London tattoo artist Maxime Büchi takes the aesthetics and the extremes of his art to the world of watchmaking in a cool collaboration with Hublot

The popularity of tattoos as fashion statements has led tattoo artists and their customers on a constant search for new designs. Pocket watch motifs, for instance, are one of the hottest trends in skin art.

Swiss watch brand Hublot has reversed the idea, with a limited edition watch that incorporates dramatic designs by the London-based tattoo artist Maxime Büchi, whose works adorn the skin of high profile celebrities such as Kanye West, FKA Twigs, Adam Lambert of Queen and Keith Flint of The Prodigy.

Hublot is also known for its high-profile collaborations with pop culture icons, as well as Hollywood A-listers and creative tastemakers like Büchi. A design maverick, he founded the London-based Sang Bleu tattoo studio in 2006, an interdisciplinary art project where the fields of fashion, fine art, publishing, photography and tattoo art converge.

Within the framework of Hublot’s “Art of Fusion” concept, the artist and the watch brand worked together to create an innovative timepiece, the Big Bang Sang Bleu.

A completely redesigned version of the brand’s Big Bang Unico, the watch, with its sharply beveled lines and hexagonal bezel, presents an eye-catching geometric look, a key aesthetic in the tattoo art of Büchi. No hands appear on the dial–instead the superposition of three octagonal-shaped discs indicates time. Launched in 2016, Big Bang Sang Bleu is limited to just 200 pieces.

In our interview, the multidisciplinary wunderkind, who’ll be attending this year’s Art Basel and making a guest appearance at the Hublot-sponsored Hong Kong Tatler x The Artling art party at The Murray on March 28, talks about how timing and tattooing go hand in hand.

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What attracted you to collaborate with Hublot?

London, where I grew up, has an omnipresent watch culture; I started watch collecting in my mid-20s. I always thought it would be amazing to design a watch, so when Hublot approached me I didn’t have to think for a single second. I had been approached by other brands but it’s very important to me that any collaboration is at the highest possible level, so for me Hublot was a no-brainer.

What was the brief from Hublot?

We started from a simple conversation—Hublot knew a little bit about me, that I worked with Kanye West and a couple of big names, though they didn’t know the full scope of my work. At first they approached me to be a brand ambassador but after I showed them my work, not only the tattooing but my fashion and graphic designs, they instantly wanted to see how my aesthetics could be applied to designing a watch.

How did you apply your multidisciplinary background to the design of the Big Bang Sang Bleu?

I treated the watch almost as I treat the human body, as something that has volume, function and movement. I tried to reveal pre-existing structures within the physical presence of the watch and the inherent DNA structure of the Big Bang. It was a process that I apply to other things as well—to creating a tattoo, a garment, a typeface or a page layout.

In terms of the various elements of the design, what was the inspiration?

The inspiration is the same in all my work—a mix of signs and symbols with mystical or spiritual references ranging from geometry to Buddhism. It’s not like I chose a theme and worked around it. The idea was really to transpose my design process to a watch.

See also: How To Choose Your First Tattoo

Describe your watch-making process, from idea to prototype.

In my sketches I explored a lot of different options, from tattoo designs to more extreme and experimental stuff. Hublot told me, ‘Hey, we want to go for that! We’re interested to see if we can make extreme stuff work.’ From there onwards it was a very efficient, quick and pleasant process, as we were both exactly aligned on the direction.

How did you feel when you actually saw the watch?

Ah, it was amazing! Maybe the only thing better was seeing my kids born.

Who buys your watch?

When it comes to a project like this, I try to consider myself as the target group, so anyone who is into avant-garde experimental design. The target group is not defined by gender, age or nationality; in fact, it completely overrides those categories.

These people are connected or tuned into the global world of design and culture and want to see how far the boundaries can be pushed. They like high-end watches, high fashion and fine arts. In other words, they are the same people who come to my studio for tattoos.

Maxime will be in Hong Kong for the Hublot-sponsored Hong Kong Tatler x The Artling art party at The Murray on March 28, 2018. Be sure to follow us @hongkongtatler on Facebook and Instagram for live updates from from the exclusive, by-invitation-only party.

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