It’s all coming up daisies for Hublot, as its latest artistic collaboration merges technological leaps with some good old-fashioned playfulness – the latest in a series of releases with famed Japanese Superflat pioneer Takashi Murakami
It’s only been three years since Takashi Murakami’s first joyful collaboration with Hublot – the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black launched in January 2021 and, while at the time it felt like a revelation, with hindsight it was a very subdued beginning to what would prove to be a partnership for the horological ages. A year later, in January 2022, the Sapphire Rainbow burst on to the scene, and since then the daisy-faced hits have just kept coming. The Black Ceramic Rainbow caused a stir with only 13 being produced, and only being available for purchase by the prescient buyers of Hublot/Murakami NFTs at Geneva’s Watches & Wonders 2023. Then came the revolutionary MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon unique piece produced for the high-end Only One charity watch auction – but as the sale has been postponed that colourful piece of wrist candy remains in limbo. But now, finally, with the launch of the MP-15 Floral Sapphire, fans of Murakami’s famed Superflat movement have more than one chance at getting their hands on this unique central tourbillon timepiece. It all goes hand-in-hand with Hublot’s boundary-pushing and collaborative philosophy – whether pairing rubber with fine gold, or a controversial Japanese artist with the world of haute horlogerie, Hublot sees possibilities where others would see nothing but problems. MOJEH met with both Murakami and Hublot’s CEO Ricardo Guadalupe to learn more about their match made in heaven, and their unmistakeable watches – proudly made in Switzerland.
MOJEH: Bringing the ‘art of fusion’ to a new level, this new timepiece fuses case, movement and dial to create something truly unique. How did the design process for this timepiece look?
Ricardo Guadalupe: The design process took over a year from the concept to the finished product. Our teams worked hand in hand with Murakami to make sure we could realise the project in a way that represented his vision and allowed us to showcase the high level of the manufacture, both in our mastery of materials and movements with a unique central tourbillon. In terms of creating the watch itself, this was also a highly complex and time-consuming process. The unique shape of the case, which is entirely made of sapphire, was a challenge in and of itself. The flower petals are very demanding, with the machining process taking about 185 hours and the polishing around 176 hours. It takes a very specific know-how to polish this very complex shape, all while respecting the exact curves of the petals. To this, we have to add of course the time it takes for our high complications watchmakers to build the central tourbillon and place it into the dial.
The overriding design choice for this timepiece is how transparency is featured. What does this symbolise and express?
RG: This is now our fifth watch with Murakami, the previous editions were all unique in their own way but all kept the artist’s iconic smiling flower. In previous editions, the flower was either all black or rainbow. This time, it takes on a completely clear sapphire look – a change from what we had done previously. We wanted to take this iconic symbol and interpret it to show the high skill of the manufacture: a central tourbillon and a sapphire case. This design choice wasn’t obvious, as maintaining a perfect transparency in the sapphire case is a very complex task. Nonetheless, we’ve achieved it and the result is very striking. It is a true fusion between Murakami’s art and the manufacture’s savoir faire.
Takashi Murakami: I have a doctorate degree in Japanese traditional paintings, and the recurring theme of this style is snow, moon and flowers or flowers, birds and moon. It’s always natural elements and never any human beings. That’s why I wanted to explore this, and if I was to make it likable to the West, I would need to make a human being the protagonist of the artwork. So that’s why I added a face to the flower, that is my character, a flower but with a human element to it. This collaboration, honestly, is a dream come true for me, my dream watch.
The central Hublot-manufactured MP-15 flying tourbillon has pride of place. Why was it important for this complication to take centre stage, drawing the eye through the transparency all around it?
RG: The central tourbillon was a complication that was especially requested by Murakami. And at Hublot we like challenges, so we wanted to find a way to showcase it in the most unique and visually impressive way. This was made possible with sapphire, which completely magnifies the effect thanks to its transparency. It is both geometric and complex, with a unique play on light made possible through the sapphire. The movement seems to be floating, as if suspended in the case.
There is obviously a thirst for Hublot/Murakami pieces, as they keep on coming – can you let us in on the target audience for these timepieces? What does the buyer profile tend to look like?
RG: These pieces are incredibly collectible. We’ve seen this with all our editions with Murakami. He is an artist of his time, with an incredibly unique style and a very loyal base of collectors. His influence on modern art and on pop culture is iconic, and by collaborating with him we can create this desirability. Clients that buy these watches are very well versed in watchmaking and are often big collectors. They are also important clients of Hublot and have a special connection to the brand. They are fans of Murakami, who also loves Hublot.
Hublot has partnered with many artists, sportspeople and others in the public eye over the years – indeed, these partnerships seem to be central to Hublot’s philosophy. But with Murakami, its’s somehow different. The partnership seems to be very solid and we have seen this with timepiece after timepiece emerging. What has made this partnership particularly special for Hublot?
RG: It’s a very special partnership, and a big part of this is because of Murakami’s relationship with Hublot and a special friendship we have developed over the years. For Hublot, it is an honour to be working with such a creative talent, and we value this collaboration. When Murakami visited the manufacture for the first time, he was very impressed with the process we have here at Hublot. I think the reason why the partnership is also very successful is because Murakami also understands the brand and there is a mutual affinity.
TM: I came to the Hublot factory in January 2019, and it was just so impressive. The quality, the potential… Then I met Ricardo with Miwa [Sakai, Hublot’s Asia Pacific regional president] and we were able to accept the conditions of a partnership. So that was about four years ago, and everything was done step by step because we wanted to collaborate on very complex projects. Today we’re very excited to launch a new product which shows the amazing quality of this partnership. It’s a dream come true! It’s a creative dream come true, and that’s a fact. There’s this ‘zero gravity’ feeling in the watch, it feels like magic. Discover the collaboration