Luxury watches. Practical objects that keep the time, or art? Despite the existential pretensions of the question, the answer is really quite simple. If time has showed us anything, particularly over the last 40 years, it’s that watches can be and are both. Practical to the point where even technology giants have admitted pocket-bound devices can’t replace them (a case of history repeating itself, you could say), and beautiful to the point where subjective appreciation makes them, even at a basic level, some form of art.
As inescapable is the watch industry’s adoption of the arts as a means to anchor their ideas and products to. While high-profile partnerships with automotive manufacturers or musicians are commonplace among watch brands, those with artists and artistic institutions tend to carry less punch. Or do they? Below, we’ve explored some of the most interesting liaisons between the watch and artistic communities.
Audemars Piguet and Origins: The Art Projects
The venerable family-owned watch business is well known in art circles for its Art Basel sponsorship, now in its seventh year. Less known but arguably more intriguing is its Origins: The Art Projects, a programme that invites artists to create works that reflect something of the AP story. This year, Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen created a sound composition called Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux, an acoustic piece that captures the sounds of the famous Vallée de Joux surrounding the company’s manufacture in Le Brassus. Listen to it here.
TAG Heuer and Alec Monopoly
Is graffiti art? Purists may not appreciate it, but few would deny the impact that street art has had on the artistic community and on those places where its most visible. Unlike that of the masters, the work of graffiti artists is widely accessible – it’s on walls and structures all over the world. TAG Heuer’s decision to partner with the masked spray painter Alec Monopoly broke new ground for the industry when it was announced in 2016. Various limited editions followed, but more importantly for TAG Heuer, it helped position its watches as disruptive, contemporary and, in the eyes of a young urban demographic, cool.