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Omega Art Collection Watches

September 18, 2023
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Pop-up display of Omega Art Collection Watches at Kalmar Antiques, November/December 2023

What makes a watch good? The answer comes down to movement - the movement inside the timepiece and the movement which influences its design. When these two worlds collide, we are left with the concept of wearable art; the idea that beauty and functionality should co-exist and that on the occasions they do, truly good design is achieved. The Omega Art Collection released in 1987 is a moment in history when this achievement can be pinpointed. The Art Collection was a collaboration between Omega watches and 10 renowned artists from the concrete art movement including Max Bill, Richard Paul Lohse and Paul Talman. These timepieces were created in the spirit of Bauhaus, with a node to simplicity and functionality, taken from the gallery walls and placed on the wrist.

The Omega Timepiece

The concept of an art series of Omega watches was conceived by Managing Director, Ernest Thomke. The watch cases were designed in a minimalist, monochromatic style using a new scratch-resistant ceramic alloy designed by Hans Zaugg. The dial designs feature black or white baton hands and aperture date window. The three basic ceramic models include the maxi-40mm, midi-32mm and mini-22.3mm dial sizes, fitted on black calfskin leather straps with blackened metal pin buckles. The design of the medallions featuring the artist's works and attaching to the case back of each timepiece was engineered by Gerhard Saner. The timepiece designs are bold, minimalist and sleek, embracing the simple forms and basic colour palettes synonymous with the design aesthetic of the concrete art movement.


Birthed From Bauhaus

The Bauhaus school of design was founded by architect Watler Gropius in Weimar, Germany in 1919. His key design principle was that of 'form following function', relating to the deconstruction of object design to the intended function of the item. Thus, allowing the utilitarian purpose of items to lead the design process. The Arts and Crafts movement of the late Victorian era was a response to the industrialisation of manufacturing, which had caused a disconnect from the world of artists and craftspeople. Not only did the ideals of Bauhaus forge a new design aesthetic of simplified designs, but it coincided with the rise of 20th century industry. Riding the tide of mass production, the Bauhaus principle of 'Art into Industry' repositioned the work of artists and craftspeople to embrace this era of manufacturing and not be left in its wake.

Omega Art Collection Watch, Max Bill 1987

Paving the Way for Concrete Art

The ideals of Bauhaus had paved the road for fine art and functional design to work in unison. This radical notion of art being a part of industrial progress and not suffering due to it, inspired a new generation of artists. One of the movements inspired by these principles was that of concrete art, which took the principles of Bauhaus one step further, rejecting the ideal that art needed to represent anything other than its tangible existence. "A pictorial element has no other meaning than 'itself' and thus the picture has no other meaning than 'itself'", was the mantra of Theo Van Doesburg whose manifesto was the impetus of the concrete art movement. The artist who popularised the movement from the 1930's onwards, was Swiss artist and Bauhaus alumni, Max Bill, whose artworks visualised mathematical formulas and modern scientific theories, such as space-time relativity. The design aesthetic of this movement were based in bold lines, geometric shapes and solid planes of colour, arranged in precise compositional structures.

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Omega Art Collection Watch, Paul Talman 1987

The Collaboration

The Bauhaus desire to fuse art and functionality was the fertile ground of which the concrete art movement was able to blossom. The specific interest in mathematical and scientific formulas that influenced the work of leading artists of the movement, such as Max Bill, coincided with the technical world of horology. The collaboration of concrete art which celebrated the technical advances of humans, joined with the wristwatch, an engineering feat of mankind and a device that's purpose was to measure time, can be described simply as poetry in motion.

The Artists

  • Max Bill
  • Paul Talman
  • Valerio Adami
  • Camille Graeser
  • Fritz Glarner
  • Al Held
  • Kenneth Noland
  • Arnaldo Pomodoro
  • Emilio Tadini

The Omega Art Collection watches remain highly collectable timepieces that are a unique part of art and horological history. These pieces are not for sale but will be on display for a limited time at Kalmar Antiques from November until December 2023.

Shop Omega Watches


The Bauhaus, 1919–1933 | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (metmuseum.org)

Omega Max Bill Art Watch 954/999 made 1987 | limited edition mid-sized quartz vintage wristwatch - Black Bough | Ludlow

Concrete Art Movement Overview | TheArtStory

Watch Of The Week: Why I Still Love My Junghans Max Bill - Hodinkee

Bill, Max (bauhauskooperation.com)

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