While Takashi Murakami holds a PhD in nihonga (Japanese painting), he's as much a physics geek.
"I enjoy watching a lot of YouTube videos on physics that talk about time, space and the universe. Time is not linear, it's multifaceted," said Murakami.
His iconic smiling flower encounters the passing of time in a series of collaborations with Nyon-based Hublot.
In the end of June, the Swiss watchmaker unveiled the MP-15 Only Watch, featuring its first central flying tourbillon, powered by the HUB9015 manual winding movement.
The complication now spins on the limited-edition MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire, which was recently launched at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
The rock star of the contemporary art world has been a Friend of Hublot since 2020. The first collab in 2021, the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black with his emblematic motif, appealed with turning petals, thanks to an ingenious ball-bearing system.
Black was replaced by a whirlwind of transparency and colours in the second model, the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow.
Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire.
Transparency is magnified in the MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire, which showcases Hublot's expertise in synthetic sapphire.
Hublot engineers and chemists researched and developed the transparent material, which is robust enough to protect the mechanism. While different colours are available, the transparent sapphire was used to make the 42mm case of the new MP-15.
"Up until now, my work has focused on colour. It was really exciting to start a whole new chapter focusing on absolute transparency," said Murakami.
The design whimsically incorporates two laser-engraved twinkling eyes and a broad smile under the domed sapphire crystal.
Murakami pioneered the Superflat art movement, characterised by works that combine ancestral Japanese aesthetics with creative expressions particularly from anime and manga.
Takashi Murakami wearing the new MP-15.
The smiling flower originated from his study in nihonga, whose subjects are traditionally "snow, moon, and flowers", as well as "flowers, birds, wind, and moon". He loves painting flowers and gave them a smiling face for his contemporary art.
Boasting soft curves and generous volumes, Murakami's flower blooms with 12 sapphire crystal petals on the MP-15.
Hublot's aim was to create absolute transparency in order to maximise its luminosity. Sunlight passes straight through the floral timepiece, illuminating its curves and reliefs.
White indices and black-plated hands along with white SuperLuminova ensure legibility both day and night.
"The forms and volumes are perceived completely differently," noted Murakami. "We are able to preserve the individuality of my floral motif, but with a unique and different identity, which is purer and perfectly in tune with Hublot's mechanical universe."
Positioning the flying tourbillon at the heart of the watch posed a challenge to Hublot.
Around the edge, hours and minutes are indicated by tips of two peripheral hands, which literally pass beneath the tourbillon cage.
Because the hands and escapement vie for position in a single central space, the cannon pinion and hour wheel had to be pivoted around the tourbillon support by creating a co-axial construction.
HUB9015 manual winding movement.
The tourbillon is designed without an upper bridge, revealing some of the gears and its skeletonised components, which appear to float in space.
Available in 50 pieces, the MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire comes with a stylus, rechargeable via a USB socket.
The stylus is placed on the sapphire crystal crown to smoothly wind through 100 revolutions until two barrels driving the central tourbillon are fully wound, to ensure a power reserve of 150 hours.