In 2022, when Mark Ronson, the Grammy- and Oscar-winning D.J., songwriter and super-producer, grew to become a model ambassador for the Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet (A.P.), there was a component of kismet to the partnership.
“I find out about A.P. by means of music,” Mr. Ronson recalled final month on a telephone name from his house in New York Metropolis. “I most likely heard the identify Audemars Piguet out loud, for the primary time, with the right pronunciation, in a Jay-Z track.”
Then, about 15 years in the past, Mr. Ronson glimpsed a Eighties gold Royal Oak, the watchmaker’s flagship mannequin, on the wrist of “someone in a cool bar in Paris,” the place he was hanging out with the French digital duo Daft Punk. “I needed to observe it down,” he stated.
In July, the multi-hyphenate entertainer hit a excessive notice in his relationship with the model when, sporting a 1982 gold Royal Oak from his private assortment, he carried out at a closing-night live performance that he had curated on A.P.’s behalf on the Montreux Jazz Competition in Switzerland. Since 2019, the watchmaker has been a worldwide companion of the occasion, set on the shores of Lake Geneva, however its involvement with the pageant dates to 2010, when it started supporting the digitization of the occasion’s huge sound archives.
Over the previous 5 years or so, a rising variety of watchmakers, desperate to develop their very own reputations within the music scene and amplify their connections with youthful customers, have adopted the watch model’s lead — instantly into the recording studio. Seduced by the cool issue of working with high musical expertise, in addition to the social media hype such partnerships are likely to generate, luxurious manufacturers are actually focusing their sources on cultural tastemakers with sufficient sway to persuade new audiences to think about mechanical timepieces.
In 2021, for instance, Hublot launched an version of the Large Bang, its signature timepiece, encased in iridescent titanium and created in collaboration with the French music producer DJ Snake (actual identify: William Sami Étienne Grigahcine). Three years earlier, Hublot invited the D.J. to preside over the decks on the closing celebration for the FIFA World Cup in Russia. (The model has served as the World Cup’s official timekeeper since 2010.)
“Music is so highly effective — it all the time brings folks collectively,” Ricardo Guadalupe, Hublot’s chief govt, wrote in an e mail. “By partnering with a gifted artist like DJ Snake, we additionally communicate to an entire neighborhood that’s obsessed with music and having a superb time. It’s a life-style that we’re genuinely linked to.”
Luxurious manufacturers nonetheless companion with classical pianists, world-class symphonies or the legends of opera — Rolex, for instance, has relationships that embody the conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the pianist Yuja Wang. However status manufacturers are additionally seeking to performers of up to date music, from hip-hop to digital dance music.
“These days, we affiliate dance music with luxurious settings: Mykonos, Ibiza, Lisbon,” Nikita Choraria, inventive director of the London-based watch customizer Professional Hunter and a self-described “home lady,” stated in a latest telephone name from Portugal’s capital metropolis, the place she was on trip.
That helps clarify why, in early July, Professional Hunter launched its fifth collaboration: a custom-made Rolex Submariner with a matte black DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating, made for the Dutch report label Armada Music.
Armada, based in 2003 by the D.J. Armin van Buuren and his enterprise companions Maykel Piron and David Lewis, had been in search of a technique to mark its twentieth anniversary. The watch, restricted to 10 items, eight of which bought earlier than its launch, options accent particulars within the label’s signature blue in addition to its emblem on the sweeping seconds hand.
Ms. Choraria defined the partnership — which took place as a result of Mr. Piron, a watch collector and shopper of Professional Hunter, noticed a collaborative mannequin that the corporate had made with the Dutch denims model Denham — as a mirrored image of the altering face of luxurious.
“Our demographic was my father’s era, and now I see so many younger folks coming to us for watches,” Ms. Choraria stated. “The crypto lottery winners, an enormous bunch of tech folks and girls. There’s been an enormous shift within the demographic of luxurious.
“On the identical time, Louis Vuitton began collaborating with rappers and skater manufacturers,” she added. “It’s additionally when collaborations began gaining popularity with uber-luxury manufacturers and stylish eclectic manufacturers, all aiming for a youthful market.”
Audemars Piguet was forward of the pack. Led by François-Henry Bennahmias, its brash chief govt, the model started cultivating friendships inside the hip-hop scene greater than 20 years in the past, when Mr. Bennahmias was nonetheless the managing director of its North American division. (A few yr in the past, he introduced that, after a decade as chief govt, he would go away the corporate on the finish of 2023.).
“I obtained the possibility to fulfill Jay-Z in 2001 by means of a typical buddy, and we linked instantly,” Mr. Bennahmias stated in a latest voice memo he offered in response to questions. “I noticed that hip-hop may turn into what jazz was within the ’20s. It began within the African American world and have become mainstream.”
