Purchasing and wearing a watch is a sure sign of adulthood, because what better way to say, “Hey world, I have my shit together,” than glancing at your wrist instead of your phone when someone asks what time it is? Luxury watch retailers Richard Mille, Hublot, and Romain Jerome are no stranger to this concept, and in fact, they're banking on the idea that the younger generation, people ages 15-30 year olds, will consider collecting these timepieces as tiny treasures. But how do you entice a 15-30 year old to invest in a watch whose starting price is anywhere from $19,000-$100,000? Why, you collaborate with tattoo and graffiti artists, of course.
Renowned graffiti artist, Kongo, has made a name for himself, by creating colorful masterpieces that have been critically acclaimed the world over. But what exactly can a graffiti artist, whose main body of work is created on vast canvases like vans and brick walls, do for a tiny watch? Taking six months to create a unique airbrush system that mimics Kongo’s cans of spray paint perfectly, the Mille team managed to develop a system that would allow Kongo to create his unique mark on the watch without compromising its integrity. Hand painted by Kongo himself, each watch retails for $800,000, but in case you’ve come up slightly short of funds, fear not.
Earlier this year Swiss watchmaker Hublot collaborated with celebrity tattoo artist Maxime Buchi to create a unique spin (literally) on Hublot’s iconic Big Bang style. Using Buchi’s unique geometric style as a reference point, the two designed a three part mechanism comprised of spinning polygons that actually act as a stand in for the watch’s hands, allowing the client to read the polygons’ position to tell them time. Retailing for slightly under $19,000, the collaboration will be available in a limited edition run of 200 watches, and is set to release this month.
Similarly, French tattoo artist Xoil was tapped by Romain Jerome earlier in the year to create a tattoo inspired timepiece. The watch, which retails for $24,500 and is available in a 25 piece run, features leather straps that have actually been tattooed by Xoil personally, similar to the Tods x Saira Hunjan in which she tattoed the actual leather of the bag. Featuring a face that’s half enamel, half transparent so as to expose the inner workings, Xoil and Jerome have brilliantly made the hands of the watch to resemble tattooing needles, furthering the idea behind the collaboration-that fashion and the art of tattooing are growing closer and closer. In fact, in an interview with The New York Times, chief executive Manuel Emch of RJ Watches, the company that produces Romaine Jerome said, “We noticed that most of our customers are in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s — so a rather younger customer base — and we also noticed that most of them share the same cultural references, if it comes to contemporary art or video games, for instance. Tattoo is one of these specific expressions of art of this generation.”
And just in case none of these price points are a viable option, because let’s be realistic-that’s a whole lotta dough-there’s still hope. As we all know, fashion tends to have a trickle down effect that starts with luxury retailers like Mille, and trickles down to more accessible outlets at lower price points, especially if the nature of the collaboration seems to have become a trend. So don't fret, your dreams of owning a piece of fashion/tattoo art history are still achievable.