The watchmaking world is currently living through a boom of artist collaborations, with brands throughout the industry creating unique designs featuring artwork from high-profile painters. Few of these pairings, however, feel as organic or meaningful as the collaboration between new New York-based watchmaker DAEM and the estate of legendary painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Both the watchmaker and the artist share the same birthplace in Brooklyn, and the New York influence of both partners shines through in this set of three new models.
The first of these, the Undiscovered Genius, combines inspiration from two of Basquiat’s most famous works, “Undiscovered Genius” and the iconic untitled painting commonly known as “Skull.” The bold, colorful skull itself forms a centerpiece for the dial of the watch, while DAEM wisely keeps the rest of the stepped white dial simple and clean to maximize its visual impact. DAEM’s own signature style still shines through in the details, such as the skeletonized syringe hands and crisp applied indices.
The strap offers an excerpt from “Undiscovered Genius,” with the repeated phrase “Undiscovered genius of the Mississippi Delta” printed along its length. This is coupled with the natural canvas material of the strap to create an overall package that resonates with the rough and thematic nature of the original artwork. At the heart of the Undiscovered Genius beats the solidly reliable ETA 2824-2 Swiss automatic movement, offering a 38-hour power reserve.
Next of the three is Now’s The Time, drawing stylistic inspiration from Basquiat’s minimalist 1985 work of the same name. The elemental DAEM case design receives a blacked-out PVD treatment here, adding to the clean blackout look. The dial of Now’s The Time is fully enameled, providing the subtle variances in the black of the dial to show through with added texture. The simplistic circular artwork, evoking the 1945 jazz record “Now’s The Time” by Charlie Parker, forms the entirety of the dial. This clean simplicity is only interrupted by a 3 o’clock date window and dark gray interpretations of the signature DAEM syringe hands. While an overall black approach may have come off as staid, DAEM adds color to Now’s The Time while further referencing Basquiat with the strap. This forest green, maroon, and red canvas strap mimics the shirt worn by the artist in his famous portrait by William Coupon.
The final member of the DAEM x Jean-Michel Basquiat trio is the Warrior, featuring a stunning example of Basquiat’s primitive portrait work. With a case finished in PVD yellow gold and a pebbled full grain leather strap, the Warrior is visually the dressiest of the three. The center of the dial features Basquiat’s artwork in stunning yellows and blues, while the stepped dial layer usually reserved for the hour indices is replaced by a complex etched tribal pattern. While perhaps not the most technically impressive of the three, this dial, case and strap combination may make the Warrior the most handsome of the group.
All three pieces have much in common, as well. Each uses the same clean, simple DAEM case design sized at 40mm, featuring 50 meters of water resistance and topped with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal. While the Skull is powered by an ETA 2824-2 movement, both Now’s The Time and the Warrior share the reliable Swiss-made Ronda Powertech 515 quartz powerplant. Although the Ronda movement is a cost-effective choice that helps to keep the overall price down, it would have been exciting to see all three timepieces with an ETA, or another mechanical movement, as an option.
These three new timepieces from DAEM offer a cohesive and well-integrated tribute to one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century. For more information, please visit the brand’s website. The Skull is offered at a retail price of $1,250 while the Warrior and Now’s The Time will retail for $425.