In the current times, collaboration is a powerful currency for both the brand and the partner they work with. Few industries boast a tradition of collaboration as rich as that is seen in the world of watchmaking. Given that a watch is a smaller canvas to work on as compared to clothing or footwear, the collaborations bring about results that are much more unique. Even the smallest modifications in the design dramatically affect an original make.
Watch collaborations reflect a combination of eclectic worldviews and blend together the art of watchmaking with broader cultural spheres like art, sports or fashion. These partnerships with distinct personalities or brands are a strategic decision to help extend the watch industry’s reach into various other subcultures.
It is also to gain access to audiences who previously might not even have considered purchasing or wearing watches. By co-creating limited edition products with pop culture favourites, ‘collabs’ capture the attention of consumers with diverse and niche interests and fan the flame of hype.
With top watch collaborations such as Vivienne Westwood X Swatch, Gucci X Fnatic and Bulgari X Tadao Ando, enticing fans and consumers across the world, we cannot wait to see more of these creative intersections.
Here are seven of the biggest watch collaborations of all time
Embodying the historic bond between Rolex and motor sport, which was strengthened in 2013 by Rolex’s entry into the world of Formula 1 racing as Global Partner and Official Timepiece, the original Rolex Daytona was introduced in 1963 as the Rolex ‘Cosmograph’ Daytona. The gorgeous watch still remains one of the most iconic watches, which gave birth to numerous catalogues of highly collectible pieces over the years. This Motorsport and racing-themed watch series had been christened to pay tribute to the Daytona Beach in Florida, which is a mecca of motorsport and home to the legendary NASCAR speedway.
These Rolex watches soon became very popular in the racing community owing to their functionality when calculating average lap speeds accurately down to the seconds using its trademark tachymeter bezel.
Designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers, the chronograph is equipped with calibre 4130 and a self-winding mechanical movement. Featuring fewer components than a standard chronograph, its sleek and symmetric architecture thereby enhances the movement’s reliability.
Bulgari X Tadao Ando
Boasting an exclusive brand collaboration since 2019, the Bulagri X Tadao Ando is an exceptional high-end watch design, marking the marriage between the Italian luxury brand Bulgari and the famous Japanese architect and 1995 Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando.
The very first collaboration between the two was announced in November 2019, which included 200 pieces of an all-titanium watch ‒ a sleek iteration of Bulgari’s 2017 octo finissimo automatic. Inspired by Ando’s minimalistic architectural works featuring concrete and glass, this collection was initially made exclusively for the domestic Japanese market. A 10-piece carbon tourbillon wrist watch was also quietly released into the watch world next to it.
The unique watch from this release features a bold geometric design, coupled with an attractive spiral motif that covers the entire dial and emulates the concentric circles found in Japanese Zen gardens. Visible through a sapphire caseback with Ando’s engraved signature, the watch has an ultra-thin self-winding mechanical movement with a platinum micro-rotor.
Launched in April 2021, the most recent collaboration timepiece is the Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando Limited Edition, exuding understated elegance and featuring a matte or polished black ceramic case and bracelet with a luxurious sandblasted texture. Garnering critical acclaim and praise from the watchmaking community, the meticulously crafted mechanical watch has a 40mm case and a three-hand movement meant to evoke quiet contemplation.
The lacquered dial, drenched in a rich deep blue colour, features a mikazuki or a yellow gold crescent moon at the five o’clock position, which symbolises the ephemeral nature of time and the rebirth of all things in the cosmos as per the Japanese culture. Featuring a transparent caseback bearing the architect’s signature, Ando expresses his vision of time through his modern design. Only 160 time-pieces have been produced for this selection.
Vivienne Westwood X Swatch
This iconic partnership between British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Swatch was formed back in 1992 and 1993. While the original launch of the POP Swatch collection took place in 1986, it was dubbed the ‘Orb’ once Westwood gave the watch a royal yet playful makeover.
