Pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial mus­cle to the arts is a way for watch brands to give back, up­hold their val­ues, and even spur cre­ativ­ity from within.

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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.

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