What is art in watchmaking? Ikepod and Jeff Koons perhaps

 By: SJX : January 1st, 2010-20:45

Ikepod was formed as a collaboration between industrial designer Marc Newson (of the million dollar riveted Lockheed lounge chair fame) and Oliver Ike. The company went bust in 2004, barely a decade after its formation, but was then revived by Newson in partnership with Adam Lindemann, a New York art collector whose father George invented the soft contact lens and is on Forbes’ list of billionaires.


In its first incarnation Ikepod made a wide range of watches with simple complications like chronograph and dual time zone, but today its collection consists of only four models. Two of them, the Megapode and Hemipode chronographs, are carry-overs from the earlier collection. The other two are completely new models: the quartz Solaris, a double sided, oblong ceramic watch on a mesh bracelet, and the Horizon, which is reminiscent of a golf ball.


Newson’s Lockheed lounge sold for over a million dollars in May 2009 at Philips de Pury in London; it is oft repeated that result set the record for the work of a living industrial designer. Naturally, the Ikepod Horizon Jeff Koons pictured here sets some sort of record as well – it retails for about US$57,000 in platinum (and less than a third of that for the titanium version). The platinum Jeff Koons watch is limited to 10 pieces.


In an interview published in early 2008 in I.D. magazine (which can be seen here ), Newson explains his perception of the luxury watch market, which is clearly different from how collectors who frequent this forum see it. He said, “I mean, honestly, someone that goes into a watch shop and looks at one of our watches and says, ‘Oh that’s rubbish, yuck!’ I mean, forget it, I’m just not interested in that person. If they don’t have the imagination to look beyond their limited perceptions of what rubber is, or synthetic materials, there are plenty of other shitty watches they can choose from.” Touché.




This Jeff Koons watch, as well as Newson’s other watches, obviously cater to art – as opposed to watch – collectors. Elements that technical minded watch collectors like myself look for in a timepiece, like construction, finishing, materials and the like, are hard to find. But this is art .


People speak of highfalutin “art” in watchmaking and often cite Philippe Dufour, Vianney Halter or Patek Philippe et al as examples of watchmaking art; Jeff Koons throws that definition out the window. What this watch has in spades is the kind of abstract design concept that has made Mr Koons a millionaire many times over. Being a philistine, I do not dare to try and interpret the design or the mysterious multiple orbs on the dial (are those palm prints?).






However, as a person who knows a bit about watches, I can comment on it as a watch. The watch is vintage Ikepod style, an ETA movement housed in a monocoque platinum case paired with a rubber strap. The case is an impressively massive piece of platinum at 142 g and measures 44 mm wide. Being a one-piece case, the movement is accessed from the dial side. The case has a carefully applied brushed finish and is of excellent quality; overall the case and crown display a good standard of finish and construction. The dial is printed brass and nicely done. Overall the watch is well made, if not extraordinarily so.





From my perspective as someone who does a good impression of a knowledgeable watch collector, this watch does not have the typical tangible qualities like construction and finish that watch aficionados worship. I would find it difficult to buy one, and not just because of the price – I don’t understand it. I’d rather have a Marc Newson chaise longue than his watch, since the chair is a significant piece of furniture design while this watch is not significant in horology.


Selling Ikepod through watch retailers will be tough; I suspect it will be much easier to sell them in those select venues where people who buy million dollar lounge chairs and balloon-shaped art glide around. Some of those people – they are buyers of art – must surely be tittering at the poor (literally) souls who pay ridiculous sums for a watch – haven’t they heard of a mobile phone?





This message has been edited by SJX on 2010-01-01 20:51:31 This message has been edited by SJX on 2010-01-01 20:55:20 This message has been edited by SJX on 2010-01-02 21:46:37 This message has been edited by ThomasM on 2010-01-04 08:51:21

More photos of the Horizon Jeff Koons

 By: SJX : January 1st, 2010-20:50

personal opinion

 By: aldossari_faisal : January 1st, 2010-23:40

This is my PERONAL opinion, it’s a nice thing to look at color wise and the print they have on dial, but not to wear,  don’t get me wrong im a man who collect art and im so into pop art and urban art, but this is not how I would a watch to look like , and to make things below acceptable to me it has no movement complication.


 By  a small comparison between this watch and any of alain selbrstein watches, I do believe Mr.selberstein  expresses hi funkiness and art in the watches he creates even if the factor of  complication was removed a side  in an acceptable way to the eye and logic as well.


 by the way in the past i owned an ikpod watch and would re own one anytime, im in love with their simplcity, but not this one.



