TOKYO — Designer Matthew Williams joined Audemars Piguet chief executive officer François-Henry Bennahmias in the Japanese capital Thursday to unveil a project that has been two years in the making: a series of timepieces that Williams designed together with the Swiss watchmaker.
“I’m not just saying this, but it’s really just been my favorite watch brand since I was very young. This watch was the first super nice watch I bought when I was in my 20s and when I had the means to,” Williams said, referring to the customized Royal Oak watch that adorned his wrist.
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“I’m actually wearing the reason why we first met, which is my personal Royal Oak that I customized with a company called Mad in Paris. And I would make this watch for friends and family on special order, and I created this buckle, which is a symbol of our brand Alyx, and I applied it to the band of the Royal Oak,” the designer said. “And that started to have more awareness online, and people were excited about this customization that I had done for my brand Alyx and that made François become aware of us.”
For his collection with Audemars Piguet, Williams created four new Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore references and a unique Royal Oak piece. Available in 18-karat yellow, white, or two-tone gold, the five styles all feature brushed metal and a refined, minimalist face. They also feature the dual branding of Audemars Piguet and Williams’ line 1017 Alyx 9SM.
Williams said that he approached the collaboration “with a great deal of respect and care” for the iconic styles of Audemars Piguet.
“A similar thing happened to me when I designed my latest Air Force One with Nike, because that’s also such an iconic silhouette that’s been around for over 30 years. To actually just celebrate the form of this and give respect to the original DNA, but still make something timely and timeless is a real challenge,” he said. “So there was a lot of thought that went into that, and care. And I chose to reduce it down to something that was really just celebrating the form of the watch, and then playing with light through the matte and shine, and the brushstrokes on the dial.”
Bennahmias emphasized the difference in the speeds at which the fashion and watch industries operate, saying that in the two years it took for the collaboration to be realized, most fashion brands would have churned out nearly a dozen collections. He added that there had been nine different prototype models before the final product was reached, when normally there might only be one or two.
Still, Williams said that regardless of whether he is designing clothing or making music, creativity is universal and he approaches each project in a similar way: beginning with a concept and then figuring out how to make it happen.
The decision to launch the collection in Tokyo was mutually beneficial for the two parties. Bennahmias said that Japan is the second-largest market for Audemars Piguet after the United States, and Williams said that it was also the first country to really embrace 1017 Alyx 9SM after he launched it in 2015.
Before the launch event for the collaboration, Williams took advantage of his trip to Japan to visit the art island of Naoshima. On Friday, he plans to celebrate the opening of a new Givenchy boutique, for which he serves as creative director.
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