These Watch Collabs Don’t Exist (But I Wish They Did!)

by Mario C

Watch collaborations, once theory and ‘politics,’ now flood the landscape of the industry. But what makes a good watch collab? More importantly, what do I think that certain companies are missing out on?

Watch culture has changed significantly over the last few years, and now collaborations seem to be at the forefront of both the normal fashion world and our niche watch market. Everybody seems to want a piece of everyone else! But what makes a collaboration in the watch industry special? And what else could we be seeing out there? I’ve got a few ideas.

Oris: With Our Powers Combined…

 One of the most compelling arguments out there for a watch collaboration is through shared core values. The synergy between brand and collaborator is of utmost importance and can get easily confused if the collaboration just blends logos with no creative direction. When the two come together and share a common principle, that needs to be defined and purposeful, capturing the hearts, minds, and eventually the wallets of their respective audiences.

To me, no brand is better at conveying this than Oris. The independent Swiss brand takes pride in its environmental principles, having invested heavily in environmental sustainability and conservation projects, as well as celebrating its climate neutrality in 2021. It’s a value that has translated beautifully into their watches – Aside from their ever-popular Oris Aquis Date Upcycle, a more recent addition to the Oris lineup is their latest collaboration with Bracenet. Bracenet is a company that creates bracelets from upcycled fishing nets, and their core values line up serendipitously with Oris’. So it’s of no surprise to anyone that they decided to team up, thus producing a unique Oris Aquis sporting a kaleidoscopic dial made from the same material. It’s a noble joint vision that comes to fruition in a gorgeous timepiece and one that has the respect of not just myself, but the Oris, Bracenet, and environmental communities.

The Oris Aquis Date Bracenet.

This is exactly why I think they can do so much more! I think that, in the context of shared core values, Oris should look into doing a series of watches with the WWF. No, not the Attitude Era wrestling company, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The WWF is the mother of all environmental conservation foundations, having been founded in 1961 to combat the effects of humanity on animal and environmental welfare. Not to mention, the WWF is based in Switzerland, as is Oris, so geographically speaking they are about a two-hour drive away from being able to team up!

Yes, I searched it up – it takes about 2 hours and 6 minutes to drive from Holstein (Oris’ HQ) to Gland (WWF’s HQ). Switzerland is a small place.

It’s not that far-fetched of an idea, either – WWF has already collaborated with the likes of Meistersinger for their Edition Planet Earth watch, so the avenue is there for them to do it. This time around, Oris should shift their focus from the environment as a whole. Instead, I think Oris should focus on paying tribute to the beauty of some of the world’s endangered animals, spreading awareness whilst creating a respectful collaboration with an inspired design. For example, I would love to see an Oris Diver’s Sixty-Five Chrono with a colourway reminiscent of the Red Panda (Ailurus Fulgens), a ProPilot X bearing the patterns of the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus Plexippus), or perhaps a tribute to the funniest scientific name in history – an Oris Big Crown dedicated to the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla).

The Meistersinger x WWF Edition Planet Earth

Zenith: Gotta Go Fast

Though sharing core values is a feasible touchpoint for a collaborative effort, it’s not the only one. Sometimes, for a collaboration to be successful, you need to create a watch that doesn’t just appeal to the core values of the brand and collaborator but also appeals to the values of their respective audiences. Of course, the ideal scenario is that the values of brands and consumers align, but when that is not the case, it’s best to listen to what the audience is looking for.

Zenith has been a shining star (no pun intended) in that aspect, being able to draw in the subcultures of both parties with their timepieces. One that comes to mind is their collaboration with Aaron Rodgers in 2023, attracting the NFL community as much as the watch community where neither are seen together all that often. For us Australians, it may not mean too much, but Aaron Rodgers is a rather big deal for our American compatriots, having been a star quarterback in both the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets – both of which are good football teams, depending on who you ask (and of course, whichever one has Aaron Rodgers on the field).

