Shepard Fairey Is Hublot's New Watch Ambassador

SHEPARD FAIREY - Publicity - H 2018
Gilles Toucas/Courtesy of Hublot

The L.A. street artist, known for his Obey and Obama “Hope” imagery, also unveils a special collaboration with the Swiss watchmaker.

L.A.-based street artist Shepard Fairey might be most famous for his "Hope" poster depicting President Obama and his "Obey" image featuring Andre the Giant. But he has long incorporated into his work a motif he calls a “star gear” — a five-point star inside an industrial-looking wheel — that may be recognizable to some fans, too. And now he’s using that symbol to decorate a Hublot watch, as part of a new collaboration with the Swiss timepiece company.

Called the Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey, the manually wound 45mm-in-diameter watch, which comes in blue and grey colorways, features the “star gear” at 3 o’clock and a subtle pattern on the case and dial that in its collaged look calls to mind his poster art.

“The gear is a symbol of industry and mechanized proliferation, which is why I use it,” Fairey tells THR in an interview in his studio in the Elysian Valley neighborhood of L.A. His own gear image was inspired by the artwork of Russian constructivists, who themselves depicted “a prolific industry, farming, and the idea that power of the people is because the people power industry," he says. "It's sort of like, 'Hey, you're more powerful if our industries are more powerful.'"

But unlike some of Fairey's work, the motif is not meant to be political: "It's the power of how to transmit an idea and I loved the way [it] looked.”

Machines fascinate the artist, including the screen-printing press he’s used throughout his nearly-three-decade career to make everything from posters to t-shirts. “People assume maybe at this point that a lot of what I do is digitally printed. Of course, I use the computer as a tool, but a lot of it is very old-fashioned.”

Fairey — who as a kid wore a Timex watch and later in life a Casio — finds the mechanical side of watches as intriguing as the challenge of working on such a “small canvas,” in contrast to the murals he makes that are many stories high. “There’s so much craft and technology that goes into the movement of a watch,” he says. “The time-keeping is absolutely precise, and you get that from a technology that’s been around for hundreds of years but has been refined, refined, refined.”

The case on the watch is composed of a proprietary Hublot material called Texalium that’s composed of aluminum-coated fiber. “It’s got a translucency to it so you can see imagery through it,” Fairey says. The watch is being released in a limited edition of 100. Composed of 223 parts, it has a skeletonized movement, a 10-day power reserve, is water-resistant to 100 meters depth, and comes on a calfskin and black rubber strap.

Hublot’s watch with Fairey marks the latest partnership in its “Hublot Loves Art” series, which has previously seen the Swiss maker pair up with tattoo artist Maxime Plescia-Buchi of Sang Bleu studio, muralist Mr. Brainwash, Romero Britto, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Tristan Eaton (who later introduced Fairey to the team at Hublot.) “Fairey is an icon and a legend in his field,” says Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe. “For the first time, the street-art star gives life to a miniature ‘mural’ on a time object.”

Fairey shows me around his studio while we chat, pointing out works in progress, shelves of printed papers, and found materials that he uses in his collages. “There’s a lot of cut paper and ripping in my work, which is then glued down. It’s multiple layers of paper and it's meant to mimic what organically happens on the street, when there's all the advertising posters and people rip at them and you get one bit of iconography visible here, another there.”

Through July 6, Fairey’s work is on view in Los Angeles at 1667 N. Main St. as part of the group exhibition Beyond the Streets, a showcase of graffiti and street art that also includes works by Mark Mothersbaugh, Takashi Murakami, Lady Pink, Retna, Swoon, Guerrilla Girls and Futura 2000. On June 16, Shepard Fairey: Salad Days: 1989-1999, a retrospective look at the first decade of his output, opens at Michigan’s Cranbook Art Museum.

“It's meant to demonstrate the relationship between my earlier work and punk rock, methodology, graphics and philosophy. Punk rock and skateboarding are my background and so a lot of the techniques of stenciling, screen printing, they were DIY techniques. I think a lot of my audience doesn't really know the roots of my work, so it's a nice examination of the early shoe-string budget days of my work,” says Fairey, who was due to appear — and deejay — at a launch party for his new watch at Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake on Wednesday night, May 16.

Even the façade of the 1916 building is dressed for the occasion: in a new mural, American Dreamers, created in February by Fairey and fellow artist Vhils.