Collaborations are currently a huge thing in fashion. Luxury watch brands like Franck Muller, H. Moser & Cie. and Zenith are proving that they lead the pack, with a range of cool partnerships released so far this year.
Collaborations – or as the young people say, “collabs” – are part of a hot trend in fashion right now. Look everywhere and you will see brands hooking up with each other.
The watchmaking world is not any different, and in fact, it has been a strong proponent for partnerships to extend influence and reach. Collaborations have been occurring in the industry since the 90s.
Yet, this year we are seeing even more (and frequently occurring) exciting collaborations – and if they don’t result in a timepiece, you at least get a cool fashion accessory inspired by a watch, instead.
Zenith even united with auction house Phillips Watches and independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, resulting in a very cool design.
Time to ramp up the cool factor
Sneakers are frequently seen on the fashion runways these days – and worn by all the cool kids.
It is no wonder that Franck Muller has continued its collaboration with sneaker brand New Balance. January saw the drop of a third collection by the watchmaker, celebrating two very iconic timepiece designs.
One pays tribute to the Color Dreams collection of watches with its vivid byzantine numerals, and the other is an ode to the Vanguard Yachting timepiece’s sporty-blue aesthetic.
If a jumble of technicolour numbers is not quite something you would fancy, then the navy option is still visually striking enough, but with less of that flamboyant feel.
Both are immediately recognisable by watch fans– or rather, fans of Franck Muller. Compare the watches and the sneakers and you will immediately see the resemblance.
As it is, the earlier collaborative sneaker releases channelled Franck Muller’s Casablanca model in earth tones. They were apparently such a huge hit, and as such, this third collaboration is a welcome thing.
H. Moser & Cie. also worked with a fashion brand, but this resulted in a timepiece. Linking up with menswear brand The Armoury in January, the two released a nifty limited edition watch based on the Endeavour Small Seconds model.
Even cooler is that this design is inspired by a celestial event: the total solar eclipse. The watch is thus named Total Eclipse, featuring a 38mm Vantablack dial.
Vantablack is known as the darkest man-made substance – a material that H. Moser & Cie. has been experimenting on and is used in a number of its watch models. This also speaks about another trend of how watchmakers are using unconventional materials to really push the limits of watchmaking.
Not stopping there, H. Moser & Cie. went on to collaborate with sneaker brand Undefeated in June. With the Streamliner watch as the base for the design, the end result is a sporty and almost retro-looking creation.
The Undefeated logo is placed at 12 o’clock, while the H. Moser & Cie. signature sits just below it.
Now, that is certainly a fine way to balance between tradition and boundary-pushing avant-garde – done in a very balanced, tasteful way.
Success to be found in the many
Watch brands (and other associated companies) are also working together to create designs that can wow.
Zenith very recently presented a series of 10 watches powered by the historic chronometer Calibre 135-O, brought back to life with the help of indie watchmaker Kari Voutilainen.
The idea was reportedly initiated by watch auctioneer Phillips Watches.
Zenith’s Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition contains restored examples of the observatory-grade chronometer movement from the 1950s.
Voutilainen, with his experience in dealing with vintage chronometer movements, was roped in to help restore the original 1950s movements, sourced from Zenith’s own archive.
A precise number of only 10 135-O calibres, original observatory-tested movements belonging to the historical 1950-1954 serial winning years, were restored for the modern limited edition released as a result of the collaboration.
Each of them comes housed in a 38mm case features short tapered lugs and a relatively large fluted crown emblazoned with Zenith’s modern logo – a perfect and beautiful combination of old and new.
That said, if you look beyond just this year, you will discover a string of notable collaborations. All of them worthy of a mention and deserving of a moment of silence, as you take in the ingenuity.
Last year for instance, Bulgari released a sleek iteration of the Octo Finissimo. It was a result of the watchmaker working with (for the third time) Japanese architect and 1995 Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando.
The first time Bulgari and Ando paired up, it caused a buzz in the watchmaking world. That was in 2019.
For the 2021 collaboration, you have a demure design but fierce in its embellishment. The case and bracelet are made of matte black ceramic with a textured, sandblasted finish.
The dial’s deep blue colour with a lacquered finish brings to mind the look a night sky. As if to double down on the theme, a yellow gold crescent around five o’clock makes a charming appearance.
That same year, Undefeated worked with Tudor for a limited-edition Black Bay watch.
To make it really exclusive, this model was given out to select Undefeated team members and friends of the brand, complete with a unique serial number and the recipient’s name on the back.
Psst… musician John Mayer was lucky enough to receive one.
Of course, who could forget the MoonSwatch. In March, the launch of this collaborative timepiece between Omega and Swatch drew such long lines that it made headlines around the world. Some cities reported that it sold out within minutes.
To this day, the MoonSwatch is as elusive as ever – which only goes to show how a well- thought-out collaboration can really give your brand name a viral boost.