Creating a watch together with an artist from China has long been the dream cherished by Mr. Daniel Schluep, Titoni’s CEO. On April 27, he saw his dream come true when the first Titoni Artist Watch was revealed at Chongqing’s Art Space 501 in the presence of the artist and many media representatives from China’s biggest city, Chongqing, and the nearby capital of Sichuan, Chengdu.
Cooperation with a famous Chongqing-based artist
All happened two years ago, when Daniel Schluep visited the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing. He was taken around by a young lady in the so-called Tank-Loft-Contemporary Art Center where artists and professors of the Institute have their own studios. Mr. Schluep spent much more time at the studio of Mr. Zhang Qikai whose motif in his paintings has deeply touched his heart: the Giant Panda.
Titoni’s CEO has always been an art lover, and he immediately felt, that he would like to cooperate with this famous artist together: To bring his dreams in line with the philosophy of Mr. Zhang Qikai, to combine the sense of time with the classical design of the Titoni watch, and – practically speaking – to adjust the usually “large-scale format” of Mr. Zhang’s paintings to the watchmaker’s needs.
“Time” may not mean anything for other artists, but for Zhang Qikai, the relevance of time is ubiquitous in his work and at the same time crucial in his paintings. Born in 1950, Zhang Qikai has held solo exhibitions in China, Japan and in Germany, where he lived in the 1990s. The apparent loneliness of living in a foreign country and a deep understanding of the differences between East and West are ever present in his work. Having returned to his homeland in 2000, he began to use the panda in his work. The giant panda has not only been upgraded to the status of a Chinese cultural symbol, but is also an emblem for world peace. As a protected species in China, he cuts a lonely, solitary figure in Zhang’s work. The environment where the panda resides varies, but void and quiet are a common characteristic. He is enclosed in the material world and overwhelmed by consumer culture, as if to imply his and China’s predicament with the modern world. On the other hand, the giant panda also seems to provide spiritual sustenance and comfort although a combination of curiosity and suspicion surrounds him.
Giant Panda as the unofficial ambassador of China in Switzerland
When Mr. Schluep was confronted with the Giant Panda in Mr. Zhang’s paintings, it was “love at first sight” and an inspiration for creative ideas. Since the adorable panda has become an unofficial ambassador of China in Switzerland, TITONI decided to work together with Zhang Qikai on this unique project: the designing of a watch dial by a famous Chinese artist using his subtle ideas and techniques in combination with the best of Swiss fine watch-making. Besides, this first Titoni Artist Watch should – in the eyes of the Grenchen-based company – also symbolize the ever growing friendship between Switzerland and the Municipality of Chongqing.
“Return to the Aerosphere”, the topic of the painting now placed on the watch-dial, evokes timeless feelings with a touch of futuristic surrealism. For Daniel Schluep, to cherish every single moment of life and at the same time to pursue cultural interests is part of his philosophy. “I have always been an art lover, and Mr. Zhang Qikai’s passion with the giant panda and the time-and-space related motifs in his paintings have deeply touched my heart”, said Mr. Schluep during the ceremony. For Mr. Zhang Qikai this cooperation with an international watch brand is a perfect chance to promote Chinese art and foster cultural exchange. “Since Titoni is a high-quality Swiss watch brand which gained trust from Chinese customers over the last five decades, I personally find it an ideal partner to work with”, said the artist in his remarks.
Titoni Ltd. has been in the Chinese market ever since 1959, and has steadily developed its market share with its mechanical, classical watches. It is not the first time that the Swiss watch brand is showing its special interest for China and its culture: In 2009, Titoni Ltd. adopted the giant panda “Ruirui” at the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu. This time, the long-lasting cooperation between the Swiss brand and China has been portrayed in a timepiece that is unique because of the essence of Mr. Zhang’s painting: it gives the viewer the feeling that “time is the greatest limit upon mankind”, as the artist once said with the social encumbrances of every single human being in mind.
Titoni’s first Artist Watch is an officially certified chronometer (COSC) and has been produced in a limited series of only 250 pieces worldwide. It is a collectible item and will only be sold at the Titoni showrooms in China and Hong Kong, and in some selected retail points.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2010 Magazine Issue