Though less commonly a path of collaboration in watchmaking when compared with things like sport or film, the world of modern and contemporary art often finds its means of connecting with fine watchmaking. In recent years we’ve seen a number of interesting artistic collaborations appear as one-off creations for the epic Only Watch auction in Geneva (this year including artistic collaborations by Armin Strom and Hunt Slonem, and between MB&F and the 15 year old Cassandra Legendre), as well as other limited edition partnerships coming to market from an interesting range of watch brands. At a higher level of sorts, the Audemars Piguet Art Commission has invested significant time and resources into supporting the arts, exhibiting large-scale installations at events like Art Basel around the globe. All told, 2018 is already an interesting year in this category, leading us to examine a few of our favorite creations and concepts where watchmaking and art collide.
Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Coralbay by Damien Hirst
At first glance the new Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision was already a bit of a home run at both a visual and technical level. Simply put, it is a modern, and almost conservative evolution (relatively speaking) of the boundary pushing timepiece that set a new benchmark for innovation in its heyday. When we were informed that two limited edition versions were being created in collaboration with Damien Hirst, we were eager to see what direction the renowned British artist would take things in. Produced as a pair of limited edition models, the Coralbay.1 uses a bonded gold threading technique to create a look of coral on the Freak Vision dial (priced at CHF108,000), and the Coralbay.2 (priced at CHF108,000) features vibrant red micropainting. Mechanically identical to the standard Freak Vison model, these two watches are packed with a good number of patents carried forward from the ground-breaking Innovision 2 concept watch the brand launched this past year, including its bi-directional “Grinder” self-winding mechanism, and silicium geartrain. Given Hirst’s occasional use of aquatic themes in his works, this project with Ulysse Nardin was a great fit and has been very well executed.
Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski
Bold, angular, and available in titanium, gold, matte black ceramic, and blue ceramic, this fresh release at the hands of Richard Orlinski features a unique case design, designed entirely by the talented French sculptor. Among its many distinguishing features, the traditional round shape of Hublot’s screw-down bezel has been modified to take on an edgier dodecagon form. Given the prominent placement of many of Orlinski’s sculptures in some of the world’s most socialite-friendly hotspots, the Hublot partnership is a logical one to say the least. Orlinski’s works are often in this very faceted, geometric vein, and have been spotted everywhere from Paris, to Courchevel, and St. Barths. Powering the new release is (of course) Hublot’s much loved Unico automatic chronograph caliber, which is partly visible through both sides of the piece via a sapphire display caseback, and through its partially skeletonized dial. The latter is yet another sleek execution of skeletonization from the brand, who have come to master the technique in recent years.
MB&F M.A.D. Gallery
Though not a reference to a specific watch, a mention of MB&F’s M.A.D. Galleries—located in Geneva, Dubai, and Taipei—is an absolute no-brainer when discussing a brand’s ongoing relationship with pushing new art forward. The abbreviation in its name stands for mechanical art devices; a term that can be used quite liberally to describe a broad range of art forms that have found their way into the three locations over the years. We’ve seen kinetic sculptures, vintage motorsport photography, insect-inspired mechanical sculptures, and even some very wild and over-the-top custom motorcycles roll their way into the gallery over the years, though in some way these outlandish selections have always managed to appear cohesively within the space. Alongside all of these fantastical creations, you will also find a selection of MB&F timepieces, as well as their many clock co-creations. Looking for a motorcycle to match your Legacy Machine, or the most out-of-this-world kinetic wall art you’re likely to ever come across? Odds are you can find it in the M.A.D. Gallery.