The Dial as Canvas: Six Watches From Artistic Collaborations

With these six timepieces created in collaboration with, or in tribute to, contemporary and historical artists, watch manufacturers get highly personal in the time-honored tradition of using applying miniaturized artistic masterworks to their dial.


Parmigiani Tonda Giudice - front
Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Marcello Lo Giudice

Parmigiani Fleurier founder and CEO Michel Parmigiani found himself so inspired by the bold, abstract landscapes of Italian painter Marcello Lo Giudice that he used one of the artist’s works, “Eden Universe, Eden Ocean,” as the subject of a 12-piece limited edition, the Tonda 1950 Marcello Lo Giudice. Each of the 12 miniature-painted dials is unique, identically reproducing a different portion of the painting. The first stage of the dials’ creation is a laser engraving on the raw plate that builds texture and volume on the flat surface; this is followed by a painter adding the color pigments that fill out the miniature painted dial. The process — building texture first, adding color second — is the same as the one used by Lo Giudice to create his canvases, which Michel Parmigiani describes as reminding him “of how a glass prism separates white light into its full spectrum of colors, refracting them at a specific angle.” The “sage leaf” hands are thinner than those of other Tonda models so as to conceal as little of the painted dials as possible, while the 39-mm rose gold case is engraved with “Unique Piece,” the individual number, and the names “Marcello” and “Michel” side by side as a symbol of the artistic collaboration. The watch is powered by the self-winding PF702 movement, with a 48-hour power reserve, which is on display through a sapphire caseback. Parmigiani’s other notable collaboration is in evidence on the alligator strap, which, as on all Parmigiani watches, is made by the leather artisans at Hermès.


Hublot Meca-10 Shepard Fairey
Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey

Even if you’ve never heard of Shepard Fairey, you’re familiar with his work — unless, of course, you slept through the entirety of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign and the subsequent two terms of Barack Obama’s administration. The iconic Obama “HOPE” poster is by far the most renowned work by the L.A.-based street artist and graphic designer, whose “OBEY” project also inspired an entire clothing line. Hublot teamed with Fairey for the most recent release in its “Hublot Loves Art” series, the Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey. The timepiece features the manually wound, skeletonized HUB1201 caliber, two years in development and boasting a 10-day power reserve, which made its debut in the first Meca-10 model in 2016. The Shepard Fairey edition, limited to 100 pieces each in Grey Décor and Blue Décor versions, features the artist’s Star Gear logo in the 3 o’clock aperture, which also reveals a red dot when the watch is nearing the end of its lengthy power reserve. The 45-mm case is made of carbon fiber with an upper layer of Texalium adorned with a tribal floral motif that mimics Fairey’s distinctive artistic style. Black composite resin is used for the bezel lugs and lateral inserts; polished H-shaped screws made of microblasted titanium with black PVD coating secure the bezel to the case. Fairey also provides the embossed design on the rubber-and-calf-leather straps. The price is $28,300.


Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde
Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde

Who better than a Russian watchmaker (albeit one who plies his trade in Germany) to interpret the works of Russian abstractionist painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) for the dial of a limited-edition watch? The dial of the Kandy Avantgarde by Alexander Shorokhoff is an amalgam of multicolored shapes, lines, and forms inspired by those on Kandinsky’s canvases, framed by a soft-edged square case made of brushed and polished stainless steel and measuring 41 mm x 41 mm. The caseback is also unconventional in its design, with three round windows allowing a peek at the movement, a Swiss-made, automatic ETA 2892A2 with a hand-engraved rotor and a 47-hour power reserve. The use of multiple colored elements even extends to the dual-colored soft calf-leather strap. Nominated for a German Design Award for 2019, the Kandy Avantgarde is limited to 100 pieces and priced at 2,500 euros.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso_Hodler-q39334h2 - canvas - paints
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel

