Inevitably, that perception of collaboration-as-balancing-act doesn’t sit well with those looking for a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but there are certain unifying themes that do carry over across a range of different (albeit equally successful) watch collabs. Among the most important qualities one should look for is synergy: when a watch is ‘elevated’ to a plane of desirability that, put bluntly, wouldn’t be possible were each party involved to tackle the project separately. Watch collabs that fail to address the significant disparity between those involved – as much a creative issue as it is technical – risk turning their joint efforts into something that, at best, feels overburdened by one side’s involvement, and at worst, fails to capture the essence of everybody.
It’s arguably of equal importance for a co-created watch to express an emotional viewpoint: depending on each collaboration’s unique context, that might take the shape of nostalgia, cutting social commentary or solidarity with a ‘tribe’ (e.g. a watch club or forum). In a world where most mechanical watches have outlived their original purpose as practical instruments, brands are faced with the much trickier prospect of imbuing their modern descendants with a quality that’s, dare we say it, ‘fun’. “Generally speaking, watches in the 21st century are products,” says Sum. “[The vast majority] are for purchase and enjoyment by consumers – a fact that brands undertaking collaborative projects would do well to remember.”