Felipe Pantone’s third collaboration with Swiss watch brand Zenith, the 100-piece DEFY Extreme Felipe Pantone Chronograph, drops on Thursday.
After their first collaborative watch – the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone – quickly sold out last year, a unique model developed for Only Watch sold for CHF 480,000, making it the most expensive Zenith ever sold at auction.
Hypebeast spoke with the notoriously anonymous contemporary artist while he was working on his latest mural in Brazil, about the collaborations, the clocks, and the science used to bring the art to life.
HB: What sets this apart from the first two collaborations?
FP: Oh this is completely different, first this is based on the DEFY Extreme, the first one I did was based on the DEFY 21 so it’s a much stronger case, it’s very different. What I intended to do was to base this clock on my ‘Planned Iridescence’ series – a series of paintings that I did with a material that I created that when you walk in front of it, the material is sort of iridescent and I can plan the way, along which this overflow occurs, whether horizontal, vertical or radial. So we ended up doing something very similar to this phenomenon, but on a piece of sapphire that we engraved with lasers, it looks like a hologram, and I think that really changed the watch and is something that everyone at Zenith and I are very excited about.
HB: Did you have to develop a new process to bring this effect to the watch?
FP: Absolutely, this is something that they investigated, the way they did it is completely first. It’s basically a very thin micro laser engraving on a sapphire, we’ve created a radial moiré effect so the way the overflow happens it looks like a CD. It’s usually not something you’ll notice, but when the right light comes along, it turns on this really unexpected effect.
HB: It sounds like you spend a lot of time researching material properties and new techniques.
FP: Materials and techniques are something I work on a lot and in my studio I have engineers and it’s something that’s always very present. Applying all this to watches is a completely different story, I got to go to Le Locle several times, in the production, and we studied together.
HB: You know how to cover large urban spaces with your work, what is different about working on something as small as a clock face?
FP: Thanks to my graffiti background, I’ve always been very adaptable. It teaches you wherever you land that you never know what the wall is going to be like, if the wall is going to be curved, if you’re going to be able to reach a certain part of it, so you’re always adapting things to the environment. I’m jumping into new things, always, whether it’s clothing or chair design and now a watch, so it’s always a challenge, but at the same time I’m very happy with it. I project all these things onto the computer screen, so whether it’s a huge mural or a small clock, the scale is the same in front of your screen.
HB: How did your partnership with Zenith begin?
FP: In 2019, Swizz Beatz FaceTimed me and he said, “I’m working with Zenith and it would be great if you could help me with this, maybe we can both work something out” and I said sure and started talking to him, but nothing happened. Then a year later Zenith contacted me directly saying “hey we should do something” and I tell the story and say I talked to Swizz Beatz about it and they said “What?! We’ve never heard anything like it. The idea was entirely Swizz Beatz’s. But it’s been great and since I started tinkering with Swizz Beatz I’ve fallen in love with the brand, I think they’re great, they’ve got an amazing history, they’re one of the best mechanism makers in Switzerland. I couldn’t be happier. [HB: Swizz Beatz did something similar with De Bethune during lockdown.]
HB: Swizz Beatz is quite the heavyweight collector, what’s your history with watches?
FP: Before I worked with Zenith I had maybe three or four watches so I’ve always loved them but now I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Zenith factory a few times now I’m a bit crazy about them if you look at my magnifying glass [Tagged] on Instagram, 80% of it is watches, which is quite disturbing. I love design, mechanisms and technical solutions and even some things I see in the watchmaking industry I think I can apply in my art, it’s a really interesting world.