The Zenith Chronomaster Sport Aaron Rodgers.

Zenith has effortlessly shown that they can reach two opposing audiences at the same time – a phrase easier said than done. So why not challenge themselves further? Following in the footsteps of their LVMH brother TAG Heuer, it would be fun to explore a collaboration within the videogame sphere. This is why I think that a Zenith and Sonic Collaboration would also be fun to explore. It’s not LVMH’s first rodeo with regards to whimsical videogame collaborations, although I think for a watch brand with the heritage and manufacturing calibre of Zenith it would be a fine line to tread, albeit a fun one.

The TAG Heuer x Super Mario Formula One collection.

In all seriousness though, a blue dial/blue bezel Chronomaster Sport with some sleek, futuristic design elements from the Sonic universe would be amazing. The swiftness of the ten-second chronograph coincides with the fast life the SEGA icon lives. Throw that into a brushed titanium case with the hedgehog’s silhouette on the case back, three different shades of blue on the sub-dial as well as a skeletonized version of the Sonic Ball as the chronograph seconds’ counterbalance, and you’re all set!

Sonic the Hedgehog’s silhouette logo. Credit: Game Informer.

You could even do a few different variations based on what hedgehog you’re revolving the design around – the Zenith ‘Knuckles’ and ‘Tails’ could even be different models outside the Chronomaster (Defy for Knuckles, Pilot for Tails).

Swatch: For The Love of Hype

In this new watch world, however, a new element has entered into the fray: hype. People love to get excited about the next big thing, and capitalising on building and maintaining hype for a new release has very quickly become one of the most important contributing factors to any watch brand’s success. Building hype is arguably the best way to promote a collaboration timepiece, but to utilise it is to play with fire: Do it right, and a timepiece might sell out the minute it’s on the market. Do it wrong, and people will abandon the bandwagon as fast as they get on.

No one understands the former more than Swatch. Ever the masters of collaborative watches, they have perfected the art of building hype and promoting accessibility through their collaborations. Recently, they have begun to collaborate within their own Swatch Group, having released models such as the MoonSwatch and the Scuba Fifty Fathoms to meteoric levels of acclaim. Most timepieces and brands within the Swatch Group are not particularly accessible to younger and less economically inclined people – myself included – so the prospect of owning an ‘Omega Speedmaster’ in a crazy colour at a fraction of the price is something that will reach a wide audience. So imagine the buzz that could come out of a collaboration between Swatch and McDonald’s.

Both McDonald’s and Swatch are not strangers to highly unusual collaborations.

Believe it or not, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds! The Golden Arches’ involvement in the collab game is as storied as Swatch’s, having collaborated with a plethora of popular entities – Think Travis ScottKerwin Frost and even Crocs. It would be a walk in the park for a company as audacious as Swatch to create playful and vibrant designs that capture the essence of both brands, perhaps evoking nostalgia through the use of iconic logos or characters like Grimace, the Hamburglar, or my personal favourite Mac Tonight (see the video clip below!). Synergising Swatch’s and McDonald’s business acumen and global appeal could yield a timepiece that doesn’t just tell time for cheap but could also generate a massive level of appreciation and hype beyond the watch world itself.

Final Thoughts        

So, in the ever-evolving landscape of watch collaborations, what makes a good collaboration idea great? Collaborations in the watch world have to go beyond contract signing and logo blending and should access the untapped potential for innovative, purposeful and exciting collaborations in the industry. As exemplified by Oris, Zenith, and Swatch, the keys to a successful collaboration lie in the sharing of core values, the diversification of audiences, and mastering the art of building a universal appeal. However, the path to creating a special collaboration timepiece is not linear, and I highly encourage all watch companies to engage with communities outside of ours. After all, while watchmaking is always special, it’s the people who keep it going. Reaching beyond the traditional boundaries of the industry allows for the infusion of fresh perspectives, creativity, and a broader appreciation for the art of horology.

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