The tattooed man in front of me is explaining the cultural significance of watches to his native country, Switzerland, while wearing a watch on each wrist. “Even if you’re not passionate about watches or interested from an artistic point of view, you know people who work in the little workshops for the brands,” he says of growing up in Jura, Switzerland, the heart of the watch industry.
Maxime Büchi, founder of the famed Sang Bleu London tattoo studio, was recently named an ambassador for luxury Swiss watch brand Hublot. Bringing a unique fusion of technical and creative innovation, Büchi has redesigned the classic Hublot Big Bang timepiece in his signature geometric style. The watch’s new look, down to the numerals that were created for the piece by Büchi’s own typeface design agency SwissTypefaces SARL, has Büchi’s unique stamp all over it.
A graphic designer and typographer-turned-tattooist, Büchi grew up with a penchant for watches, which, he says, made this partnership effortless. “Watches are something meaningful that you pass on in your family and are important to Swiss people,” says Büchi. His polygonal designs, for both timepieces and his tattoos, may emphasize structure and function, but when working on any subject, Büchi takes an intellectual approach.
“My studies in arts and design made me able to understand the context of a tattoo; not how to do a tattoo, but why,” Büchi explains. He tells me how it wasn’t until his late 20s that he spent three years in a tattoo apprenticeship, working seven days a week, earning less than minimum wage. “It wasn’t an easy transition to go from graphic designer to tattooist, but it was a natural evolution.” On gaining such prominence in the tattoo world later in life, he jokes, “I blame myself for giving a lot of graphic designers the wrong impression that you can easily become a tattooist.”
Büchi believes that while anyone could theoretically do a tattoo, “the act of tattooing is the most minimal part of the competence you have as a tattooist.” Büchi believes tattooing from an aesthetic point of view and, more importantly, how you as an artist fit into the work, are the most crucial characteristics of a tattooist.
“It’s not that difficult to do a tattoo. My duty is to teach someone all the rest,” says Büchi, who now teaches his own apprentices. Büchi believes that morally, young tattooists should go through the hardships he went through to learn the craft but admits that practically speaking, the art form has evolved to be such a popular act that paying your dues may no longer be necessary.
“Tattooing has expanded from a subculture where a very small amount of iconography existed for a specific population, to multiple populations becoming interested in it,” he says. Büchi celebrates this cultural shift, how it’s led to more variety of tattoo styles and the fact that they are less taboo. “It’s a means of expression; although you can still absolutely offend people with tattoos, you can also get tattoos that go completely unnoticed.”
If a tattoo isn’t quite your speed, opt for the Hublot Big Bang timepiece that echoes Büchi’s tattoo style instead—you’ll be sure to get noticed.
All Images Courtesy of Hublot