After collaborating on timepieces with brands like Louis Vuitton and Casio G-Shock, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was not interested, at least initially, in creating a watch for Hublot.
“It’s a concept that I have repeatedly refused,” he said in a telephone interview. “I was like, ‘I’ve done this before.'”
Last year, however, the brand – which previously created watches with graphic designer Shepard Fairey and sculptor Richard Orlinski – persuaded Mr Murakami to change his mind.
Their partnership produced the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black, which was unveiled last month at Hublot’s Ginza boutique in Tokyo.
The focal point of the ceramic watch is its 45-millimeter dial, adorned with the artist’s signature smiley floral motif, set with 563 black pave diamonds. The center of the flower is mounted on the sapphire crystal of the watch. Its petals are fixed on an oscillating weight, itself fixed on a ball bearing. Like the rotor of a watch, the petals move when the wearer does.
“We discussed it together and he said: ‘I want a living flower that moves, that has an energy,” said Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot. “From there, we came up with the idea of technically making the flower like a rotor.”
The watch was designed about a year ago, when Mr Murakami visited Hublot’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, just before Europe started shutting down to fight the coronavirus. It was there, says the artist, that he began to “understand that it was possible to do something original”.
Mr. Murakami’s work is often very colorful (just look at the limited edition Perrier bottles and cans introduced last fall). But he felt the watch should be black, the color he said was strongly associated with the Hublot brand. And working on the watch as the Black Lives Matter movement grew – and as it created a series of raffles to raise funds for related organizations – was “a very nice coincidence,” he said.
For luxury brands, collaborations with artists like Mr. Murakami continue to have marketing appeal. “Suddenly, Hublot is getting a lot cooler with this pairing,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and senior analyst at Forrester Research. “It has a transitive property.”
The choice of a Japanese artist would also have been strategic: Hublot did not specify sales, but said the country was among its top three markets. It has shops in four cities and its watches are available in around 600 outlets.
The 200-piece limited-edition watch, priced at $ 27,300, debuted in Hublot’s Japanese boutiques at the end of January and will be available at the brand’s other boutiques around the world next month. (Mr. Guadalupe said a ladies’ watch was also a possibility.)
For Mr. Murakami, whose artwork adorned everything from Macy’s Thanksgiving parade balloons to the Google homepage, the collaborations have become an ongoing expression of the blend of fine art and pop culture. which he named Superflat two decades ago.
“It’s kind of in his DNA to keep going through these different areas,” said Michael Darling, who until recently was chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where he organized a major Murakami exhibition. in 2017..
There is an additional connection between Mr. Murakami’s work and the making of luxury watches, Mr. Darling said, “His quality control of the paintings that come out of his studio is just out of this world, so for him to be able to work with a watchmaker who also has incredibly high standards feels really consistent with the way he likes to approach his job.