My Cart

Close

The 8 Best Fun Watch Collaborations (Ltd Eds & Affordable)

Posted on January 14 2021

Watch Collaborations

 

There’s some truth in the old saying that two heads are better than one.

When watch designers work alongside artists and musicians - or take inspirations from comics and cinema - special things can happen. Often, new colour palettes are used and the watches begin to mirror the events and people that inspired their creation.

But great collaborations involve more than just adding a company logo or colour scheme to an existing watch. The best combine traditional watch designs that are then reinterpreted to reflect the ethos of the watch company’s partner.

I’ll take you through the ideas behind these collaborations so that you can shop for yours with more knowledge, and I’ll highlight the best of the current affordable examples.

Why Watch Companies Do Collaborations


There are some general reasons why brands choose to work together.

  • To access new markets and customers
  • The companies have overlapping customers
  • To get a brand noticed
  • For one brand to piggyback on the success of another
  • Promote a cause through a brand
  • When a company needs to rebrand

How does that look in the real world?

Timex is a great example to use from the watch industry. Most famously, they collaborated with Disney to release Mickey Mouse watches. Introduced in 1933, they were the brands first million-dollar watch and guaranteed the companies financial survival.

They’ve since worked on numerous collaborations including watches designed with Hawaiian tattooist Keone Nunes and British fashion designer Nigel Cabourn. (As an aside, I spoke at a local event alongside Nigel - he talked about his history in the fashion industry and I talked about Northwind Watches and watch design).

Probably the most common reason, at least among luxury watch brands, is where the two sets of customers overlap. It seems like most luxury watch companies have worked with a car company at some point.

For affordable watch companies - I’m assuming you're a fan and that is why you’re here - there are a variety of reasons for collaborating. With each run of watches being less expensive than the luxury brands, and with many watches being discontinued after a single run, these limited edition pieces can be quirky and fun.

You don’t have to take them too seriously.

I like that Ikea works with Lego and Lego works with Star Wars and Star Wars collaborates with Undone Watches. It’s fun, often fleeting, and results in some wonderful designs.

Sometimes the designs are hideous - but that is fun too.

I said earlier that designers from different fields working together can produce great results. But, I also like watches that aren’t design classics.

That’s where I want to go in this article.

I want to show you the fun watches - some are brilliant designs and some appeal to me despite their flaws.

If you’re like me, watches are a hobby. Yes, when you’re spending big bucks you need to be careful and think hard about your purchase and it’s resale value.

But with a watch that is costing a hundred bucks?

Relax, have fun with it and don’t take it to heart if people laugh at your poor taste.

 

Undone Monopoly Watch - The Benjamin

 

Undone is the King of Collaborations.

They’ve very quickly made their name as the go-to watch customisation platform and that really is their unique selling point. I created my take on their Vintage Killy chronograph and documented the procedure.

But if you take a look at their website, watch customisations are only part of the story. Currently, they have collaborative watches that display characters from Batman to the Moomins. They have Buddhist models alongside Tom and Jerry.

I’ve chosen this model, not only for its great design but also because of how fun the collaboration is. Let me explain.

They’ve taken an iconic board game and used that as inspiration for a watch design. A vintage game and a vintage-style chronograph. They’ve had fun with it too. The name, The Benjamin, refers to US money and the dial design references this.

It goes further. That number that looks like a dollar serial number? It’s actually the patent number of the Monopoly board game.

And there’s more.

The watch design has created by Stephen Bliss - the artist from Rock Star Games who created the distinctive imagery for Grand Theft Auto, LA Noire and Red Dead Redemption.

In terms of specs, this watch is similar to my Vintage Killy model. It has a reliable Seiko meca-quartz hybrid movement, a K1 domed crystal and a mid-sized stainless steel case.

The Benjamin has been limited to 500 pieces.

Undone Monopoly The Benjamin

  • 41.8mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • VK64 Mechanical-Quartz Hybrid Movement
  • Domed K1 Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Timex X Todd Snyder Beekman Watch

 

A while back I asked the question - Are Timex Watches Good Value for Money?

I answered yes, and I’ve since included a number of Timex models in my posts. A current favourite being the modern California dial variation of their 1960s classic, the Marlin.

As noted earlier, Timex was one of the first watch companies to successfully collaborate with a second party. Their work with Disney, the Peanuts characters and others was a contrast to their reputation as the company that created the dollar watch.

They collaborated their way out of financial hardship, and recently, used the method to make the brand cool and fashionable.

The designs produced with American fashion icon Todd Snyder are a great example of this. US heritage watch company Timex produce watches designed by Snyder, who has been inspired by military tailoring. There’s an overlap of styles and missions, and watches like the Beekman are the result.

Apparently, Snyder enjoys special access to the Timex vaults, and on one visit he discovered a vintage watch that inspired this design.

It’s an attractive and unusual design that also features the company’s Indiglo technology - the whole dial can be illuminated. In addition, there are prominent lumed indices, numbers and hands.

