Watchmakers hit a marketing note with musical tie-ups
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Synaesthesia — experiencing once sense through another — helped Tokio Myers choose the key for music he composed for watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre, inspired by the golden ratio. “G minor gives me a yellow, golden colour,” explains Myers, who is known for fusing classical music with other genres — and is a former winner of UK reality TV show Britain’s Got Talent.
His Timeless symphony is the soundtrack to the 10-minute Golden Ratio Musical Show, which celebrates the design of the Reverso watch (itself inspired by the golden ratio) by exploring the ratio’s presence in nature, science and art.
Myers visited the Swiss brand’s manufacture and studied Art Deco designs (the Reverso launched in 1931) before writing music to match visual content that is projected on to a screen of falling water during the music show. He incorporated the golden ratio (1.618) into the tempo by moving the decimal point so it plays at 161.8 beats per minute. “There’s detail in everything that we’ve done,” he says.
The collaboration is the first time the watchmaker has worked with a musician in this way, says Catherine Rénier, chief executive of Jaeger-LeCoultre. The brand has taken the show — first staged in its 1931 Cinema — on tour to Shanghai, Los Angeles and London this year, and plans to take it to Dubai next year.
“As a watchmaker, this is, you could think, far from our field,” says Rénier. “However, it’s totally in sync with the way we create, the way we bring emotion into what we do, and it’s challenging us to be very expressive in different art forms and reach out in a totally different way to the public.”
Jaeger-LeCoultre is among several Swiss brands taking a new approach to exploring the relationship between watchmaking and music. While watchmakers have often worked with musicians as ambassadors (in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s case, Lenny Kravitz) or on the design of new timepieces, they are increasingly commissioning artists to compose new music.
Raymond Weil, the music-inspired brand that has celebrated musicians through collections and partnered with concert venues, looked at music “in a slightly different way” for the launch of its Freelancer Pop bi-compax chronograph limited edition in July, says its chief marketing officer, Jeremie Bernheim. The family-owned watchmaker commissioned new music for the first time by bringing together French pianist Victor Le Douarec and saxophonist Sandy Sax to compose the song used in the campaign video for the watch — itself designed as an homage to live music. In the wake of the pandemic, the brand wanted to “leverage music in a very social manner”, says Bernheim.
Brands are presenting music to customers in other ways, too. British DJ and producer Carl Cox curated a special playlist to coincide with the launch of Zenith’s Defy Extreme Carl Cox limited edition in September. The playlist, available on Spotify and the watchmaker’s website, is the first released by the brand.
It came ahead of last month’s release of the debut track from a project made for Zenith by another “friend of the brand”: Italian multimedia creator, Klaus. His electronic music incorporates sounds recorded during a visit to the Swiss watchmaker’s manufacture in Le Locle.
French musician Woodkid’s original composition for Vacheron Constantin, which has 11 public playlists on Spotify, features the mechanical beating of its Fiftysix self-winding watch. Launched in June, the contemporary track “Euclidean Pulses 1” was inspired by the brand’s “Less’ential” theme for this year’s Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva.
“‘Euclidean Pulses’ is interesting because, a bit like Vacheron, it is actually marrying science and beauty — because it is essentially based on mathematical expression of music,” says Charlotte Teissier, UK brand director for Vacheron Constantin. The music, available on YouTube, is the result of an ongoing collaboration between Vacheron Constantin and Woodkid through the watchmaker’s One of Not Many mentorship programme. The Grammy-nominated musician, who has directed music videos for artists such as Katy Perry, has mentored two up-and-coming singer-songwriters at London’s Abbey Road Studios under the scheme.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s collaboration with Myers is part of its Made of Makers programme of collaborations with artists from disciplines outside watchmaking. However, Rénier says sound and music have always been part of the watchmaker’s world, if “more from a technical and mechanical standpoint”. “Chiming watches have historically been one of the key inspirations in watchmaking for innovation and complications,” she says.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, is hoping to work again with French musician brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon — this time, on a grande sonnerie watch planned for release in early 2025. The brand previously enlisted the help of the violinist and cellist, respectively, to calibrate the sapphire gongs in three chiming watch models that it released last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the LUC collection.
Scheufele, who listens to every chiming watch before it leaves Chopard, says that, “although we have specialists in the field and our engineers certainly know what they are doing, we don’t pretend to have trained hearing for sound and music as a professional musician would have”.
When it comes to the new musical compositions, watchmakers say they give artists creative freedom. “We’re not music producers,” says Raymond Weil’s Bernheim, adding that his company made sure the musicians kept the rights to their music. “What we want to be is really the igniting force behind bringing music to life.”