A few days ago, right from the Miami Contemporary Art week, TAG Heuer and its CEO, Jean-Claude Biver (also President of the LVMH Watch Division), announced the appointment of American street-artist Alec Monopoly as Art Provocateur for the Avant-Garde brand. Well, as you may have seen already (it was all over social medial feeds), some reacted quite fiercely to this announcement, judging the collaboration rather irrelevant. However, we were there and we took the time to sit down with Mister Biver and Alec Monopoly, to understand what was behind this appointment. And we can tell you that first, it’s far from being a stupid idea, then it’s a real first in the industry and finally, it’s a great idea for an industry that faces a lack of creativity.
Who’s Alec Monopoly? Alec is a famous street-artist (while usually a rather underground field of art, he is well-known, at least in this sector), born in New-York, now based in California and in his thirties – ps. don’t search for pictures without the mask, you won’t find some… It’s part of the character. Most of his paintings are showing Mr. Monopoly, the diminutive and debonair banker that the artist depicts in different scenarios. This creativity coincides with the 2008 financial crisis and you can see in his paintings a sarcastic vision of the financial world. Well, you might still wander what this young artist has to do with TAG Heuer. And, at that point, you’d be right.
TAG Heuer and its CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, are using a specific type of strategy, based on partnerships. Some are evident, such as Red-Bull Racing (giving echo the racing heritage of the brand) and some others are more inclined to talk to certain categories of people. The collaboration between TAG Heuer and Alec Monopoly starts again with J.C. Biver’s son, Pierre, the same that gave the idea of teaming with Cara Delevingne. However, how disruptive and provocative Alec Monopoly can be, the goal here was not just about a new ambassador to be printed on billboards. This partnership goes way beyond marketing and advertising and, from the words of Mister Biver, “Alec will have a 360-degree role in the heart of TAG Heuer creation process“. This only tickled our interest so we took the time to sit down with Jean-Claude, to understand all about the appointment of Alec Monopoly as Art Provocateur for TAG Heuer – and don’t call him art director…
So what will be Alec Monopoly’s involvement at TAG Heuer? Why appointing a street-artist? To make it simple, art is a “dream machine“, it “creates emotions” and “it is disruptive” (it is, always, whatever the art). TAG Heuer, since the arrival of J.C. Biver at its head, has new strategies, including targeting young people, with a lower budget (accessible luxury) and those looking for their first nice watch. You don’t talk to these people with the same codes as traditional, old-school watchmaking (you know, the usual image of the mountains, of the century old manufacture with Swiss people working hours on a single part, talking about traditions and respect…). TAG Heuer wants to do something different (and it works in terms of sales, believe us). Bringing art (and in this case modern art) in the creation process is clearly a move to attract younger people. In an industry that faces some issues and that relies on its usual codes, without creating or differentiating, this announcement, wether you like it or not, is fresh air.
Alec Monopoly, as explained to us by Jean-Claude Biver, will have several roles at TAG Heuer:
- He will have an atelier right in the heart of the Manufacture at La Chaux de Fonds. There, he will be able to create paintings for TAG Heuer
- He will create painting for the boutiques, to create for each of them a unique visual identity (something that breaks the usual codes of “one brand, xxx boutiques, one unique identity”). As of now, TAG Heuer boutiques will be decorated by Alec Monopoly and adapted to the local atmosphere, creating a unique experience for each boutique.
- Alec Monopoly will also decorate the frontage of the boutiques, then again to create a unique experience and identify TAG Heuer as something different and disruptive.
- Alec Monopoly could potentially create unique accessories on request for TAG Heuer (for instance the bags or leather jackets you can find in the shops could be painted by Monopoly, or as piece unique or as part of a series).
- Alec will also be involved in the creation of dials and watches. 2 options are possible: or creating pieces unique or using one of his work as a lithography to be replicated in a limited edition
- Alec will be part of “happening days” in the boutiques. Imagine you come with your own TAG Heuer watch or buy a new one in the boutique and you’ll be able to have it personalized live by Alec Monopoly as an art piece.
A one-off TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 decorated by Alec Monopoly, on the wrist of Jean-Claude Biver
Overall, from the words of Jean-Claude Biver, “Alec will be 360-degrees at TAG Heuer. He will be Art Provocateur, meaning that he will create art for the brand, he will be part of the visual decoration of the boutiques, he will participate in the creation of watches (limited editions or an Art Collection), he will be artist for the brand’s clients, he will be a public figure for the brand and he will be ambassador“. He will be the “salt and pepper” that might lack the industry today.
Now, as an example, here is what Alec Monopoly created for Jean-Claude Biver, a one-off watch based on a gold TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01, with paint on it. Of course, this is far away from being discreet and expected, but consider this as a temporary art-piece. Then again, the goal is not to be liked by everyone. It’s art and art is disruptive and never repetitive (on the contrary of watches that are products made in series and intrinsically repetitive products). Nowadays, the industry is in a slow move and collectors / clients are looking for fresh air. Creativity is salvation – and even if we’re not all going to fall in love with Alec’s creations, it remains a properly interesting move from the brand and its hyper-active CEO. More details on: www.tagheuer.com.