The difference art by watchmakers and watchmaking by artists

 By: SJX : January 2nd, 2010-03:56
Interesting you mention Alain Silberstein. He's someone who likes watches, even if not a trained watchmaker, so his products are the results of someone coming from that perspective. Similarly, Vianney Halter, Baumgartner and other independents who perhaps can be called modern artists in watchmaking are watchmakers.

The Jeff Koons watch on the other hand is created by an artist who probably has a conception of a watch that is very different from that of a watchmaker or watch collector.

Watchmaking by artists and art by watchmakers - therein lies the difference in my opinion.


thanks for pointing out

 By: aldossari_faisal : January 2nd, 2010-05:22

 thanks for summing it all up mate, your are fully correct on this. i'll keep that in mind.




I think Newson has actually produced a piece of horological art ...

 By: donizetti : January 2nd, 2010-05:37

... with the Atmos 561 (at least I really like it).

In my mind it is not "watchmaking art" in the true sense (where I would think it a level above watchmaking craft) unless there is some contact between the "machine" aspect of the watch and the visual and artistic impulse.

In the Jeff Koons watch, all there is to me is a novel(ty) case. I think this wholly stays in the realm of design.



I work with Marc, so take this for what it's worth...

 By: boa2 : January 2nd, 2010-12:35

He is well trained in watchmaking and jewelry design, not simply industrial design.  He has designed cars, the complete interior of an Airbus A380, bicycles, and of course, furniture.  He is also doing a limited edition of the Riva Aquarama.  I'm not mentioning these to shill him--he certainly doesn't need it--but more so as a statement about his approach as a designer.  He's as much entwined with the mechanical aspects of a piece as he is the design aesthetic.  They do appeal, as you say, primarily to the art or design connoisseur.  At Design Basel this year, I must have seen 20+ Ikepod watches being worn, many by those with display booths.

I happen to like the Ikepod watches a lot, and Alexandre David has done an extraordinary job, along with Adam Lindemann, to raise their stature in the marketplace.  (I have no stake in Ikepod, by the way)

Thanks for the perspective

 By: SJX : January 2nd, 2010-19:47

I can see the watchmaking aspect of the earlier Ikepod watches, the "-pode" chronographs, Manatee etc etc, but the Horizon "golf ball" watches have nearly zero watchmaking credentials in my opinion. They are certainly pieces of design, but lack technical merits. However my comments may be premature since the new Ikepod has only just been relaunched so there may be other timepieces in the pipeline.



 By: Rob : January 2nd, 2010-00:00
I wonder if this collaboration is in fact targeted at watch enthusiasts who are ALSO art collectors. I imagine that said number who are such is of a very small number hence the relatively small number of this particular LE. The choice of PT as the watch case baffles me as it is too classic and the pairing of said classic material with the pop art of Mr Koons is too much of a contrasting combination to digest, for at least this watch enthusiast.

Having seen this in the metal, I do look forward quite longingly at the Ti version as a fun watch. Ti would have been the ideal LE case material with steel as the regular line IMHO. If that was the case, I can somewhat hear a stampede from BOTH watch collectors AND art collectors clamoring to get a hold of this LE. Thanks for sharing JX and for pointing out the nuances of this piece. Great macro shots....

Coming from different collecting perspectives

 By: SJX : January 2nd, 2010-03:59
It seems to be, as an uninformed casual observer of the art market, that much of the contemporary art created by Koons, Hirst etc, rely more on the ideas, concepts, and even brand name, of the artist, than on any tangible quality, skill or craftsmanship.

On the other hand, watch collectors, at least those of the technical persuasion, look for characteristics that are tangible, speculaire polish, anglage, etc etc. The Jeff Koons doesn't have any of those traits, but it has conceptual art and branding in spades.

So those are two different approaches to collecting. Can they be reconciled?


I guess that is the...

 By: Rob : January 2nd, 2010-14:50
57,000 USD question that begs to be answered. An interesting question to be raised is whether reception to these watches be enough of a gauge to see if reconciliation was achieved or even thought of as an objective when this project was launched? Reception here being defined as more than acknowledgement/awareness of this collaboration but more on actual sales to end consumers. A look-back on how this watch has performed sales-wise after a suitable amount of time has passed would be quite an interesting and perhaps final/definite answer to the questions posed. Thanks JX for a thought provoking post.

Not bad but not for me.

 By: VMM : January 2nd, 2010-01:51

I own four Ikepod watches so I guess I like the brand but this ltd ed it is not my style.  Too colorful?


I guess someone will love it even will buy it.



Thanks for sharing.



