What do you get when you put a watchmaker and an artist together? Innovative timepieces that double as wearable art, and take our appreciation for creative design to a new level. Check out how six designer collaborations created these daring masterpieces.
Audemars Piguet & Surkin/Gener8ion
Process: Surkin spent three days at Audemars Piguet’s headquarters in Le Brassus, Switzerland, where he recorded sounds in the manufacture and its environs. Inspired by the recordings, he composed four unique tracks to be used as chimes for a Royal Oak timepiece.
Timepiece: The Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie sounds four different chimes at specific times: at 6.03, sounds of the start of the day around Le Brassus; at 10.45, sounds of workshop activity geting under way; at 16.15, sounds of the weather changing in the valley; and at 22.17, when the end of the day is approaching.
Corum & Elisabetta Fantone
Artist: Italian-Canadian contemporary artist Elisabetta Fantone is best known for vibrant portraits using acrylic paint. Celine Dion and the Kardashians number among her celebrity clients, as did the late Muhammad Ali.
Process: Fantone chose to paint Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa—a face she says is “recognisable to all”—with her head slightly tilted, and much of her chest exposed, against a colourful collage on the dial of the Corum Bubble.
Timepiece: Fantone transforms two sizes of the Corum Bubble, 42mm and 47mm, the latter limited to only 88 pieces.
Bulgari & Simon Ma
Artist: Shanghai-based Simon Ma refers to himself as a crossover artist; he creates pieces that combine Eastern and Western influences and different art disciplines.
Process: Ma flew to Bulgari’s Swiss manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, where he focused on the dial-making facility. Channelling the style of late Chinese master painter Xu Beihong, whose favourite subject was horses, he decorated 13 dials with equestrian-inspired calligraphy.
Timepiece: Using vibrant colours and brisk strokes, Ma painted the dials of 12 Octo Finissimo Petite Seconde watches and an Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, with each receiving unique calligraphy.
Hublot & Maxime Büchi/Sang Bleu
Artist: Sang Bleu is a multidisciplinary artistic platform founded by Swiss-born tattoo artist Maxime Büchi. His celebrity clients include Kanye West and Adam Lambert.
Process: Büchi drew on his signature inking style of geometric shapes and perfect symmetry, and patterns inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The metal sculpture of overlapping rings and squares occupies most of the dial.
Timepiece: The redesign of the Big Bang model for the Big Bang Sang Bleu sees the case bevelled and cut to give a geometric effect, and the bezel shaped into a hexagon. This 45mm timepiece, made in titanium, is limited to only 200 pieces.
Richard Mille & Cyril Kongo
Artist: Paris-based Cyril Kongo is a self-taught and an internationally recognised graffiti artist. Inspired by frescos and wall paintings, his work confidently transforms graffiti into the realm of fine art.
Process: Kongo had to rethink his graffiti practice to adapt it to the minuscule surface of a movement. It took him more than a year to develop the painting technique, which ultimately required the creation of a special airbrush to enable the colours to be applied with the utmost delicacy—a droplet at a time.
Timepiece: For the RM 68-01 Tourbillon Cyril Kongo, Richard Mille’s watchmakers collaborated closely with Kongo to ensure his technique would not damage the movement, which includes a tourbillon. The titanium watch is limited to 30 pieces.
Romain Jerome & Xoil
Artist: Xoil, whose real name is Loic Lavenu, is a French tattoo artist widely recognised for his graphic abstractions.
Process: Inspired by 19th-century imagery, Xoil created five “worlds” based on the themes Belief, Balance, Feeling, Perception and Emotion in which legendary animals and mythological figures reside. Elements from these realms are tattooed on the straps of the timepieces.
Timepiece: The Tattoo DNA by Xoil features a dial that’s been split in two. The upper part is in traditional grand feu enamel with Roman numerals, and the lower part is cut away to reveal the skeletonised movement and the wearer’s bare skin. The watch is limited to 25 pieces.