My Dog Sighs: Street Art meets Luxury Swiss Watches

by Alex McKenzie on April 21, 2021
Street art watches. The idea alone seems a contradiction. Street art, a fleeting moment in time captured upon a makeshift canvas, applied to a luxury Swiss watch, a pinnacle of engineering built to operate for centuries. But when we at TRIBUS were introduced to My Dog Sighs, a contemporary UK street artist known for his unorthodox and innovative approach, we sensed a kindred spirit. All of a sudden, the idea of applying My Dog Sighs’ art to a collaborative run of 50 hand-painted watches made perfect sense.

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Who is My Dog Sighs?

My Dog Sighs’ art is displayed around the world; he founded a worldwide artistic movement; and just before the Covid pandemic hit, Samsung showcased his distinctive style at their London performance space. Yet you might not have heard of My Dog Sighs. As is normal when someone is operating ahead of the curve, that’s all starting to change.

London, 2002. A rat stencilled onto a metal door, lost amongst the graffitied city streets. An image insignificant to many, but not My Dog Sighs. A lightbulb had just turned on his head.

It’s hard to believe it now, but at the time My Dog Sighs was feeling lost. Having quit his job as a teacher to pursue his dream of becoming a professional artist, rejections from art galleries were causing his belief to slowly ebb away. But why? Quite simply, these galleries didn’t know who he was; his name didn’t mean anything; crucially, he was offering what he thought they wanted. My Dog Sighs drew a line under his dream and would return to a life of pens and whiteboards.

Yet seeing this rat challenged that. In fact, everything he thought he knew turned on its head: art could exist anywhere, hidden away in unexpected places or made from unlikely materials. And rather than aiming to please others, he realised that the person he was really creating for was himself. My Dog Sighs’ story was about to bark into life.

Street art was the way forward. Growing up in Southsea on the south coast of England, My Dog witnessed the emergence of graffiti during the 1980s. As the kid in class that scribbled away in his notebook, its immediacy spoke to him. It held a mirror to society, capturing that distinct moment in time – politically, socially and more. Really, when the time came, it was the perfect means for My Dog to tell his own story. But now with a wife and family, getting arrested for vandalism wasn’t an option. Yet his street art could still have the same impact – this Dog just needed to learn a few new tricks.

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Free Art Friday

My Dog Sighs would create art at home and leave it in the street for people to find. He called it ‘Free Art Friday’. It still enabled him to create and share, but with additional satisfaction: he’d released his work into the wild, and it was surviving on its own. Beyond canvases, he’d pick up stuff off the streets – tins cans and other bits that people were quick to throw away – and paint those instead. Just like the other paintings he left would gain new life after being found, these abandoned cans also gained a fresh purpose. The previously unwanted became worth finding again.

The success of ‘Free Art Friday’ would attract the interest of the BBC’s The Culture Show, an opportunity that would massively raise My Dog Sighs’ profile. Breaking out of the underground into a world of galleries and exhibitions, he found himself in demand from New York to Melbourne.

Yet crucially, this Dog from Southsea had managed it by staying true to his own vision. Back home, he founded his own Dog House Studios to meet and support other artists. Similarly, his focus on reusing parts that would otherwise end up in the bin started before every man and his dog (pardon the pun) was really on board with today’s focus on going green.

It was this singular vision that ultimately led to a meeting with TRIBUS, and 50 blank watch dials…

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In the Dog House

Before the UK was plunged into lockdown in early 2020, TRIBUS co-founder Jonathon and director Chris visited My Dog Sighs at his South Coast HQ. From the outside, a row of fairly non-descript terraced houses give little away. It’s only once you pass through the doorway that you’re welcomed into an alternative dimension. Canvases are propped up haphazardly against the naked walls (well, the ones that haven’t been painted yet anyway); they’re adorned with large eyes that gaze out disconcertingly across the room. Dozens of cans filled with paint brushes await their next project. Large work benches have taken on an artistic life of their own, imprinted by outlines of coffee mugs and paint splashes from projects past. The studio has the feel of a den whose owner acts on every artistic impulse. It’s chaotic, it’s relentless… it’s undeniably My Dog Sighs.