Crafted with the legendary designer’s signature punk and new wave aesthetics, the watches look like a cross between a golden medal and a Pokémon ball, making it one of the most special and quirky brand collaborations of all time. The Pop Swatch Art Special ‘Orb’ debuted at her ‘Prêt-à-Porter’ or ready-to-wear show in Paris, France. With inventive packaging and design, the black silhouette of the watch was embellished with a gold, Victoria cross.
Westwood presented another iteration of her Pop Swatch series named ‘Putti’ in 1993 exuding an autumn-coloured theme and the dreamy quality of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
Patek Philippe X Virgil Abloh
It would be remiss of us not to mention this extremely rare and exclusive watch collaboration between Swiss luxury watch brand Patek Phillipe and the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, with only two jewel-embellished pieces ever produced. Before he passed away in 2021, Abloh was the art director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection along with having his own successful luxury streetwear brand, Off-White.
The rare Patek Phillipe X Virgil Abloh pieces are impossible to source, since Abloh and Canadian rapper Drake owned each of the two time-pieces created for this collaboration. If you listen to Drake and Future’s 2020 song “Life Is Good”, you can spot the lyrics dedicated to the rare green emerald encrusted Patek Philippe Nautilus watch owned by him. The line in the song goes “Virgil got that Patek on my wrist goin’ nuts.”
Gucci X Fnatic
The exclusive Gucci Dive watch was produced as part of a collaboration between the gaming league and eSports entertainment brand Fnatic and the luxury fashion house Gucci, designed to appeal to eSports fans. The limited edition watch brought together Fnatic’s logo and signature black and orange colouring with Gucci’s monogram. On the watch, the archival code mirrors both the initials of Guccio Gucci and the gaming slogan, ‘Good Game.’
Announced in 2020, the collection features a 40mm stainless steel case with a branded black rubber strap and hands and indices that are lit up by Super LumiNova accents to provide luminescence in the dark. Each timepiece’s caseback is engraved with ‘Fnatic’, a unique limited-edition number and has water resistance up to 660 feet deep.
‘The Gucci Dive Reloaded’ features a make that blends together the characteristics of a diver’s watch, as well as a gamer’s keyboard that lights up when in use. The Gucci Dive’s uniquely numbered pieces are given a contemporary edge with playful Gucci motifs such as bees and stars decorating the dial.
With only 100 pieces produced, this watch guarantees exclusivity and the potential to hold massive value as a collectible piece in the future.
Bremont X Jaguar
The two British companies have been working together since 2015 on various luxury watch collaborations. The most distinctive partnership is the Bremont Jaguar MKII BJ-11/WH celebrating the 60th anniversary of the iconic car Jaguar E-type, which was first launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961.
The classic design of the watch is inspired by the Lightweight E-Type Jaguar sports cars from the 1960s. With design details such as the blue perforated calf-leather strap reminding the wearer of vintage racing gloves, Bremont developed an exclusive limited edition box set in 2021. It includes two different coloured bezel chronographs, 60 pieces in green and 60 in grey, as well as the brand’s first ever rally timer.
Integrating two mechanical instruments ‒ a stopwatch with a tachymeter on the left and a clock with sub-seconds on the right ‒ the rally timer is highly functional and useful feature. Only 120 of these exclusive luxury watches have been produced so far.
Casio G-Shock X HondaJet
The Japanese watch company Casio G-Shock joined forces with the Honda Aircraft Company in 2020 and announced an exclusive collaboration that produced a special edition timepiece within the Casio GravityMaster aviation watch series: the Casio G-Shock X HondaJet.
Taking inspiration from the ultralight and vibrantly coloured 2003 executive-class private jet, HondaJet HA-420, the Casio Gravity Master watch was developed by the Honda Aircraft Company. It is based on the conceptual sketches drawn by Michimasa Fujino, aeronautical engineer, President and CEO of the company.
The small dial of the watch houses an aircraft-shaped indicator located below the 12 o’clock mark. With white and icy metallic blue touches and innovative design elements and textures emulating the actual Honda aircraft perfectly, the Casio Gravity Master is a striking timepiece coveted by the watch community around the world. The sturdy timepiece is also engraved with the Honda Jet logo at three locations and features a shock-resistant Carbon Core Guard technology.
(Main and featured image credit: Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona)