Hublot's Takashi Murakami Collab Proves That When Watchmakers Have Fun, Great Things Happen
The sweet spot for us here at Esquire is your everyday watches, ones that may run a broad list of prices from an accessible couple of hundred bucks to a $10K investment but will always do you proud in multiple situations. Sometimes, however, we have to stop and smell the roses at the upper end of the market, where watchmaking is often elevated to an art form and where the sheer audacity of creativity when money is no object can lead to exciting things.
Long before collabs were a thing in the wider world of fashion and sneakers, watchmakers often got into collaborations with artists. Mostly it was at the poppy, mass-produced end of the business, with Swatch famously kicking things off in 1984 with French artist Kiki Picasso. Arguably, the most famous—and collectible—Swatch tie-up was its second, with Keith Haring, who produced a number of designs during 1985 and 1986 that now command serious dollar in the vintage market. Haring’s art and attitude were the perfect combo for the iconoclastic watch brand. Traditional high-end watchmaking is not particularly known for its iconoclasm. But occasionally, when a brand hits it off with the right artist, the results can be spectacular.
Between the petals and the smiling center, the watch incorporates 456 black diamonds.
Launched this morning is Hublot’s Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black collaboration with the iconic Japanese artist, one that it put together in less than a year. The results are as mind-bending as Murakami’s famous multidisciplinary mashup of Japanese popular culture and fine art.
The Fusion’s case is made of satin-finish and polished black ceramic, with a unique rendition of Murakami’s signature flower motif piercing through the crystal. The petals are linked to the rotor of the automatic movement and rotate as it moves. The stationary, smiling center of the flower is anchored through the sapphire crystal. Between them, the time—as if that really matters—is told in a simple two-hand readout. The 12 petals and center of the flower are studded with 456 black diamonds in total.
Hinting that this may well not be the last collaboration with the house, Murakami explained his choice of the flower motif. “People think of the smiling flower when they think of Takashi Murakami, so it was an obvious choice. The one thing I did request was to go all black on our first collaboration. This was because the very first impression I had when I learned about Hublot was its signature black rubber strap.”
Hublot has made a success of collaborations with artists using the Fusion watch as a base in recent years. Often—as is Hublot’s way of shaking things up in the watchmaking world—those artists are modern heirs to Keith Haring’s popular street cachet, graffiti artists, and even a tattoo artist. Arguably, Murakami is their biggest get yet.
And Murakami himself is no stranger to collaborations, having worked with a vast roster of brands like Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, Porter, Google, Vans, and even Crocs. This is also not his first collaboration with a watch company. In 2013 he created a steel-cased tourbillon called “Death Takes No Bribe” with legendary Japanese watchmaker Hajime Asaoka.
The case is made of a mix of satin-finish and brushed ceramic.
The artist visited Hublot’s manufacture on Lake Geneva early in 2020. But his roots with the brand go back to 2004, when he spent time with the brand at the Basel watch fair. “My wish was to be involved in watchmaking at the level where I could design a completely original piece,” he says, “and my decision depended on whether that was possible. So I visited and toured the factory in early 2020, and was absolutely, truly blown away, seeing how it enfolded both the super high technology and artisan techniques and values. I was convinced that it would be possible for them to make the kind of watch I envisioned, and so I humbly decided to go forward with the collaboration.”
We can’t wait to see what else might be in store. Meanwhile, with Murakami artworks rarely selling below $3 million at auction, a mere shade over $27K may seem like quite a bargain to get your hands on an iconic piece of Murakami design.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.