Witnessing his approach to creativity, where every surface really was a canvas – the bath in the Dog House Studios’ graffitied toilet was filled with paint stains, like Crime Watch meets Art Attack – we recognised that there was no way we could pigeonhole My Dog Sighs’ artistic efforts during the development process. This was to be an effort that was 100% his own vision, straight from his own hand and his own brush. Mentally picture My Dog Sighs’ artwork, and typically you’ll associate it with large, opened eyes, normally featuring some kind of reflection in them. However, this level of detail wasn’t going to be possible in such a confined space – the dial of each TRI-06 My Dog Sighs Limited Edition is only 36mm across. A different approach was required, and in true My Dog Sighs fashion, he came up with one – one that reflected his street art roots.

Produced at the Dog House Studios, each dial in this 50-piece run is truly unique, utilising an expressive array of vibrant colours, moments of flair and textures that reflect My Dog Sighs’ approach to standing out from the beige. (Please note, there might be beige involved in the dial of some of these luxury Swiss watches. But they certainly won’t be boring.) Just like the artist who created these 50 dials, the TRI-06 celebrates the importance of individuality. Yet, these watches also represent something more powerfully symbolic: they’re unlike anything you’d find in any mass-produced watch.

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Breaking the mould

Typically, most luxury Swiss watches are created at a watchmaker’s bench, identical to the one before them, and identical to the one after. For most of your prominent watch brands, that’s fine. They have models with a large degree of demand, and Mr Johnny Watchmaker is content to continue piecing them together. It’s a hugely skilled profession, requiring a huge amount of training, a bucketload of patience, and a very steady hand. But aside from your haute horologers – legends like Roger Smith and his mentor George Daniels – it’s rare that the watch taking form on the bench in front of them is a one-of-a-kind piece. Yet with the delicate hand scribblings of My Dog Sighs, the TRI-06 My Dog Sighs Limited Edition is a luxury modern Swiss-made watch that’s unique, rebellious, and, let’s be honest, fun.

Each TRIBUS is crafted by hand in Lugano, Switzerland. A country synonymous with quality and prestige, centuries of craft have culminated in your typical luxury modern Swiss watch. To preserve its reputation for posterity, Switzerland passed the following legislation over what constitutes a Swiss-made watch: its movement is Swiss; its movement is cased up in Switzerland; the manufacturer carries out the final inspection in Switzerland; at least 60% of production costs are generated in Switzerland. Factor in the work that goes into each watch, and you’ll soon realise that this is more than just a watch with My Dog Sighs’ art carelessly slapped on the front. It may have been engineered in the southernmost reaches of Switzerland, but the soul of each My Dog Sighs watch is from the South Coast of England, carrying the years of passion and adversity that culminated I the creative success he enjoys today. One part punk anarchism, another part Swiss-made perfection, the TRI-06 My Dog Sighs Limited Edition proves that street art watches are more than just eye-catching: they bring two previously paradoxical worlds together in powerfully cohesive fashion.

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Thinking outside of the box

But that’s not all. My Dog Sighs’ art isn’t just present on the dial of each watch; it’s present on its packaging too. Rewriting what you’d expect from a luxury modern Swiss watch, My Dog Sighs also suggested that he personally hand-paint 50 watch presentation cases too. Because if your watch is going to be totally unique, why shouldn’t its packaging be as well? It’s an innovative move, but one that displays My Dog Sighs’ art in another new setting, while proving his full-blooded commitment to the project. This Dog doesn’t do anything by halves.

Ah, you may ask, but isn’t it a cop-out not to include My Dog Sighs’ artistic trademark on the dial of the watch? It’s a fair point – but we had another move up our sleeve. Flip the watch over, and the TRI-06’s backplate features an eye delicately patterned onto glass on its backplate, allowing a view of the Swiss-made automatic movement inside. My Dog Sighs’ art has appeared in many strange and unexpected places before now. But we’re willing to bet you won’t find a more uniquely spectacular spot than the TRI-06 My Dog Sighs Limited Edition.

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Just 50 of the TRI-06 My Dog Sighs Limited Edition have been made, with a number already reserved. Don’t miss out on a one-of-a-kind street art watch – order yours here today.

Visit My Dog Sighs' website here.
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