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Anatolik Belikov

If you thought fashion reached the apotheosis of collaborations in recent months, 1017 ALYX 9SM and Casablanca have one up their sleeve for you. The two brands are moving the dial forward with their respective takes on Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. With a limited run of five watches, the project sees watch customisation company MAD Paris enlist Matthew Williams (1017 ALYX 9SM) and Charaf Tajer (Casablanca) in their Designer Series, allowing the two designers to put their creative stamp on iconic timepieces.

“It was about taking part of the ALYX world and creating a watch I would like to wear, and for like-minded people, myself and my friends, people that may have not been into watches before that,” Williams told Highsnobiety ahead of tomorrow’s launch at Browns.

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Casablanca
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Casablanca

Williams’ spin on the sought-after 38mm channels his industrial aesthetic into luxury watchmaking. With a brushed metal finish, no time-identifier, and his signature buckle clasp, the watch comes in both yellow and rose gold.

Meanwhile, Tajer’s take on the timepiece telegraphs the exuberance of Casablanca’s recent Spring/Summer 2022 into a 36mm version using a diamond-like coating (DLC) that renders the watch in a buoyant palette inspired by Japan and the Memphis Milano movement. Tajer said the watch’s playful nature revolves around “the contradiction of designing a luxury item for adults which has design elements inspired by the childhood innocence and intrigue that we all have experienced.”

“Watches are an heirloom piece. They’re expensive but they’re a good investment. For watchmakers, this is an exciting collaboration because it moves them out of that traditional sphere with this custom, one-of-a-kind element. You can see why MAD has been successful for us because we can provide something that is fun but also very luxurious,” said Ida Petersson, Buying Director at Browns, which has stocked MAD Paris’ limited edition customisations since 2019.

From Rolex to Audemars Piguet, the notoriously press-shy MAD Paris reworks high-end watches whose manufacturer's original guarantee is no longer valid, and the original technical properties may have been altered or replaced, though it is not an authorised reseller of the original manufacturer. Casablanca’s Charaf Tajer is the latest MAD Paris collaborator and joins Williams, who is a returning guest designer, as well as Virgil Abloh whose rendition of the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5726, adorned with an emerald face, is owned by rapper Drake. That timepiece is mentioned on Future’s ‘Life is Good’.

The latest launch comes at a time when the fine jewellery and watches market is experiencing rapid growth at Browns, swiftly becoming one of the fastest-growing categories, while the retailer is positioning the segment as a key pillar of the core business. Petersson suggests the growing interest in the category can be attributed to the segment increasingly merging with a more fashion-centric customer.

Like many industries, fine watchmaking was challenged by the pandemic. While many comfortably pivoted to online, the tactile experience of buying a watch is harder to replicate. However, many accelerated their online sales efforts.

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Anatolik Belikov
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Anatolik Belikov

For Browns that means integrating the launch into its app’s Virtual Try-On Service which will enable customers to ‘try-on’ the pieces via their phone using sophisticated AR technology that translates the tactile experience. It is something horophiles will expect as a prerequisite at this level of luxury.

“Most of our watch customers aren’t first-time watch buyers but connoisseurs, they already own the classic and now they’re looking for that special piece. We needed someone who was doing it well and we wanted a partner that was an expert. The reality is that MAD is really unique in that space and the craftsmanship is unmatched,” said Petersson.

Williams and Tajer are believed to be natural collaborators for the project. Petersson notes that both cater to loyal luxury consumers who are already shopping for things at the “highest price point.”

Williams felt that fashion design and watchmaking have very different technical processes but he concurs, “In the end it’s all about creativity, taking an idea and seeing it through until it becomes tangible.”

The MAD Paris collaboration with 1017 ALYX 9SM launches on October 14 with Casablanca coming in November.

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