Nigo, or Tomoaki Nagao, is one of the iconic figures representing the Japanese fashion industry since the 1980s. During his younger years, American hip-hop music and clothing culture became one of his biggest inspirations towards his first venture, Bape, a clothing brand situated in the heart of Harajuku. It later became one of the most coveted labels within the Asia market in the 90s, the fame of the brand had briefly started the subculture of Ura-Harajuku, which is closely related to the development of the Japanese streetwear ventures within the area.
His name, Nigo, which translates to number two in Japanese, originated from him starting just a bit shy of the legendary Hiroshi Fujiwara, who was commonly referred to as the number one in the discussion of Japanese streetwear industry. Though they went down slightly different paths, their creations were every teenager’s statement in sophisticated fashion. Entering the new millennium, Nigo would expand his ideas into co-creation under the label Billionaire Boys Club and ICECREAM with the renown American singer Pharrell Williams, their influence quickly taking off aided by Skateboard P’s (as Williams is also known) dominance of the international musics charts as half of the super producer duo The Neptunes. Spreading across streetwear and music culture throughout North America and Japan, which consequently amplified his acclaim and elevated his altitude of success from the domestic to worldwide market, Nigo would become a definite cultural figure of the last 20 years.
Unsurprisingly, the curation of Nigo was far more than just clothing and music, he was also a collector in all sorts of lifestyle accessories, ranging from toys, furniture, automobiles, artworks, custom made jewellery, and watches, to name just a few. This keen eye of his allowed him to amass an extensive and eclectic collection, that he would subsequently offer through two thematic auctions during the 2010s. His background of fashion and hip-hop culture acquired him a rather unique and meticulous taste towards his acquisition journey, that together he recreated through his lifestyle with a touch of street aesthetic.
Speaking of hip-hop, it is impossible to not mention the increasing habit of braggadocio voicing the luxurious lifestyle and perhaps, name dropping some of the most expensive watches. If there is a ranking that keeps count of the times that happen to a certain brand, Richard Mille could likely come at the top, which in return puts more cultural value on what was originally a creation to excel in the sports field.
The RM011-FM, featured the signature tonneau case of Richard Mille, containing a flyback chronograph and annual calendar from the automatic calibre RMAC1. As you would expect with no less visual expression from Richard Mille, the sapphire dial allows you to appreciate the intricate movement manufactured out of titanium for a strong, and light construction, complimented by the carbon fibre flange and the big date in the upper centre, it has a convincing and legible hierarchy when reading the dial. In order to accommodate the difference of lifestyle between customers, the movement featured a variable-geometry rotor in the oscillating weight, it allows six adjustable positions to create the optimal inertia.
Another brand that bears the similar tonneau-shaped watch case and heavy presence in the life of Nigo and other cultural torchbearers, is Frank Muller. On their crazy hour tourbillon, it yields a totally different ambience despite being name-dropped by rappers. Just as the title of the watch suggests, the hour markers on this watch are far from sensical, with hour 1 to 12 all purposely set on the wrong position of the dial, it is physically contradictory as a wristwatch, which is further juxtaposed by embracing the tourbillon escapement. As nonsensical as it might sound, it becomes a statement, or a form of art that conveys a philosophical message for the wearer, perhaps suggesting that nobody could understand the time better than the one who is wearing it, or perhaps just that it doesn’t matter what hour of the day it is when you’ve been partying all night.
Both Richard Mille and Frank Muller have that special cultural capital that attracts celebrities like Pharrell and Nigo, perhaps beyond the hype of Richard Mille, it is because of the innovative and uncompromising character that Williams became a long term customer turned ambassador, coming out with collaborations like the signature RM52 with the astronaut helmet on the dial. And for Nigo, it could possibly be the daring character of his combined with the nonsensical aesthetic of Frank Muller timepieces, that caused him to once place a custom order for a watch set with diamond and the Bape logo on the dial, a combination that perhaps perfectly encapsulates the style of this era for music and fashion.