With 2018 marking 100 years since the death of one of Switzerland’s best-known artists, 19th-century symbolist painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853 – 1918), the Swiss watchmaking maison Jaeger-LeCoultre commemorated the milestone with a limited-edition Reverso watch from its heralded “Métiers Rares” workshops, the Reverso Tribute Enamel, a trio of models limited to eight pieces each. Each features a stunning, miniaturized reproduction of one of Hodler’s works, created by combining intricate engraving, enameling, and miniature painting, on the reverse-side dial of the swiveling case. Meanwhile, the front dials have an engraved “woven” motif, achieved with the use of a century-old guilloché machine, delicately rendered by an expert artisan and then covered in translucent grand feu enamel in a color that reflects the predominant tone of the miniature painting on the back. Each of these enameled paintings, rendered on a surface measuring just 3 cm by 2 cm and framed by an intricately engraved border and the Reverso’s emblematic gadroons, depicts a landscape scene from Hodler’s (and JLC’s) native Switzerland. The Art Deco-inspired rectangular case is made of white gold and measures 45.5 mm x 27.4 mm in diameter 9.73 mm thick. The dial’s faceted, applied hour markers, Dauphine hands, and railtrack minutes circle are other hallmark elements of the iconic Reverso model. Inside the case beats a Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture movement, the manually wound Caliber 822A/2. Prices are available on request.


Corum Hobo Coin Watch - front
Corum Heritage Artisan Coin Watch

With its Heritage Artisan Coin Watch, Corum has produced a piece that seems to be asking, “Brother, can you spare the time?” The dials, designed by Russian-born, New York-based master engraver Aleksey Saburov, are modern takes on the Depression-era “hobo coins,” buffalo nickels that were carved, chiseled and otherwise manually reworked to become a form of poor man’s art. Each watch is a unique piece, prices available on request, with Saburov producing an as yet undisclosed number of original dial motifs, all micro-engraved onto U.S. silver dollars and influenced by the artist’s style of “utilizing popular imagery, legends, demons, [and] beliefs… to make unique works of micro art.” The watch’s 43-mm case is made of silver, with a sapphire-tipped crown and a coin-edged bezel. The hour and minute hands are simple batons designed to obscure as little as possible of the dial’s engraved imagery. Inside each case is the automatic Caliber CO 082, based on the Soprod A10, with a 42-hour power reserve, covered by a solid silver dollar caseback. (Of course, longtime fans of the Corum brand are aware of its history with coin-dial watches, notably the famous $20 Gold Double Eagle Watch from 1955.) The Heritage Coin Watch is delivered on a denim strap, a sartorial nod to the blue jeans of the working class Americans that first popularized the hobo coin in the early 20th century.


TAG Heuer Formula One Special Edition
TAG Heuer Formula One Special Edition

Street artist Alec Monopoly, the scarf-wearing, paint-can-wielding “Art Provocateur” whose takes both his pseudonym and his stylistic hallmark from the top-hatted tycoon character from the famous board game, has been working with TAG Heuer since 2016, applying his graffiti paints to the straps of special-edition watches and even designing a custom digital face for the TAG Heuer Connected Watch. The first timepiece with a physical dial designed by Monopoly ( Alec Andon) debuted in 2017 — the TAG Heuer Formula One Special Edition, which brings a miniature representation of one of Monopoly’s highly collectible canvases to the Swiss brand’s most accessible timepiece. Housed in a 41-mm brushed steel case with a polished black rotating bezel with 60-second scale, the watch sports a dial from which Mr. Monopoly (the character, not the artist), a top hat on his head and a scarf over the lower part of his face, peeks out from the dial’s center, surrounded by colorful graffiti. The artist’s “ALEC” logo is engraved on the solid caseback, under which beats a Swiss quartz movement. And even though the watch is limited to just 200 pieces, you don’t have to be one of the corporate fatcats lampooned in the artist’s work to purchase one: the Formula One Alec Monopoly Special Edition sells for just $1,250.

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  1. Phil Bailey

    This article needs updating. Its old news and there are newer collaborations around

  2. A. J. HUGHES

    Kandinsky became somewhat well known and popular in the French Quarter of New Orleans, primarily for his oil on canvas works around 1911. They are frequently compared to and even mistakenly identified as obscure works by Picasso but distinguished by their separated forms and single dimension composition. While not as well known or recognized as Picasso, he has an avid and loyal collector base. To this base, his works transition well to unique horological interpretation.

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