PATRON OF THE ARTS
Providing financial muscle to the arts is a way for watch brands to give back, uphold their values, and even spur creativity from within.
Watch brands that are lending their weight to the arts
It is frequently said that thinking outside the box is the best way to take an idea to the next level. For watchmakers, drawing inspiration from beyond the realm of watchmaking often proves fruitful. Creative disciplines like art, culture and design, for instance, stimulate new thoughts, and inspire one to challenge the status quo and view the familiar from new perspectives.
This is the raison d’etre behind Montblanc’s considerable support for the arts – particularly in the visual and performing fields – through the Montblanc Cultural Foundation. Established in 1992, it has spawned various initiatives including the Montblanc Young Directors Project, which celebrates the work of outstanding young theatre directors each year at the Salzburg Festival; the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award, given to individuals noted for devoting their time and assets to supporting culture; and the Cutting Edge Art Collection, which commissions international artists to create their own interpretations of the Montblanc star. At SIHH 2013, a selection of works from the collection was shown for the first time outside the company.
“Given that we have over 100 years of heritage based on the culture of writing, engaging with art and culture inspires and stimulates us creatively,” says Ingrid RoosenTrinks, Montblanc’s director PR international and cultural affairs. “What started as a few small steps is now a well-established and thriving part of our corporate culture.”
Officine Panerai, Montblanc’s sister company in Richemont, recently took a stab at cultural sponsorship, funding the O’Clock Time Design, Design Time exhibition at the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing. The showcase, held for a month in March 2013, was a showcase of art, photography and cinema, all expressing the relationship between time and design.
Bigwigs from the global art and design scene – Patricia Urquiola, Damien Hirst, Marcel Wanders and Maarten Baas – presented pieces that communicated irony, poetry and critique. In spite of the successful partnership, Officine Panerai’s CEO Angelo Bonati makes no bones about his company’s aims, saying: “Panerai’s business is making watches and we’d rather stick to what we know best. We are just proud to be able to contribute in a cultural capacity.”
Independent brands, too, are involved in arts patronage. Family-owned Raymond Weil has been actively supporting music since its founding in 1976. “Raymond Weil’s first source of inspiration is the Swiss watchmaking tradition where the brand has its roots. But inspiration comes also from arts, most notably from music,” explains Elie Bernheim, the firm’s marketing director.
For the past three years, Raymond Weil has pledged support for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to restoring instrumental music education programmes in American public schools. In June 2013, it signed a partnership with Wired, a live music platform that supports emerging music talent. “Wired, for us, reflects possibly the most exciting time in new artists’ careers, when they are beginning to gain recognition for their worth but are working incredibly hard to really establish themselves. We are just pleased that we will be able to assist them on their journey,” says Bernheim.
Independent watchmaker Maximilian Busser, renowned for his avant-garde horological creations under the MB&F brand, is equally regarded for his efforts in championing mechanical artists. He does so by offering them an exhibition space and retail platform at his M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva.
“Since creating MB&F eight years ago, I’ve come to a point where it’s time to give back,” says Busser. “I built MB&F and my life on what my father painstakingly tried to teach me: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Helping artists and creators is just one way of abiding by this philosophy.”
Busser’s frequent travels have enabled him to encounter talented artists who would have otherwise limited scope for showcasing their works. Besides organising bi-monthly exhibitions, Busser and his team are busy launching a M.A.D. Gallery in Taipei in 2014 and another in Dubai after that. “That will allow us to rotate more efficiently our pieces of art, and give them visibility suited to their uniqueness and craftsmanship,” he says.