The dial is busy - and let’s ignore the superfluous tachymeter scale - but this is offset by a simple case - in terms of the specification that is to be expected. This watch is about the design and the collaboration of brands - so the movement is a straightforward quartz, the glass is an authentic acrylic and the there is token water-resistance of 30M.

Timex x Todd Snyder Beekman

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Acrylic Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Citizen Spiderman Watch

 

I’m not a fan of comics or Spiderman. But I know a lot of people who are.

This watch speaks to them.

Despite my lack of interest in Spiderman, I can’t help this watch also speaking to me. As I suggested in the introduction, the best watch collaborations go beyond simply rebranding an existing design. This Citizen is among those best designs.

The case, for example, is unique. It’s built from Super Titanium - stronger and lighter than steel - and shaped with lines reminiscent of the superheroes suit. The dial features original comic art, with Spiderman, the hands and the minute markers accented in red.

It’s quite a chunky watch, with a diameter of 44mm. That, along with the light-powered Eco-drive movement and Titanium case, means that this feels like a watch for a super hero. It’s tough, durable and uses cutting edge technology.

It’s also limited to 1962 pieces.

And yes, that was the year that the first Spiderman comic was published.

Citizen Spiderman Ltd Ed AW0061-01W

  • 44mm Diameter
  • Titanium
  • Eco-Drive Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Luminox Bear Grylls Watch

 

Another watch manufacturer that uses cutting-edge technology is US-owned, and Swiss-based, Luminox. The name is Latin for Lightnight, and refers to the brands pioneering use of GTLS illumination in their watches.

Where some of the watches I’ve included here are fun and lighthearted, Luminox come at watchmaking from a different angle. They launched the brand by supplying watches to the US Navy Seals and continue to design timepieces for the military and security services.

This model is from a collection that they released in 2020 with British survival expert, and former soldier, Bear Grylls.

Luminox has their own DNA and this watch adheres to the basics. It has their signature carbon case, Swiss quartz movement and, of course, GTLS illumination - glass tubes filled with Tritium gas.

At 45mm wide and 14mm thick, this is a rugged piece. That’s the point. It’s a collaboration between a survival guru and a watch brand that prides itself on creating some of the world’s toughest watches.

As with all of the Luminox line, this is a Swiss-made watch. It features a functional colour palette with just a few touches of orange, and Bear Grylls motto - Never Give Up - on the case-back.

The strap is an unusual design - paracord - a reference to Grylls background in parachuting.

The collaboration isn’t obvious with this watch, rather, it has been designed and tested by a name recognisable to the market that Luminox targets.

Luminox Bear Grylls Survival 3797.KM

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 24mm Lug Width
  • Carbon Case
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Bulova Harley Davidson Skull Watch

 

Bulova might not seem like the obvious watch manufacturer for a fun collaboration. They’re better known as supplying the US military with watches and their Lunar Pilot model - one of only a couple of watches to ever to be used during the moon landings.

But they have a couple of big collaborations in their history. One of the most notable being from the early days of flight. In 1921 Bulova built a watch with Charles A. Lindbergh to celebrate his solo crossing of the Atlantic.

More recently they’re teamed up with the music business and released a Grammy line and watches featuring Nile Rodgers and Frank Sinatra.

They’ve now created a slightly edgy Harley-Davidson line.

The designs range from relatively conservative models sporting the Harley-Davidson logo on the dial to the bolder, eye-catching pieces like this Flaming Skull model.

There’s more appeal in this less conventional model - particularly given the outsider worldview associated with the Harley brand.

This large watch is styled like a tool or a piece of machinery. It’s angular, industrial-looking and lacks numbers or a date window. Indeed, it’s not obvious that it’s a Bulova watch until you look closely.

That is, of course, because the Skull motif dominates the watch. Despite being a joint-venture between two massive names, those names don’t feature prominently. I like that. Although the watch isn’t subtle - the branding is.

This monster is a quartz model, with a mineral crystal and 100M of water resistance.

Bulova Harley-Davidson Flaming Skull 76A164

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 10.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Seiko 5 Street Fighter Blanka Watch

 

Let’s forget about computer games for a minute and focus purely on this watch.

Before we get to the design, let’s look at the watches backstory. It’s a part of the Seiko 5 line - a collection of automatic watches created with value for money in mind. Importantly, since the launch of the collection in 1963, one key feature has been that it was marketed to a younger audience.

In practice that has meant sporty watches, sometimes colourful and always competitively priced.

I enjoy computer games about as much as I enjoy comics and superheroes. But that doesn’t matter. As a teenager, I bashed buttons on Street Fighter and that was enough for me to take note when Seiko released the collaborative watches.

There are six watches in the series - each named after a character from the game. All the models are essentially variations on the same divers watch. As mentioned, they’re automatics and you can see Seiko’s in-house movement through the exhibition back.

This outrageous Blanka model is my preferred choice, particularly with the addition of a more understated strap. A simple leather strap should make the appearance a little less childish.

