Translating works of art into eminently affordable and wearable timepieces has long been a Swatch speciality, since the brand’s founding in fact. More recently, Swatch worked with the Keith Haring Foundation on a Mickey Mouse-themed collection.
And its latest venture is a tie up with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Swatch X MoMA is a collection of nine watches, each featuring paintings from the collection of the New York institution.
Six watches will be available globally, either singly or as a limited-edition set, with the balance being customisable via the Swatch X You platform. The carefully curated selection of artwork spans the 20th century – save for Van Gogh’s The Starry Night of 1889 – creating a line up of watches that are each vastly distinct in style, and also in size, making each model unique.
Swatch x MoMa was launched virtually by a team drawn from both the watchmaker and museum – their passion and knowledge as they related the stories behind the project amazed me. Despite being extremely affordable watches, it is clear that a tremendous amount of passion and collaboration went into the development of the watches.
And the result is rightly compelling. The entire watch, and not merely the dial, is the canvas, creating a flow of colour from end to end. But the paintings were not merely reproduced on a smaller scale to fit the watch. A good deal of adjustments went into reorganising and refining the many elements of each painting to ensure that a perfect fit on the watch, with the focal point of each painting taking centrestage on the dial.
I appreciate the idea of watches as a virtual extension of museum, turning priceless artworks into easily accessible, everyday objects to promote MoMa and its art. During the presentation, Sarah Suzuki, a deputy director of MoMa, described the watches as an invitation to visit MoMa for those who may not be able to do so physically.
The watches are all uniformly affordable, starting at US$80 for the 34 mm models and rising to US$100 for the 41 mm model. Even though the limited-edition set of all six watches costs US$700, a small premium over the combined price of each model, it remains well priced.
A six-piece suite
The art reproduced in the MoMa collection is diverse in style and era, making the line up “an opportunity to represent the range of collecting, exhibitions, and program activities we do here”, according to Ms Suzuki.
The oldest painting in the line up is also the best known – The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh. While The Starry Night is so prominent in popular culture that it’s been reproduced endlessly, the 41 mm watch manages to look different, thanks to a tasteful reinterpretation of the drawing that reveals the brushstrokes and texture of the work, rather than the entirety of the familiar scene.
Almost as famous is The Dream (1910) by Henri Rousseau, reproduced on a 41 mm case. In contrast to Starry Night, this has been reproduced in easily recognisable style, with the lion peeking out from lush foliage.
Composition in Oval with Color Planes 1 (1914) by Piet Mondrian is reproduced on the smaller, 34 mm model, with its strap covered with the bold lines and colours that characterise Mondrian’s style, but the dial left pared-back.
Also 34 mm but decidedly different is Hope, II (1907-1908) the Gustav Klimt painting rich in gold and geometric shapes, the defining style of the Austrian artist. But Swatch drew from a small corner of the painting for the watch, resulting in a cooler palette that gives the watch balance between the colours.
The last two watches are based on works by Tadanori Yokoo, a Japanese designer and illustrator with a playful style. The New York (1968) is self-explanatory, repeating the Statue of Liberty along the length of the watch. The City and Design, The Wonders of Life on Earth, Isamu Kurita (1966) is funky and abstract, with an appealing retro feel that’s very much reflective of its era.
Swatch x You
The remaining three watches of the Swatch x MoMa collection are decorated with the works of Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes. But unlike the six watches above, this trio is entirely customisable with a selection of Ms Milhazes’ work.
The base is a transparent watch similar to the Jelly Fish, which can be used as a canvas to reproduce any section of a painting by moving the watch around the artwork with a digital configuration tool. The translucent colour of the watch is also customisable. This customisation process can be done on Swatch.com or at select Swatch stores.
Key Facts and Price
Swatch x MoMA Collection
Diameter: 34 mm; 41 mm
Height: 8.75 mm; 9.85 mm
Water resistance: 30 m
Functions: Hours and minutes
Limited edition: “Special edition”, but the sets limited to 221
Availability: Starting March 4, 2021 at Swatch and MoMA Design stores, as well as their online boutiques
MoMA special set – US$700; or 1040 Singapore dollars
41 mm The Starry Night; The Dream; and The City and Design, The Wonders of Life on Earth, Isamu Kurita – US$100; or 149 Singapore dollars
34 mm Hope, II; Composition in Oval with Color Planes 1; and New York – US$80; or 119 Singapore dollars
Swatch x You – US$125; or 186 Singapore dollars
For more, visit swatch.com
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