The relationship between a late Venezuelan artist and a Swiss watch brand is not necessarily an obvious one, but as he probably would have been quick to tell you, time is a vital component of the work of Carlos Cruz-Diez.
A pioneer of the ’60s Op-Art movement, Cruz-Diez’s work is about our relationship with colour and its fluidity. Or as he put it, “Colour is light, time and space. Colour is not in the past, it is a continuous present.”
And while Cruz-Diez passed away in July 2019, it was at Art Basel: Miami in December of the same year that Hublot unveiled a new, pantone-punched collaboration with his work. A force forged between the luxury watchmaker and the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation – the artist’s legacy now lovingly maintained by his children and grandchildren.
As a result, Cruz-Diez’ 1964 work, Chromointerference, finds itself on the dial of Hublot’s Classic Fusion. A series of works inspired by the overlaying of one coloured pattern onto another, and the resulting chromatic interference it produces. This was about creating a new relationship with colour, one that wasn’t presented as an end product, but rather an ongoing interaction.
What’s really great about it is that the work relies on movement to experience it in all its glory. These intensely patterned works trick the eye into seeing movement, so there’s no standing still. Walk past it, move around it, stare at it from across a room – just keep moving.
And however complicated that sounds, Hublot’s interpretation of it is so simple that it’s brilliant. Two discs sit on the face of the watch but move independently of each other, driven by Hublot’s calibre MHUB1100.H movement. As time passes, the face of the watch is transformed as the patterns on the discs shift independently of each other. Hublot has made movement an essential part of the watch.
“My grandfather loved watches” explains granddaughter, Mariana Cruz. “He was just so fascinated by small mechanisms and frequently made his own. When we had the opportunity to collaborate with Hublot back in 2015, he was very happy. I think it was by far his favourite collaboration.”
Indeed, as if to pre-empt it all, Cruz-Diez always insisted that his art was not to be observed but to be participated with. His early work, particularly, focused on optical illusions. This was about colour that was happening right there, in the moment.
“He always said art was for people,” continues Cruz. “He wanted his artwork to belong to people, to feel that they owned it. It’s very poetic that it adapted really well with the design [of the watch] because he thought that colour changed throughout the day. The fact that the colour frame changes with the passage of time – it was just perfect.”
So this is art translated into watchmaking, then. And the watch itself can be admired on its own terms, too. The Cruz-Diez edition of Hublot’s Classic Fusion comes in three finishes: titanium, ceramic and king gold, and in a choice of 38 or 45 mm diameter. The self-winding movement produces a 42-hour power reserve, and as it turns, the minute hand – which is fixed to the outer dial – turns at odds with the hour hand – which is fixed to the inner dial. Understandably, it’s a slow process to watch the dial change but the passage of time reveals the optical illusion in all its glory. As a result, we’re certain that Cruz-Diez would have approved.