Hublot and Takashi Murakami push the boundaries of watch design

The Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire is a conceptual and technical triumph

flower watch, Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire
Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire
(Image credit: Hublot)

Hublot’s ‘Art of Fusion’ tagline is used to inform and explain almost everything the watch brand does, from researching new materials and designing new watches right through to marketing. According to Hublot’s globe-trotting CEO, Riccardo Guadalupe: ‘It’s what makes us different from any traditional Swiss watch brand and, as a young brand, we need to be able to come out with unique and different products. Fusion, how we connect innovation and tradition is how we do that.’

Sometimes that means developing new ways to machine sapphire, sometimes it’s new movements and sometimes it’s genius marketing moves like the Hublot referee boards flashed up to audiences of hundreds of millions at the FIFA World Cup final. The collaboration with Takashi Murakami, however, is next level.

Murakami is the master of blurred boundaries and shattered limits from his early mixing up of Manga with more traditional techniques through the development of his ‘Superflat’ theory (an idea that covers both the 2D aspect of Japanese art and factory-produced art that ranges from phone rings and stickers to ‘Monogramouflage’ bags for Louis Vuitton via Crocs). He’s created a studio/gallery set-up, Kaikai Kiki, that handles production in the way that Science does for Damien Hirst, but also handles licensing, events and represents other artists as well. And tucked away in Murakami’s back catalogue are watch collaborations with Casio and the independent Japanese maker, Hajime Asaoka (founder of Kurono, whose timepieces feature among our pick of minimalist watches).

Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire

watch with clear, flower-shaped dial by Hublot and Takashi Murakami

The new watch is the latest in a series of watch collaborations by Hublot and Takashi Murakami

(Image credit: Hublot)

Speaking at the launch of his latest, and most spectacular, Hublot watch collaboration (previous joint projects include 2023’s one-off Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Only Watch, and a watch and NFT collaboration, among others), Murakami recounted how the partnership with Hublot came about and what he aimed to achieve. ‘The first time [I was asked], I said no, because I didn’t want to collaborate and have to produce a kind of “cover” design. That would have been very boring to me. So when Miwa [Sakai, Hublot president Asia Pacific Region] asked me, she was able to guarantee that I was free to do whatever I wanted. I came to the Hublot factory in January 2019; it was just so impressive, the quality, the potential… I love visiting factories! When I first started working with Louis Vuitton, I was invited to the factory and it’s such an incredible environment, I love the smell, the employees, the system. I wanted to express how the world is not 4D but a multiverse. I’m a physics geek – I see time as not linear but multifaceted.’

Murakami also revealed that the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire is the realisation of the first idea he had for the project but is only released now because its technical demands took so long to meet. One area where Hublot is the undoubted leader in the industry is in machining sapphire, a material that’s notoriously difficult to work with, and figuring out how to render the curves of the petals, each being incredibly deep. Alongside that work, Hublot had to develop an entirely new movement with a central tourbillon that sits above the hour and minute hands.

As Murakami intended, the watch works on multiple levels, as an expression of space-time, of craft ingenuity, and of sculpture. Pure fusion.

James Gurney has written on watches for over 25 years, founding QP Magazine in 2003, the UK’s first home-grown watch title. In 2009, he initiated SalonQP, one of the first watch fairs to focus on the end-consumer, and is regarded as a leading horological voice contributing to news and magazine titles across the globe.