BY LINDA MARX
The makers of fine timepieces respect their customer demands for bespoke items and the story behind their creators.
Watchmakers with a desire to lead the pack—or simply remain competitive in this designer-oriented market—are introducing fine products made by hand, not through mass production. Manufacturers, many of which are based in Switzerland, are collaborating with artists and designers to introduce famous names and their individual stories in an effort to create consumer interest and excitement. These creative artists and designers are inspired by world travel, show business, sculpture, color, architecture, music, and theater, and such creativity results in an end product that dazzles and thrills the buyer. At the same time, watchmakers have also delved into niche marketing with celebrity and sports branding via famous ambassadors. This effort attracts new customers and younger consumers who gravitate toward the latest rages in popular culture. Here, Aventura takes a look at blue chip makers like Hublot, Corum and Longines to see what makes them tick.
A marriage of art and watchmaking
Richard Orlinski, a popular French contemporary artist and sculptor, is a perfect example of how successfully an artist’s talent can translate to watch design. The artist is known for his brightly colored contemporary creations that are designed around the concept of “Born Wild,” the transformation of negative impulses into positive emotions. From his large Wild Kong Gorilla sculpture on the Croisette in Cannes, France, to his crocodiles in the Miami Design District to his tall bear in snowy Courchevel, Orlinski’s works are unorthodox and buzzworthy. And now he has translated his talents to watch design. “When we have an artistic sensibility, we can express it in any way, such as music, dance, design or performance,” he says. “I like to build bridges among different worlds, and I am a watch lover. I have collected them since childhood. So, the idea of collaborating with a brand as prestigious as Hublot immediately pleased me. From the beginning, I gave my own vision, and the result was very fluid between.”
What Orlinski calls a “piece of art on the wrist” is his Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski Red Magic (limited edition of 200 pieces), which is paired with Hublot’s patented red ceramic. The color of passion—red—is one of his favorites “because it appeals to all emotions: love, rage, risk, courage, prohibition, zeal, etc.,” he notes. Like his sculpture, this watch design offers sharp, three-dimensional sculpted lines and a polished finish, additional artistic trademarks of the artist. Using light and shade, one of the latest of the Classic Fusion Orlinski series is sculpted in his aesthetic signature, including its dial. This fine watch has a 40mm case available in titanium or King Gold, transforming the timepiece into an object of art with brilliant-cut diamonds. More than six Classic Fusion watches have been created in the alliance between Orlinski and Hublot, following the form from the Aerofusion Chronograph and newer Tourbillon models. Now the series has been designed on a smaller scale to satisfy a newer clientele—younger generations and women, for instance.
Symbolizing the characteristic folds in his often monumental works, edges, bevels and facets have been miniaturized with horological (study of time) precision to create mirror effects on the watch dial. The understated strap creates an arresting contrast, more pronounced on four of the six models with diamond set cases creating a dazzling jewelry effect. “Hublot likes to push the limits,” says Orlinski, whose watch designs are available at Hublot boutiques in the Miami Design District and Bal Harbour, and from distributors “The fusion of our two worlds, that of Maison Hublot which shapes precious materials and imagines exceptional products, and mine, a pop and colored world, has been exercised in an extremely spontaneous, almost natural way.”
On four of the timepieces, the bezel—a dodecagon (plane figure with 12 sides) which has characterized the creative partnership since 2017—is set with 54 diamonds and sits on a case that is either fully set with 210 diamonds or partially set with 112 diamonds. Free from precious stones, the other two watches exude a more subtle light, with the accent on the pure lines, the graduated light and shade of the materials, and the sharp-angled forms of his sculpture. “The success of the Aerofusion Chronograph and the Tourbillon have opened new avenues,” says Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot. “These elegant Classic Fusions turn wearing a watch into an everyday art form.”
Orlinski’s latest watch for Hublot is to be unveiled as a unisex model with a thinner case. He imagined a watch on the border of vintage and neo-futurism, like his works inspired by the Pop Art movement. “You have to be very sensitive to the line, the material and the design because watches are real pieces of art,” says Orlinski. Mostly Europe-based, Orlinski finds Miami a great city for energy and inspiration when he visits. “I love Miami and am very inspired by the softness of life,” he says. “There is a special atmosphere here that I love.”
Creativity and boldness in design
Since 1955, the aesthetic appeal and technical excellence of the Corum product have brought the brand to prominence. Naturally, the style and inspiration of multifaceted Canadian artist Elisabetta Fantone, whose clients include Celine Dion and the Kardashians, has become a design partner with Corum Bubble’s modern twist of vintage fashion.