In 2005, lengthy earlier than luxurious collaborations grew to become ubiquitous, the watch model launched the Royal Oak Offshore Jay-Z tenth Anniversary Restricted Version. Codesigned with the hip-hop mogul to mark his decade within the music trade, the mannequin was marketed in an version of 100 items, together with 20 in platinum, at $69,500. Every watch got here with a specifically engraved Apple iPod loaded with Jay-Z’s albums.
In 2010, the model launched one other collaborative mannequin, this time with the megaproducer Quincy Jones.
A brand new mannequin, launched in early July, bolstered Audemars Piguet’s dedication to what Mr. Bennahmias referred to as “music as an entire.” The Royal Oak Offshore Music Version is a black ceramic 37-millimeter model of a 2022 timepiece that includes a dial with a multicolor mosaic that appears like an equalizer, knurled-texture studs paying homage to jack plugs and crown guards impressed by the audio faders on mixing consoles.
In recent times, extra watchmakers have sought to capitalize on hip-hop’s cultural cachet.
In 2019, Richard Mille solidified its friendship with the rapper, songwriter and music producer (and now Louis Vuitton males’s inventive director) Pharrell Williams, a longtime fan of its watches, with the RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams. The $969,000 restricted version piece options an imaginary panorama of Mars and a view of Earth, each rendered in enamel, inside the define of an astronaut’s helmet in titanium.
In an e mail, a spokeswoman for Richard Mille stated timepieces designed with and for musicians have been inherently totally different from these designed for athletes (akin to Rafael Nadal). For instance, she stated, the scale, weight and ergonomic constraints of the RM 52-05’s astronaut helmet design would rule it out for a sports activities mannequin.
A quote from Mr. Williams on Richard Mille’s website sheds additional mild on the synergies between watchmaking and music: “What Richard does is construct one thing that permits you to take the metric of what time appears to be like like. That’s a wizard-level artwork kind. I’m a producer, I understand how to face subsequent to the man, even on this on the spot: Richard is the man. I do know baselines and chords and harmonies. That’s it. I’m harmonizing with him.”
Zenith, too, acknowledged the worth of an affiliation with modern music. In 2020, the model named the British home and techno D.J. Carl Cox as a worldwide buddy of the model.
“We met in London in a restaurant in 2019,” Julien Tornare, the model’s chief govt, recalled. “The thought was to get somebody from the music world. We weren’t certain if we wished to go for a singer or a musician or a D.J. It’s actually concerning the persona.
“Carl shared with me the story of his life,” Mr. Tornare added. “He wasn’t coming from a very rich household and needed to work very arduous to succeed in his desires, and for me, it’s very a lot about that story, concerning the journey.
“We’re not in search of the red-carpet impact; we’re actually in search of authenticity — somebody who can stand onstage and share his desires.”
In early 2020, Zenith launched the Defy 21 Carl Cox, a $19,700 limited-edition chronograph with a rotating disk formed like a vinyl report at 9 o’clock to point the working seconds in addition to a glow-in-the-dark carbon bezel and strap stitching. Later that yr, when lockdowns have been in full impact in lots of locations, Mr. Tornare and Mr. Cox engineered a perk for individuals who had purchased the watch: a non-public D.J. set on Instagram Reside.
“It was Covid; we have been caught behind our screens in Zoomland,” Mr. Tornare recalled. “He was tremendous accessible and created a particular playlist for watch house owners.”
For Mr. Cox, a longtime watch lover, the chance to tie collectively his passions for music and watchmaking was the hook.
“That’s what was actually thrilling,” Mr. Cox stated in a latest name from Sardinia, the place his eponymous automotive racing group was collaborating in an Excessive E championship. “Having a watch related to my very own efforts, my very own historical past.”
The 200 timepieces bought out, prompting a follow-up Defy mannequin scheduled for launch later this yr. “There can be a shock for the house owners, a technique to get in contact with Carl,” Mr. Tornare stated. “And it has some parts of his favourite D.J. set.”
In March, Zenith gave music followers one more reason to concentrate to its watches when it introduced its latest buddy of the model, the Italian D.J. and content material creator Tudor Laurini, higher generally known as Klaus.
“He’s serving to us with the cool consider Italy, the place our viewers is a bit conservative,” Mr. Tornare stated. “Whereas Carl is thought worldwide, Klaus is extra tactical in Italy.”
And therein lies the purpose. Music and watchmaking mash-ups that yield best-selling watches are all properly and good, however manufacturers that enterprise into the D.J. sales space are after much more than fundamental transactions.
“The query is just not: How will we promote 100 to 200 items in a yr?” Mr. Tornare stated. “The query is: How a lot buzz can we get?”