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If you’re a fan of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings of Mickey Mouse, but you experience sticker shock over their five-figure price tags, Swatch may have the tribute timepiece for you.
The watchmaker, known for its playful and affordable yet highly collectible styles, has teamed up with the famed British artist to offer a pair of watches in conjunction with Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday, joining a plethora of products created to celebrate nine decades of Walt Disney’s most iconic character.
Hirst signed on with Swatch roughly a year ago to design the piece, inspired by the versions of his famous spot paintings he has created of the mouse that built the house of Disney. “When you touch icons, you can only do it with extreme talent,” says Carlo Giordanetti, creative director for Swatch. “Mickey is something that transcends ages. It’s too big of an icon to touch if you don’t have a really big artist doing it.”
Part of Swatch’s Art Special collection, both styles are limited edition and feature Hirst’s signature on the rubber watchbands, which also have been designed by the artist. A reflective dial, dubbed Mirrored Spot Mickey, went on sale today online and in stores, issued at 19,999 pieces priced at $125 each. Serious Swatch collectors, however, likely will be setting their alarms for 11 p.m. PST on Saturday, when 1,999 pieces of a style known simply as Spot Mickey ($185), with Hirst’s interpretation against a black dial, will go on sale online for 24 hours only. Why Sunday? That’s Mickey’s official 90th birthday: Walt Disney’s first animated cartoon featuring his legendary mouse, Steamboat Willie, premiered Nov. 18, 1928.
Swatch chose Shanghai as the site for Thursday night’s launch event, not only because of the brand’s immense popularity throughout Asia, but also because the cosmopolitan city is where you’ll find the watchmaker’s Swatch Art Peace Hotel, a residency program for artists. As part of the launch event, Swatch invited 10 of its in-residence artists to interpret Mickey Mouse – also notable, Giordanetti says, because it’s unusual for Disney to agree to a concept that allows a group of contemporary artists free rein to interpret the icon as each wished. “When you first approach them, it’s almost scary; you think, Oh, my God, we’re going to be able to do nothing,” Giordanetti adds. “It can be really intimidating, but you understand that it’s all for the good of the icon.”
Come Sunday, where might Spot Mickey rank among Swatch’s limited-edition launches? Giordanetti laughs. “Be sure to get up early,” he says. “Otherwise, it will be gone.”
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