When Ronnie Wood left rehab – for what he glibly says was probably the ninth time – he had an epiphany: he wanted to paint.
The Rolling Stones guitarist has always been the creative type who constantly needs to keep his mind and hands busy, describing creativity as something that is ‘in his blood’. Originally, he followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers, who were both musicians and artists who trained at Ealing Art College, which was also attended by Freddie Mercury and Pete Townsend. After graduating from The Birds and Faces to replace Stones guitarist Mick Taylor in 1975, it was the excesses of rock ’n’ roll that increasingly kept him busy until the time came when drugs and alcohol no longer gave Wood satisfaction.
Fresh from rehab, and armed with paint brushes gifted from Damien Hirst, Wood painted a colourful emotive swirl. It symbolised his new-found clarity and vision (Wood claims sobriety literally improved his eyesight) and the swirl motif has travelled with him ever since.
Today this symbol, in Wood’s own words, has ‘finally been put to good use’ as the primary design of a wooden box containing one of the musician’s most creative projects to date: his collaboration with British watchmakers Bremont, The 1947 Collection.
The collection consists of 47 limited-edition Bremont timepieces, each with dials handpainted by Wood himself. Founded by aviationmad brothers Nick and Giles English in 2002, Bremont is a relative newcomer on the horology scene. Not only are Bremont watches handmade in Britain but its many limited-edition collections often incorporate unique physical elements, such as a ring of aluminium from Alpha Bravo, the last Concorde to fly from Heathrow, and even real pieces of fabric from the original 1903 Wright Flyer.
This, coupled with elegant design and precision movements, make these Bremont watches ideal for collectors looking for something unique. With The 1947 Collection (named in homage to Wood’s birth year) buyers have a unique opportunity to own an original Ronnie Wood artwork that doubles as a functional timepiece. No two are the same, although each one is clearly from the same brush and mind, with common motifs of twisted guitars, horses and kaleidoscopic swirls. Each one reminds Wood of a particular city or moment on tour, when he took time out in-between shows and family life to paint them. He affectionately refers to the dials as his ‘little buddies’, admitting he was reticent to part with them.
The English brothers met Wood around eight years ago, and the three ‘just clicked’. Back then, they asked Ronnie to paint a one-off mariner’s clock, which later progressed to the miniature dials in The 1947 Collection. Despite their more expressionist aesthetic, the 18ct gold watches are recognisably Bremont, powered by a special Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier movement with a classic moon phase complication.
‘In my painting I was thinking about trying some miniatures, and it was just in the air that Nick and Giles asked if I fancied painting some small watch faces,’ Wood explains. ‘I thought: perfect, this is it, this is the vehicle I need.’
As well as the vibrant dial paintings, the watches all have Wood’s signature on the back, along with the words: ‘I feel like painting.’ A simple mantra that epitomises Wood’s epiphany and the enduring power of art.