Supporting and entering the world of art through exclusive partnerships and sponsorships has always been a way for watchmaking brands to establish their cultural status. Swatch, the Biel manufacturer which will celebrate in 2023 the 40th anniversary of the “Vulgaris” – first prototype of coloured plastic watch created by Nicolas Hayek during designers Marlyse Schmid and Bernard Muller’s 1983 contest – is no exception. The brand quickly adopted this strategy and cleverly reinterpreted some of the most important pieces in art history to fit the wrists of many.
In 1985, Swatch launched its “Swatch Art Special” program. For this project, popular artists were to use their unique sense of aesthetics and visuals to design a Swatch watch and hereby invent the concept of collaboration between a watchmaker, a museum and famous artists. The first watch from this special edition to meet the Swatch Art Special specifications was designed by French artist Christian Chapiron, also known as Kiki Picasso. It was limited to 140 pieces and is now considered one of the most coveted Swatch pieces by collectors.
Then in 1986, New Yorker and pop–art artist Keith Haring also challenged himself to the task of designing four watches. Story says Swatch turned to him after being rejected by Andy Warhol. Other collaborations also worthy of mentioning: Mimmo Paladino in 1989, Alfred Hofkunst in 1991, Sam Francis in 1992 and Yoko Ono and Anna Leibovitz in 1996.
Swatch’s artistic DNA was brought to light in 2011, with the opening of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai where various artists from around the world gathered for periods of three to six months. Residents from a wide range of disciplines, who are all united under one same goal: to create, to collaborate and to display their art.
Since then, the brand has collaborated multiple times, for example when it became the main partner of the Biennale Arte in Venice for six editions or when it designed the most unique watches in collaboration with museums and international institutions.
Swatch collaborated with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Louvre Museum in Paris and last year, the Centre Pompidou, to name but a few.
Continuing its artistic engagement, the Maison recently unveiled seven new creations as part of the “Swatch Art Journey” collection with pieces from the MoMA, the Magritte Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Galerie des Offices.
Swatch Art Journey, an artist quartet
First, Swatch features and celebrates Hokusai with The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodblock print created in 1830 and now the most famous Japanese art piece in the world. The front of the watch displays a detail from the famous wave, and the back reveals an astrolabe design.
Another artist who inspired a design for this collection: surrealist René Magritte, who would often assign an extraordinary role to ordinary objects. Simplicity and deception through images, a perfect match with the two watches dedicated to him in the new collection. The first watch revisited the famous 1964 painting Le Fils de l’homme (The Son of Man), with the sentence “Ceci est une Swatch avec une pomme” (“This is a Swatch with an apple”) displayed on the strap to reference his famous quote “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), which is displayed on the second watch.
Then, two other watches celebrate the 100th anniversary of the late Roy Lichtenstein’s birth, with a reinterpretation of The Melody Haunts My Reverie, a 1965 screenprint, and Girl from 1963.
Finally, we have designs from Florence, Italy, with a tribute to Sandro Botticelli’s two major masterpieces in art history. First, The Birth of Venus is displayed on a dial with Zephyrus, God of wind and his wife, embracing each other in the sky.
Second, Swatch reinvented Spring, decorating the dial with plants and fruits from the beautiful garden of the original painting. The goddess Flora sprinkles flowers all over the strap.
GIRL BY ROY LICHTENSTEIN – €105
REVERIE BY ROY LICHTENSTEIN – €95
LE FILS DE L’HOMME BY RENE MAGRITTE – €105
LA TRAHISON DES IMAGES BY RENE MAGRITTE – €105
THE GREAT WAVE OFF KANAWAGA – €105
NASCITA DI VENERE BY SANDRO BOTTICELLI – €95
ALLEGORIA DELLA PRIMAVERA BY BOTTICELLI – €105