-End Watches Into Paintings That Tick

From a tattoo designer to an architect, these creatives are lending their eye to mechanical timepieces.

Zenith Defy 21 Felipe Pantone Laurent Xavier Moulin

At least five watch brands introduced limited editions co-designed by artists during Watches and Wonders this year. Hublot, Bulgari, Hermès, Moser and Zenith all released collaborative collections this spring. Yet unlike the other big trends this year, such as green dials and vintage minimalism, each stands on its own as totally unique. Design collaborations with professional artists are authentic in a way that traditional ambassador/brand relationships are not, because they imply an involvement that goes beyond ad campaigns and red carpet appearances. The co-designs are also a way of connecting the world of watches to a broader audience by shedding light on the creative possibilities for the dial.


Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu II

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu II  Hublot

Hublot has already embarked on several collaborations with artists, including Richard Orlinski and Takashi Murakami, and now it’s introducing new ceramic-cased iterations of its second piece, The Big Bang Sang Bleu II, in partnership with London-based Swiss tattoo artist Sang Bleu, also known as Maxime Büchi. It is a bombastic geometric design with sharp, sculpted edges and gemstone-like facets. Hublot describes it as “reminiscent of the great urban structures at the heart of 21st-century megapolises.” The 45 mm watches come in either blue (Sang Bleu translates to “blue blood”), gray or white. Each is limited to 200 pieces priced at $27,300.


Hermès Slim d'Hermès C'est La Fête

Hermès Slim d’Hermès C’est La Fête  Courtesy of Hermès


The Slim d’ Hermès C’est la Fête miniaturizes a design created for an Hermès silk scarf by Japanese artist Daiske Nomura. The artist set out to recreate a favorite Hermès motif, the horse, using a vanitas/memento mori theme, with a top-hatted skeleton figure riding a skeleton horse. The dial was created using Paillonné enamel, a technique that involves applying gold and silver leaf to the dial to create a design in relief. It is then painted with layers of enamel and fired in a kiln, resulting in a colorful, 3D composition. It contains the ultra-thin Hermès H1950 automatic movement and is extremely limited at just six pieces. Price is, of course, upon request.


H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept X seconde/seconde/

H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept X seconde/seconde/  Courtesy of H. Moser & Cie

The H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept X seconde/seconde/ ($21,900) was co-designed by Parisian artist Romaric Andre, alias seconde/seconde/. Creating an hour hand in the shape of a pixelated rubber eraser is a reference to anachronistic technology, like mechanical watches and pencil erasers, that have lost some of their purpose in the digital world. In typical minimalist Moser form, the dial is bereft of indexes, numerals and logo, and the eraser also symbolizes the removal of those elements. “The eraser is a banal everyday object that is taking power over the prestigious exceptional object,” explains the artist. With just 20 pieces available, you will have to practically erase your competition to get one.


Zenith Defy 21 Felipe Pantone

Zenith Defy 21 Felipe Pantone  Zenith

While most brands have been expressing the trendy rainbow theme by setting watches with a gradient of multi-colored sapphires, Zenith uses a PVD treatment to bring out the neon hues on the bridges of this Defy 21 co-designed with Argentinian/Spanish artist Felipe Pantone. The color scheme is also applied in various ways to the indexes, hands and strap. It comes in a presentation box in the shape of a hardcover book with a Filipe Pantone painting on the cover. The Defy 21 Felipe Pantone ($19,100) is limited to 100 pieces, each of which is slightly unique.


Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando  Courtesy of Bulgari

Japanese architect Tadao Ando is famous for the purity of his cement-and-glass structures, a concept he expresses on the minimalist dial of Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo. It is his second design for the Italian jeweler. Like the first, which was only available in Japan, it features a pattern of spirals emanating from the small seconds hand inspired by black holes, the origin of time.  His latest creation adds a sliver of moon at 4 o’clock in the shape it takes as it emerges in the sky. Although the crescent remains static on the dial, It is meant to symbolize both the transitory nature of time and express a symbol of hope in these dark times. The blue lacquer dial is paired with a black ceramic case. The Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando ($18,100) will be available worldwide, but is limited to just 160 pieces. Demand was extremely high for his first collaboration, so you can expect this one will be equally difficult to acquire.




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