Vte smile

I am somewhat surprised at the choice of finish

 By: aaronm : January 2nd, 2010-17:42

As one of the signature elements of Jeff Koons' work is the super-high specular polish. I think a polished case with a more round crown would have read as his work much more readily. This, to me, is "dial by jeff Koons", where I'd wish it to be "watch by Jeww Koons"


See my post above

 By: SJX : January 2nd, 2010-19:45

I think the reason why this is "dial by Jeff Koons" rather than "watchmaking by Jeff Koons" is because the creators are coming from the perspective of an artist, rather than a watchmaker. For instance the series of "art" watches created by the AHCI members for Goldpfeil were clearly the work of watchmakers (except for the Preziuso watch which was a joke).


I disagree

 By: aaronm : January 3rd, 2010-13:22

I could see that if Koons were primarily a 2d artist, painter or the like, but he's worked in 3d, if not 4d ( seem to recall some video) so I'd expect him to understand the nature of a watch as an object, not just the dial as a canvas. I'd also expect, in a collaboration like this, the watch company to want to promote the watch aspect, and so to push the designer to make a more coherent design. On the other hand, polishing platinum is difficult and doing a standard watch with an unusual dial maximized the profit margin for the company....


But from a commercial perspective

 By: SJX : January 3rd, 2010-19:51
Art collectors who buy Jeff Koons probably don't care about speculaire finish, while watch collectors probably wouldn't fork out the six figure price if the watch was finished to a high level, polished case, maybe hand engraved dial; there'd be other horological alternatives. Unless the watch was really outstanding, like the Opus series was when it first emerged, it'd be a hard sell. As it is, the watch is the most sensible option.

- SJX:::0:8c8bc2862d336b20a8e2c0bde70241bf:7d0::::

Some collectors might care

 By: aaronm : January 4th, 2010-04:43

about a polished case since it would fit within their collection already, but they only need to convince 10 of them, not all of them wink


Saw the watch

 By: cen@jkt : January 3rd, 2010-08:01

Didn't like it, even though it should be right in my alley. This watch should be cheap and chic, but it's pricey and chic. And they display them right next to Silberstein which to me the real 'cheap and chic'. I wonder what are their next offering.


But leopard Daytona

 By: SJX : January 3rd, 2010-22:43

is neither cheap nor chic.



Whaddaya mean?

 By: cen@jkt : January 3rd, 2010-23:27
It sure is chic! How dare you say the ultimate pimp watch as not chic smile


Thanks for the article SJX

 By: AnthonyTsai : January 3rd, 2010-10:03

I'm definitely not an art collector so I can never appreciate art and the prices they command.  I understand why people would pay big bucks for art though.

For this Jeff Koons watch, coming from a non-art watch collector's view, I think Ikepod should have increased the # of watches produced in these series. 

You mentioned the platinum is a series of 10 pieces but I don't recall reading how many titanium pieces are going to be made, unless it's a regular production piece?  I feel Ikepod should have made at least 25 platinum pieces instead of 10.  Ikepod's intent seems to be keeping this watch extremely limited, so why not make 25 pieces instead of just 10?  That way they are able to lower the pricing and make the watch more attractive to non-art lovers.

Just my 2 cents,

The titanium version is non-limited

 By: SJX : January 3rd, 2010-22:43

but priced like art as well.


oh my, that Newson quote is awful.

 By: J_Warden : January 3rd, 2010-16:06
Hi all,

I like Newson, and if I've been drinking, Koons too.  I don't like them together all that much.  This is a Newson watch with a Koons print on the face.  If we allow Koons to do his thing with the entire watch it would certainly be a treat, and look more pure than this.

As for the quote, "
I’m just not interested in that person. If they don’t have the imagination to look beyond their limited perceptions of what rubber is, or synthetic materials, there are plenty of other shitty watches they can choose from."  I would just note that there are many details happening with Ikepod watches that a consumer might dislike, even with a healthy appreciation of daring use of materials.  Was that gentle enough?


(who used to wear a Seaslug)

The great thing about art...

 By: dxboon : January 3rd, 2010-16:22 that it is subject to individual interpretation, and can be a good launching pad for discussion.  This new Ikepod Jeff Koons watch is one piece that will either draw watch buyers in with its unique presentation, color, artistic pedigree, exclusivity, and platinum monocoque case; or will turn people off for many of those same reasons.  I like much of Marc Newson's and Jeff Koon's individual work, but I don't want to wear their art on my wrist.  I prefer a more traditional timepiece myself, but I can certainly appreciate what Ikepod is going for here.