It is a mid-sized diver, with the case and hands both being recognisably Seiko. The glass is Seiko’s own Hardlex crystal and along with the water-resistance, the watch should be pretty robust. Indeed, that is one of the core objectives of the Seiko 5 line.

If you want something distinctive that references your childhood, this is a cracking place to start.

Seiko 5 Street Fighter Blanka SRPF23K1

  • 42.5mm Diameter
  • 13.4mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Hardlex Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Ball Fireman Ducks Unlimited Watch

 

Ball may seem a little out of place on this list. They’re an older US brand that I don’t tend to feature much in this blog. I probably should as they make some very nice watches.

When I did last feature the brand it was in regard to the company’s links to the railroads. The founder of Ball, Webb C. Ball, had been tasked with standardising time on the railroads. That’s what I still picture when I think about the brand.

Admittedly, their watches do capitalise on this historic relationship and their collections include the Railroad Engineer, Firemen, Trainmaster and Conductor models.

This watch is from the Fireman collection and isn’t so much a collaboration, as a watch designed to promote a charity. In this case, Ducks Unlimited - they primarily conserve wetlands and similar habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife.

There are two versions of this watch, and in keeping with the theme of this list, I’ve chosen the more colourful of the variants. It’s my first Ball watch for a while, and possibly my first camo watch ever.

The specifications and build quality are central to this watches success. It’s a Swiss-made piece powered by Ball’s RR1103 automatic movement - based on a Swiss ETA base. It has a sapphire crystal, and like the Luminox, GTLS illumination.

The result is a stylish, mid-sized tool watch, designed specifically for hunters and outdoor hobbyists.

As you’d expect at this higher price-point, there is real attention to detail. That includes the signed crown and the attractive duck relief on the case back. The case is a utilitarian tool watch design and has a reasonably large crown.

Remember, if the camouflage is too much, there is also the standard black dial version.

Ball Fireman Ducks Unlimited NM2188C-S22-CO

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11.3mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Ball RR1103 Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Invicta Spongebob Watch

 

My excuse for not wearing this watch is that my wrists are too thin for the 52mm wide case.

Other than that, why not walk the streets with this tasteful piece? It is after all, a tribute to one of our cultures popular figures, a household name.

And really that is this watches selling point.

Normally I’d suggest that with Invicta you get real value for money - I bought a new automatic Invicta, with a Japanese Seiko movement for £50 a while back. But with this model, it’s not actually that cheap.

This is a watch that you’re just going to have to just love for the style - and doesn’t it have style?

Invicta Spongebob 32521

  • 52mm Diameter
  • 20mm Thick
  • 29mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


There are many reasons for brands to collaborate.

For a lot of watch companies, it works best when they share common customers with another industry. You’ll have seen any number of watch and car brands join forces. There are also quite a few celebrities and sportsmen working with the big luxury watch manufacturers.

At the affordable end of the market, it’s a little different. The connections tend to be less obvious.

Of course, there are exceptions. Timex and Disney is the example I most often use - an affordable watch brand reaching out to a whole new demographic by adding a picture of their favourite character to the watches dial.

For the most part though, smaller affordable brands seek out less conventional partners. Tattoo artists, musicians and even characters from board games.

Crucially, they often produce small runs of limited edition watches that are discontinued shortly afterwards. Part of the fun is to catch these collaborations as they come out and grab yours.

In this piece, I’ve highlighted a selection of my current favourites and I’d suggest that you take a closer look at the ones that grab your attention. As always, add your own thoughts below.


Subscribe to my list for updates and offers

Related Posts

7 Affordable Watches that Look Like a Smurf Rolex Submariner
7 Affordable Watches that Look Like a Smurf Rolex Submariner
The Paul Newman, the Clint Eastwood and the Hulk.Iconic nicknames for some of Rolex's most iconic watches. The Paul N...
Read More
The 7 Best Affordable Blue Dial Dive Watches
The 7 Best Affordable Blue Dial Dive Watches
Blue is a masculine colour.Admiral Nelson wore blue at the Battle of Trafalgar and Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo...
Read More
Sekonda Budget Watches - Too Good to be True?
Sekonda Budget Watches - Too Good to be True?
Beware of Expensive Imitations.It's a cheeky tagline and one that Sekonda has used frequently. It tells you something...
Read More
A Stunning New Watch that Looks Old? Try Out of Order
A Stunning New Watch that Looks Old? Try Out of Order
How long do you cook spaghetti for?I had to use Google for the answer.Imagine you needed the answer and you don't hav...
Read More
The 5 Best Revue Thommen Watches - Affordable Swiss-Made Watches
The 5 Best Revue Thommen Watches - Affordable Swiss-Made Watches
Airplanes are the safest form of travel.The reasons are complex but there is one factor that stands out. Attention to...
Read More
Roamer Watches - The 5 Best Models from Exciting Swiss Brand
Roamer Watches - The 5 Best Models from Exciting Swiss Brand
Heritage.Some watch companies have it and others don't.There are plenty of companies that try and fake it, often to t...
Read More

0 comments

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing