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Art as Watches, Watches as Art

February is positively crowded with events. It’s not just the month where people around the world ring in the Lunar New Year or celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner with their loved one, but in the Philippines, it is also a month that celebrates art in all its forms.

In honor of National Arts Month, we rounded up a few watches that may well fall into the category. Whether they’re collaborations with renowned artists or borne in-house from the minds and skills of each manufacture’s talented watchmakers, the pieces on this list are undeniable works of wearable art.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Blue Ceramic luxury watch

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu

In collaboration with Maxime Büchi, founder and creative director of the design studio Sang Bleu, Hublot released the limited edition Big Bang Sang Bleu. Two of Maxime Büchi’s passions are tattoos and watches. These coalesced into this eye-catching design that puts the artistic virtue of symmetry front and center.

Figuring out how to tell time with this watch can prove hard at first; after all, the hands have been replaced by polished octagons. But one can clearly see that within the octagons, there are filled-in triangles with luminescent material. The outermost ring of octagons point to the hours and the middle ring points to the minutes. The  innermost ring mysteriously depicts the ticking of seconds, as it’s not clearly shown in the watch what exact second it is. The geometric lines appear once again, engraved, on the blue ceramic lugs, and continue perfectly onto the rubber and leather strap.

Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski luxury watch

Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski

Like the previous piece, this Hublot was also created in collaboration with an artist, in this case, with contemporary French artist, Richard Orlinski, renowned for his brightly-colored, multi-faceted sculptures such as the Wild Kong. The artist designed these watches to appear like his own works of art, and this partnership did not disappoint.

This specific watch in his collection comes in a striking shade of red, enhanced by the polished ceramic material the case is made out of. The hands and the details are just as bold as the case, standing out against the gray, self-winding skeleton movement. Matched with a smooth rubber strap, this chronograph is a testament to art married with technical achievement. Feel red is too strong a statement? It also comes in subtler shades: black, green, blue, and titanium.

JLC Reverso Tribute Enamel – Alfons Mucha, Spring

Icons of the Art Noveau period, Alfons Mucha’s works of art serve as inspiration even a century after their creation—inspiring even Jaeger-LeCoultre. Part of a collection inspired by Mucha’s The Seasons series, this particular model depicts Spring.

This timepiece is named and fashioned after the aforementioned painting, which features a woman in a flowing, white dress standing under a tree, surrounded by flowers. A beautiful rendering is placed on the caseback of the Reverso, created through incredibly complicated Grand Feu enameling process that took 70 hours of work. Around the miniature is a hand-engraved frame, done after the enameling. On its light gold, hand-guilloché dial, the color of the front of the watch is enhanced with the same Grand Feu enameling.

JLC Reverso Tribute Enamel - Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa luxury watch JLC Reverso Tribute Enamel - Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa luxury watch

JLC Reverso Tribute Enamel – Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Another iconic painting is The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. This woodblock print is so prominent in our culture that it even inspired its very own emoji. Jaeger-LeCoultre released a Reverso with this painting on its caseback in a series that includes Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Xu Beihong’s stunning horses.

The master enameller and the artisans at Jaeger-LeCoultre captured every single detail of the painting—every bit of foam and the delicate lines of the waves are pictured in perfect motion—and put it into the miniscule space provided by the Reverso. The front doesn’t want for elaborate details either: The dial carries a guillochéd wave pattern covered with an ocean blue, translucent enamel, hue matching with the underside of the wave on the reverse.

Chopard LUC XP Urushi Ref. 161902-5045 luxury watch

Chopard LUC XP Urushi Ref. 161902-5045

If you’re familiar with East Asian culture, you might have heard of the qilin (Chinese) or kirin (Japanese), a benevolent, mythical creature that is a symbol of good omens. Though they are commonly depicted with one horn, much like the western unicorn, they are also sometimes depicted with two horns. While in Chinese culture they look more like stalwart horses with the scales of dragons, in Japanese culture they take a more deer-like appearance.

On this dial is Japanese artist and national living treasure Kiichiro Masamura’s interpretation of the kirin. Graceful as they prance among the clouds, under the watchful gaze of the moon, this scene of two kirin was made with the Japanese lacquering techniques using urushi, the sap of the eponymous urushi tree. These techniques utilize layers upon layers of lacquer, some iridescent mother-of-pearl, and a little bit of gold powder to create a lush, luxurious finish unlike any other.

Vacheron Constantin Métier d’Art collection – Copernicus Hand-Engraving 2640 RT Ref. 7600U/000G-B211

Have an affinity for all things celestial? This timepiece from Vacheron Constantin features all 12 of the beautifully hand-engraved zodiac signs on its dial around the Earth, which in turn revolves around the sun. That’s right: this watch not only tells time with the small, golden hours and minutes hands, but it also depicts the Earth’s rotation on its own axis, taking a day, and its revolution around the golden sun, taking a year.

It’s aptly named as well. Nicolaus Copernicus is the person who made the theory of heliocentrism famous and eventually widely accepted, with his book “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”. There are two other models under this the Copernicus celestial spheres collection with accomplished with different techniques: One made with Grand Feu enamel and the other with laser-engraved sapphire disks, with all of them framed by a white-gold case.

Patek Philippe 5177G-012 “Chart of the Carribbean”

Cartography, we believe, is an art form, and this piece takes it to a whole new level. On what would be a traditional Calatrava wristwatch appears a map that looks like it was transported from the old Age of Discovery. With the sea creature at 10 o’clock, a piece of land from 11 to 2 o’clock, and the caravel at the forefront, it’s a taste of adventure on the high seas, all outlined with gold wire. The Patek Philippe name and “Genève” are also set on the map in gold, harking to centuries-old cartographic aesthetics.

The fading colors only help enhance the feel of a bygone era. These hues could only be achieved with the method of Grand Feu enameling, utilizing opaque and semi-opaque enamels tinted in 25 different colors across the dial. The white-gold bezel doesn’t let itself be outshined either, guillochéd by hand in a hobnail pattern.

Breguet Reine de Naples Ref. 8958BB/51/974/D00D

Are you familiar with cameos? No, not the ones Stan Lee used to make in Marvel movies; the jewelry pieces made from carving into gems, stones, or shells is what we’re talking about. Where cameos have traditionally been worn on the neck with a choker, Breguet puts cameos on your wrist with this watch.

Cameos are more popularly known as carved, raised relief profiles. This cameo in particular features sunflowers hand-engraved onto a single seashell. With the many layers accessed through carefully scraping off little bits and pieces, various tones can be achieved depending on the material used. This beautiful cameo is surrounded by a diamond-encrusted bezel, encased in 18-carat white gold and accompanied with a white alligator strap.

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