Manny Iriarte is perhaps the most sought-after artist in the cigar industry. His passion runs deep, his designs are meticulous, and his concepts are brilliant. For this, he was awarded the Cigar Trophy for Outstanding Art by Cigar Journal in 2013. And that’s also exactly why Hublot, a Swiss maker of luxury timepieces, hand-selected Iriarte to design the Hublot Classic Fusion 45mm Fuente 20th Anniversary Special Edition watch.
“This was a huge honor and privilege,” Iriarte announced. “I worked on everything from concept to finished product. Hublot gave me the ‘green light’ to develop the entire idea.” The 20th Anniversary Special Edition watch was the third collaboration between Hublot and the Arturo Fuente cigar company. The first timepiece celebrated the Fuente cigar family’s centenary (1912-2012); the second watch was the Classic Fusion Forbidden X.
“When Rick De La Croix from Hublot called and said that they wanted to do a third edition of the watch, the progression was perfect to do the 20th year of Opus X,” explains Iriarte. He worked with Hublot designers on the first two watches, but in a limited capacity; however, his involvement increased with each new project.
After Iriarte had designed the back of the case for the first timepiece, De La Croix leaned on his artistry more extensively for the second. “I not only designed the back of the case again, but also the design and idea of the ‘X’ on the band,” Iriarte reveals. “I also helped with the technical aspects of the tobacco leaf on the dial.”
The Look of the Anniversary Fuente Watch
The creative expression exhibited in the newest Fuente watch focuses heavily on the colonial Spanish influences on Cuban culture. Iriarte and Fuente’s Cuban heritage is portrayed, from the overall concept to the most intricate of details. “I had a very clear and powerful idea,” the artist says. “It took me three or four days to express what I had in my mind. It was very fast.” The watch’s design successfully captured the ancestry of Arturo Fuente, founder of the Fuente cigar company, who was born in the municipality of Güines in the former province of La Habana (now Mayabeque), Cuba, in 1887.
“Fuente’s heritage fit perfectly with the Old Habana look of the iron balcony patterns on the base of the watch,” Iriarte says. “The Cuban tile pattern around the crown is at least 100 years old and it unites both Cuba’s and Fuente’s history.” There are three editions of this commemorative watch, each limited to a production of 20 pieces. The most extravagant is the King Gold version featuring a precious red gold developed by Hublot. An embossed tobacco leaf motif highlights the case and perimeter of the watch, representing the company’s tobacco farm, Chateau de la Fuente, the birthplace of the Fuente dream and home to the Opus X cigar.
The legendary Opus decor dominates the mat blue dial of the timepiece, including an “XX” appliqué for the 12th hour, and 18-karat, red-gold-plated hands. The back of the watch features an exclusive illustration of the Fuente family with the inscription, Chateau de la Fuente, Fuente Fuente Opus X 20 Years, as well as the model’s limited edition series number.
“The finished product is beautiful and stunning,” Iriarte says. “It is a privilege to make, in one piece, the power of luxury between two legendary companies.” The second version of the watch is housed in satin-finish black ceramic, and the third variant is made of brushed titanium. The King Gold retails for USD 33,000, while the brushed titanium and black ceramic each retail for USD 15,000.
Manny Iriarte: Luxury Designer
Manny Iriarte is a self-taught artist/photographer from Santa Clara, Cuba. He has been working closely with the Fuente family for almost six years, collaborating on many successful projects with the established cigar company.Iriarte is responsible for designing the Opus X Destino Al Siglo cufflinks, the 20 Years Opus X S.T. Dupont collection, the famed Blue Opus X cigar box, and various advertising campaigns.
He created all the artwork to decorate walls inside the new Fuente building in the Dominican Republic and the company’s trade fair booth for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) trade show. “I want to thank Carlito Fuente, Jr., and his family. They opened the door for me to have this incredible opportunity,” expresses Iriarte. “They have trusted me and believed in me.”
Manny Iriarte may not be a household name for many, but his work is among the best and most distinguished in the world of luxury design. His natural talent in the cigar industry has captivated his audience and garnered justifiable praise.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2017. Read more