These New Swatches Are Actual Wearable Art

Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire’s weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.

When watch fiends talk about “wearable art,” there’s a chance what they’re referring to is one of those feats of horological wizardry dreamed up in some Alpine workshop and available for consumption by only the smallest sliver of the one percent. Or they might be talking about a Swatch. The fun, funky—and affordable—megabrand has been playing nice with the art world for almost as long as it’s been in existence.

There was, of course, the famous Keith Haring collaboration in 1986. And the one that started it all, with Kiki Picasso, the year before that. Since those first fortuitous team-ups, Swatch has kept the party going, working with talents like Damien Hirst and, in a collection released just last week, the team at Paris’s famed Centre Pompidou. More than just the inspiration for the Nike Air Max 1 (though it is indeed that, too), the Centre Pompidou houses the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. As such, the collection includes more masterpieces than there’s room to mention here, but among them are works by Robert Delaunay, Piet Mondrian, Frida Khalo, Vassily Kandinksy, and Amedeo Modigliani.

‘Eiffel Tower’ by Robert Delaunay 34mm Gent Watch

Swatch x Centre Pompidou swatch.com

$85.00

Paintings by those five artists are featured front and center in the new Swatch x Centre Pompidou collection. Delaunay’s wheels of color cover the dial and band of the 34mm Gent. Mondrian’s stark black and white planes, punctuated by red and blue, comprise the band of a 41mm New Gent. Khalo’s face, Kandinsky’s fantastical creatures, and Modigliani’s sculptural portraiture show up on three other watches. And for good measure and an extra nod to Paris, another Delaunay—one of his many, many renderings of the Eiffel Tower—shows up on a sixth offering.

‘Red, White and Blue’ by Piet Mondrian 41mm New Gent Watch

Swatch x Centre Pompidou swatch.com

$105.00

Which one appeals to you will have a whole lot to do with which artists you most appreciate. These aren’t loosely “inspired-by” watches, but rather direct translations of the actual work into the vernacular of watches. In some instances, thanks to the placement of the image on the watch itself, the original painting, or both, that means a relatively understated wearing experience. (Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower and Kandinsy’s “Blue Sky” stand as solid examples.) With others—like Khalo, Mondrian, and Modigliani—you get a full dose of the artist right there on your wrist.

‘Blue Sky’ by Vassily Kandinsky 41mm New Gent Watch

Swatch x Centre Pompidou swatch.com

$105.00

Maybe you like one approach or the other better. Or maybe, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in this, you like them both, depending on your mood. Well, the good news is, this is Swatch; you can stock up on a few and grab whichever your heart desires when the mood strikes. But you won’t be able to do that if your favorites sell out before you click the buy button, so it’s probably a good idea to head over to Swatch’s website now and start shopping. Hey, it’s a lot quicker than catching the next flight to Paris.

‘The Frame’ by Frida Khalo 41mm New Gent Watch

Swatch x Centre Pompidou swatch.com

$105.00

‘Portrait of Dédie’ by Amedeo Modigliani 34mm Gent Watch

Swatch x Centre Pompidou swatch.com

$85.00

‘Carousel’ by Robert Delaunay 34mm Gent Watch

Swatch x Centre Pompidou swatch.com

$85.00

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