In the fashion world, collaborations have become commonplace. Partnerships between retailers like Uniqlo and cutting-edge designers like Marni are a great way to rejuvenate both brands. Watchmakers have been a little leerier about sharing the spotlight. But when they do share their signatures, it’s always a cause for celebration. Some watch collaborations have even become pop cultural moments. Here are five of the most influential and innovative partnerships.
Timex x Mickey Mouse
In 1932, four years into the Great Depression, the Waterbury Clock Company in Connecticut was struggling financially. Across the continent, Walt Disney’s 10-year-old animation studio was also floundering. And in Kansas City, almost smack dab between the two businesses, an advertising man named Herman ‘Kay’ Kamen came up with a plan that would save them all.
Disney hired Kamen to license its Mickey Mouse character to Waterbury who then came up with the genius idea to animate its wrist and pocket watches by turning the hour and minute hands into Mickey’s arms. The sales of the timepieces helped both brands flourish with Disney becoming a media megalith and Waterbury evolving into Timex.
Mickey Mouse now appears on many watch faces through an array of watch collaborations. Our modern favourites include the Smiling Disney Gerald Genta Arena Retrograde and the Tee Time Mickey Citizen Eco-Drive.
IWC x Porsche Design
Auto racing and timepieces have an obvious connection because you need chronographs and stop-watches to time laps. But the partnership between IWC and Porsche Design moved the needle on watch collaborations.
In 1978, IWC allied with Ferdinand A. Porsche— an industrial designer and son of the founder of Porsche automobiles. F.A. Made his reputation in 1963 when he created the Porsche 911.
Skip ahead a few years, F.A. Has left the family business and set out his own shingle, Porsche Design Studio. He has an idea for a compass watch — a timepiece that can measure time and distance. Using Porsche’s knowledge of unconventional materials and IWC’s mechanical savoir-faire, the all-black reference 3510 Kompassuhr was born. You can still find this ground-breaking watch on the secondary market.
Patek Phillipe x Tiffany
This partnership was one of the watch collaborations that broke the internet! In 2021, Patek Phillipe announced that it was discontinuing its most famous model —the Nautilus 5711— it would have one last incarnation in partnership with retailers Tiffany & Co.
Limited to only 170 examples, this double signed watch was also notable for its turquoise blue dial, and double branded dial. It was pure unobtanium and was offered only to preferred customers (like Jay-Z, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Prince Joaan of Qatar) with one exception: one piece was sold at auction by Phillips Auction House for $ $6.5 million, with the funds being donated to The Nature Conservancy. The lasting influence of this timepiece is still being felt today: earlier this month, New York-based creative studio Ceeze just released a new Tiffany Nautilus 5711-inspired Air Jordan 1.
Omega x Swatch “Moonswatch”
Cheap and cheerful watchmaker Swatch has been a leader in crossover watch collaborations since its conception. Who can forget highly collectable editions designed by Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst, and Keith Haring?
The Swatch Group also owns Omega, a luxury watchmaker. Someone, somewhere in the family came up with the brilliant idea to create 11 Swatchified, bioceramic versions of Omega’s legendary chronograph, the Speedmaster. Inspired by the Speedy’s association with the American Space Program, each iteration has a unique colour or design based on the nine planets of our solar system, earth’s moon, and the sun. Sold only in boutiques, this collection had fans of both brands (and resellers) lining up overnight. The demand for this under $500 take on a five-figure plus Speedmaster has also increased brand recognition in a generation that grew up keeping track of time on its phones. It’s a marketing miracle!
Audemars Piguet x Marvel Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon
Nobody was expecting Audemars Piguet to enter the Marvel Multiverse. But in 2021, the Haute horology house introduced the Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon. AP smartly recognized that there are a lot of crossovers between watch and comic book fans (collectors gotta collect), making watch collaborations a natural fit. Limited to just 250 pieces, the timepiece quickly sold out, finding its way to real-life superheroes like LeBron James and Serena Williams.
The look of the Black Panther Royal Oak is inspired by the Black Panther’s cutting-edge suit; the sandblasted titanium case presents a textured look with satin-brushed and polished titanium inserts. The main focus of this watch is the dial, which presents a hand-painted rendition of the Black Panther, comprised of white gold. While the suit’s texture has been laser sculpted, hand-painted rendition of the Black Panther. For watch nerds, it also features a tourbillon—one of watchmaking’s rarest complications.