A Sneak Peek At Swatch’s New Keith Haring Collaboration

A Sneak Peek At Swatch’s New Keith Haring Collaboration

Swatch releases a new collection with three new versions of Disney’s iconic mouse designed by the legendary graffiti artist Keith Haring.

By Rhonda Riche

We know that 2020 will at least bring a little more joy into our lives because Swatch has just announced a new series of Mickey Mouse watches based on original drawings by street artist Keith Haring.

This new collection isn’t the fun-and-friendly Swiss brand’s first paring with a graffiti artist – the Kenny Scharf designed Swatches from the 1980s are highly coveted by collectors. The collection isn’t even the first artist/Mickey Mouse mashup – Damien Hirst helped produce two models to honor the rodent’s 90th birthday. The reason we’re so excited about these three new timepieces is that they are part of a bigger picture that began back in 1986.

Time Warp

Keith Haring was born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. As a kid, he showed a flair for drawing, but especially Disney characters. He originally planned on becoming a commercial artist but dropped out of school in Pittsburgh, moved to New York City, and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA).

At the SVA, Haring immediately felt connected to the underground, hip-hop-inspired art scene happening downtown in the late 1970s and connected with other exciting young artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf.

He filled empty black advertising panels on subway station walls with graphic, interlocking people as well as crosses, dogs, and most notably, the Radiant Child motif. These images attracted the attention of commuters and cops, and Haring was arrested for vandalism on numerous occasions.

Eventually, Haring’s work was seen everywhere, from public murals and nightclubs to galleries and museums worldwide, and he helped fund children's literacy projects and AIDS awareness initiatives. While the 1980s wasn’t the most joyous of times (think AIDS, recessions, and the arms race), Haring’s art brought positive energy to the era.

Likewise, the experimental, accessible, and colorful Swatch Watch, introduced in 1983, also helped define the decade design-wise. It was in this environment that the watchmaker launched one of the first successful street style collaborations 35 years ago. Haring and his cohort believed in art for all, so when Swatch approached him to commission a series of four watches, he jumped at the opportunity.

And like the Supreme and Off-White drops of today, his cartoonish designs – the Modèles Avec Personnages, Serpent, Milles Pattes, and Blanc sur Noir, quickly sold out, cementing Swatch’s reputation as a collectible as well as a utilitarian timepiece.

Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine

Pop culture was a big part of Haring’s visual language, and Mickey Mouse was one of his earliest inspirations. While the artist died of AIDS-related complications in 1990, at the age of age 31, decades later, his art still feels as relevant as it did in the 1980s – just as Mickey has been a timeless character for over 90 years. Just like Haring’s pictographic dogs and babies, Mickey’s instantly recognizable design seems like a harbinger of the use of emojis today – something that communicates happiness.

The latest Swatch collection features Disney’s Mickey Mouse reimagined in Haring’s signature aesthetic. Working with the Keith Haring Studio, there are three editions: Eclectic Mickey, Mouse Marinière, and Mickey Blanc sur Noir.

The 34mm Mouse Marinière, with stylized Breton stripes on the strap and a silhouette of Mickey etched on the crystal, is based on an original Haring drawing.

The 41mm Blanc Sur Noir features a closeup of Mickey’s face with yellow skeletonized hands.

And Eclectic Mickey, also 41mm, offers the boldest expression of Haring’s style, with complex interlocking patterns on the band and an abstracted version of the mouse’s face on the dial.

All feature quartz movements.

The models in the Disney Mickey Mouse X Keith Haring Collection by Swatch are certain to be instant collectibles, so be ready to shop as soon as they hit select boutiques and online on January 7th, 2021. Pricing is not yet available.

(Images © Swatch Watches)

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