As art collaborations go, Swatch and Damien Hirst has been a long time coming. An artist with a canny knack for finding the right moment, Hirst has tapped into the 90th anniversary of one of the most enduring pop icons of our time. Who better to add to the prestigious line of Mickey Mouse watches than Hirst? Even at first glance, it is, undoubtedly, an instant classic.

When Swatch’s Carlo Giordanetti launched the Swiss watch brand’s collaboration with artist Ian Davenport at last year’s Venice Biennale, the creative director also made a visit to the breathtaking Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable exhibition, by fellow YBA artist Hirst. The extravagant showcase of 190 works of art – presented as found relics and artefacts amassed by the fictitious 1st century AD freed slave Cif Amotan II ­­– featured a host of seemingly lost treasures, like the shield of Achilles, the skull of a cyclops, the Medusa’s head, and a bronze sculpture of Mickey Mouse, appearing as if covered in coral and ancient algae.

‘The story of our latest collaboration was born from that visit,’ Giordanetti says of Swatch’s newly launched Art Specials. Mickey first made an appearance as a Walt Disney Company mascot in Steamboat Willie in November 1928, and has been reimagined by artists including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg.

Hirst has referenced Mickey across his artworks, from his colourful Beautiful Mickey Mouse Painting (2012-2013), part of Hirst’s colourful machine-made Spin Paintings, to 2012’s Mickey, which sees the mouse’s black, white red and yellow form reduced to a series of minimalist graphic dots.

‘The idea of our Art Specials collaborations is that artists have a blank canvas to make the watch their own,’ Giordanetti says. Swatch’s two designs feature a graphic figuration of Mickey Mouse on their dials. Their accompanying watch straps are designed in his signature colours. ‘We work with artists who have their work in museums and private collections. It’s incredible that you can now wear a piece of Hirst’s art.’

‘In my opinion, Mickey Mouse has a bit of a Swiss side,’ laughs Giordanetti of the watchmaker’s affinity for the Disney character. ‘He’s always on time and always solving a problem. Now, we’ve reinterpreted his personality with a new Swatch twist.’ §