Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

‘This time shall pass’ – how a proverb used by Mohamed Bin Zayed inspired this limited-edition watch

G Shock Watches brought together two regional artists for a charity initiative that raised Dh15,000

The winning design by artist Diaa Allam. Courtesy G Shock
The winning design by artist Diaa Allam. Courtesy G Shock

When the pandemic struck, G Shock Watches Middle East knew it wanted to help raise both money and people’s spirits.

Rather than donate funding or PPE, the watchmaker wanted to find a solution that brought together the humanitarian organisation Emirates Red Crescent, the regional art community and watch fans, too.

“The unrest in the world had caused many issues – for example, some artists had lost their zeal to create, others lost their sources of income,” says Koji Naka, managing director of Casio Middle East.

“We wanted to come up with an initiative that not only supported emerging talent but encouraged them to carry on creating.”

The unprecedented situation, it seemed, required an unprecedented solution.

G Shock first approached Hassan Akhras, the watch aficionado, influencer and founder of Arab Watch Guide, to brainstorm an answer. The resulting idea was to produce a watch limited to only 30 pieces, with 30 per cent of proceeds going to Emirates Red Crescent. In addition, its strap would be designed by a regional artist.

With the world on lockdown and most business being conducted via Zoom, it was decided the artists would produce the work live over the platform, enabling viewers to vote for their favourite designs.

The artwork showing the two artists going head to head. Courtesy G Shock
The artwork showing Diaa Allam and Stephany Sanossian going head to head. G Shock

In May, Diaa Allam and Stephany Sanossian were asked to create the designs, with the saying “this time shall pass” as their brief.

The Middle Eastern proverb, sometimes translated as “this too shall pass”, was recently used by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to give people hope during the pandemic.

Allam, a self-confessed “Egyptian with an Emirati soul”, is a calligrapher and muralist who lives in Ajman. He is already well known regionally for his flowing Arabic lettering, which has adorned pillars at Abu Dhabi airport, the Ajman Flagpole and even a Costa coffee cup for Ramadan.

The Syrian-Armenian digital artist Sanossian reworks photography into new and arresting pictures. Combining unexpected elements, her work has included famous faces such as Kylie and Kendall Jenner digitally relocated into an upscale Syrian house party, or basketball legend Dennis Rodman slam-dunking a ball in the streets of Old Damascus.

Stephany Sanossian's watch strap design. Courtesy G Shock
Stephany Sanossian’s watch strap design. G Shock

“We decided on the theme and the artists got to work on the designs, bringing the concept to life in the form of two art styles: the first in Arabic calligraphy depicting the words ‘This time shall pass’ and the second in digital art reflecting the Dubai skyline,” Naka says.

In front of a Zoom audience, Allam and Sanossian brought their ideas to life. Allam wrote freehand lettering inside a large outline of a watch strap taped to the wall, while Sanossian merged and manipulated images to create the distinctive horizon featuring Burj Khalifa and Emirates Towers.

More than 3,000 people watched the work unfold, and by a narrow margin, voters chose Allam’s design. Only 30 watches available for pre-order – all were sold within 10 minutes, raising Dh15,000 for charity.

Akhras, the founder of the Arab Watch Guide, said some viewers texted in their orders before voting even ended.

“The idea was to showcase our solidarity in tough times and our ability to keep creating and innovating,” he says.

The finished G Shock watch, when ready, will have a leather strap, carefully printed with Allam’s lettered design, and a gold-plated face.

“This initiative was an art contest, and the idea behind it was to motivate artists to be creative, especially during the lockdown,” Naka says.

“We love collaborating with regional artists and creatives that share a similar DNA, be it in fashion, art, music and sports. Each collaboration is always a natural partnership.”

Updated: June 23, 2020 08:30 PM

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