Right from the start, Swatch connected with art. Like the pop art first seen in the 1960s, Swatch watches were inspired by popular culture, and Swatch itself soon became a canvas for world famous artists—painters, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers. It isn’t the medium that counts, it’s the act of making something different, the creative impulse and its expression. The first artist to collaborate with Swatch was Kiki Picasso in 1984, less than a year after the first Swatch watches made their appearance. American painter Keith Haring created a number of prototypes in the mid-1980s, and four Swatch watches with Haring’s designs were produced and launched in the United States, among them Milles Pattes (1986). The relationship between Swatch and art has since produced a fascinating series of creative collaborations between Swatch and artists from a broad range of disciplines.
Among the many memorable works designed for “the world’s smallest canvas” are Swatch watches by Alfred Hofkunst, Jean-Michel Folon, Sam Francis, Mimmo Paladino, Mimmo Rotella, Nam June Paik, Not Vital, Akira Kurosawa, Spike Lee, Renzo Piano, and Moby, to name only a handful. An integral part of each Swatch Art Special edition is the packaging, frequently as entertaining and inventive as the watches themselves.
The relationship between Swatch and art took on a new dimension with the partnership agreement between Swatch and The 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Vene-zia, presented to the press in Venice in June, 2011 prior to the opening of the world’s most prestigious contemporary art show. Swatch will serve again as main partner in support of contemporary art at the 2013 editon of La Biennale di Venezia.
Among the artists whose work has enriched the story of Swatch and Art are those whose creativity is often seen first on the catwalks and runways of the world’s coolest cities, from Paris and Milan to London, Tokyo and Shanghai. Swatch has worked closely with leading designers to create Swatch Specials and new collections. Among the most well received work for Swatch have been timepieces designed by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, David LaChapelle, Cassette Playa and Jeremy Scott. Swatch has also celebrated the art of haute couture in a fruitful collaboration with high-end Swiss fabric makers Jakob Schlaepfer, and through new work by China’s Uma Wang.