Specifically, she has designed Corum’s Mona Lisa bubble watch and the recent Salvador Dalí bubble watch. The canvas of the dials, adorned with the reimagined face of Mona Lisa and a portrait of Salvador Dalí respectively, has created a high level of interest from customers of all ages. The Corum Bubble, with its thick sapphire crystal enclosing and magnifying the center dial, creates an optical illusion through the gem-like lens that encapsulates the designs. This is the beauty that is visible in the wrist-borne miniature of Fantone’s work. “The principle of cumulative advantage is what inspired me to create the dial of this timepiece,” says Fantone, whose watch designs for Corum are available at corum-watches.com and usually at H& H Jewels in Coconut Grove, Koosh Jewelers in Hollywood, and Carrazza in Fort Lauderdale. “This is the phenomenon where ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’. In this case, it is used metaphorically to refer to the popularity of the Mona Lisa.”
This aligns well with Corum’s modern glance at vintage fashion. First introduced in 2000, the Bubble was modeled after the 1960 Rolex Deep Sea Special, an experimental dive which kept ticking from the bottom of the ocean and back. Out of this innovation, a new style was born.
Although Fantone finds inspiration from the pop art of the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, she traveled deeper in time to find the face that would fit the frame, according to company executives. Looking out from a pane of crystal, the tilted head and familiar smile of Mona Lisa is counterbalanced by a white chest shrouded in a tapestry of colorful collage. The option of either a silver or vibrant purple watch case playfully complements the image, while the silver curve of the hands delicately traces the design. “It is in our capacity to distinguish and differentiate images that allow beauty to subsist,” says Fantone. “The definition of beauty is shattered by society and reborn as art.”
The artist recently introduced her second bubble watch, the Salvador Dali, which makes Corum executives extremely proud. “Elisabetta’s images captured our attention with her creativity, bold colors and the powerful emotions they create,” says Richard C. Louis, vice president of sales and operations at Corum. “These features are also the guiding principles of the Corum Bubble Collection.”
Celebrity tradition and timeless elegance
With brand ambassadors like Kate Winslet, Simon Baker, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, Longines knows the power of celebrity.
Moreover, with many years of experience as a timekeeper for world championships in sport, or as a partner of international sports federations, Longines is a natural to take a large interest in the equestrian world as well as in those people who live a lifestyle of sport and international elegance.
In fact, timepieces from the company’s equestrian collection are inspired by old pieces and by modern elements typical of the horsey set. The pocket watches celebrate the rich tradition of the Swiss watchmaker while the bold lines of many of its wristwatches, dedicated to women with a love for equestrian sports, make a vibrant tribute to the elegance and performance achieved by those of accomplishment.
With Wellington’s winter equestrian season being the world headquarters for polo, jumping and everything related, Longines, based in Saint-Imier in Switzerland since 1832, knows the power of the U.S. from a marketing standpoint. “From its very early moments, much of Longines’ significant history has been written in the U.S., from timing equestrian races in the 1880s and serving as the Official Timekeeper of numerous historic flights to producing timepieces for U.S. railroads and the U.S. Army and Navy,” says Matthieu Baumgartner, Longines vice president. “We spend much time and effort in developing the U.S. market. We are continuing to accelerate the growth, communication, distribution and product development.”
Some of Longines latest high-style novelties include the DolceVita series, an ode to the Italian good life. Wearing one of these watches is meant to call to mind relaxing in deep contemplation on the terrace of a village square, strolling down a via in Rome, or indulging in an enchanting seaside town. New dials arrived in 2019 to add to the collection, which is characterized by a rectangular case inspired by a model from the 1920s. Marks of simple purity, two new dials in white, featuring extended hour-markers or harmonized hour-markers and Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12, make their appearance. Color also spices up this collection in eight vibrant shades: blazing orange, soft taupe, bright yellow, radiant coral, intense pine green, soft brown, turquoise and lime green.
Another offering is the Longines Heritage Classic, which sees the company revisiting a model typical of the 1930s, characterized by the aesthetic of its sector dial. The Heritage Military 1938 is numbered and limited to 1938 pieces in tribute to the year of production. Meanwhile, the Longines Legend Diver Watch is an iconic timepiece in the winged hourglass brand’s Heritage line. It is now available in 36mm versions. Colorful creations or faithful replicas of the original watch include the new models designed for the customers that value authenticity, or fans of the vintage look. The watch is round, made of stainless steel and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with several layers of anti-reflective coating on the underside.
Through events, sporting matches and other social and philanthropic gatherings, Longines remains a step ahead of many other companies in their desire for growth, celebrity and recognition. With such a stellar product line and venerable history, the company will not be forgotten.