Most people in the watch industry would consider horology one part business, one part technology and one part fine art. It’s always exciting to see watch brands collaborate with artists to create truly original pieces. Below are a few of many watchmakers that have used art as an inspiration or their work has served as an inspiration to an artist.
Jaeger-LeCoultre and Van Gogh
An undisputed style icon, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was revived at this year’s SIHH and continues to wow the watch world through 2016. The watchmaker presents the second series of the Reverso watch in tribute to Vincent van Gogh in conjunction with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
The watch used in the series is the Reverso á Eclipse watch featuring an enameled miniature of the self-portrait as a painter on the dial. The reversible watch features a platinum case equipped with the in-house Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 849, which lends itself perfectly for one of the rarest fine art traditions, miniature enamel painting.
This idea came from Dutch boutique, Gassan. The company mainly focuses on diamond cutting and diamond retail and has several stores across the Netherlands. In 2014, Gassan and Jaeger-LeCoultre opened a boutique in Amsterdam together. Although Gassan was a key part of this, Jaeger-LeCoultre has a reputation of inventive watchmaking and using skills seen at few manufacturers.
The watch is a limited edition of four and can be admired at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Audemars Piguet and Surkin & Gener8ion
This year, Audemars Piguet released a watch eight years in the making, the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie. The watch was at this year’s Timecrafters and the precision of the sound was something to behold. Through the years, the watchmaker has bested themselves in terms of minute repeaters, dating back to the company’s inception.
To celebrate this feat and three patents, the watchmaker commissioned Benoit Heitz (Surkin & Gener8ion) to transcribe and visualize what the Supersonnerie chiming evokes from an artistic perspective. Surkin’s take on the watch isn’t his first collaboration; he also worked with rapper, M.I.A. on ‘Bring on the Noize’.
The exceptional chime of the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie was captured by Genera8ion in four soundtracks made of sounds from Le Brassus, available here, all relating to Audemars Piguet watchmakers and their environment.
Hermès and Laetitia Bianchi
Graphic designer, Laetitia Bianchi designed prints for Hermès scarves and in 2016, the designer created a dial print for the Slim D'Hermès Mille Fleurs du Mexique watch.
The 6-piece limited edition is a white gold piece that features up to 20 layers of paint. The watch is proof of Hermès’ dedication to the art of watchmaking. Bianchi is originally from Mexico and the print on the dial is reminiscent of traditional Mexican art that draws on folklore.
The colors on the print perfectly fade in and out of each other, while the green alligator strap was a perfect choice by the watchmaker. The shade brings out the more earthy shades of green included on the dial.
Van Cleef & Arpels and Christiaan van der Klaauw
Legendary watchmaker, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication was presented at SIHH and is the most complicated piece yet from the company. Christiaan van der Klaauw Astronomical watches developed the complication exclusively for the company.
The complex movement was developed in three years and has a self-winding mechanical movement containing 396 separate parts. Functions include a miniature representation of the movement with six planets rotating around the sun at any given time.
Christiaan van der Klaauw has been around since 1974 and is the only atelier in the world completely devoted to the design and production of handmade astronomical watches. Although this is still a watchmaker, the watches from this company are produced in the smallest quantities and have an aesthetic style guide for each watch. For example, every watch is round with hour indexes above an imaginary horizon and each piece reflects this idea.
Jaquet Droz and François Junod
The Charming Bird is quite the watch. It immediately draws watch lovers in with its incredible miniature bird, but what makes anyone want to drop the money to buy one is its precise sound and movement. The watch won the Mechnical Excellence award at last year’s GPHG ceremony. Junod took the region Jaquet Droz is based in as inspiration, the bird is a species from Neuchâtel. When the watch is in action, the beak and wings move by springs that are only a few millimeters and the bird moves while it sings.
To create the world’s first singing bird automata wristwatch, Jaquet Droz enlisted the help of a master of automata, François Junod. He’s helped brands from Patek Philippe to Blancpain and has a history with the watchmaker.