Has Swiss watch brand plagiarized Vietnamese painter’s works?

By Ha Thu   June 6, 2023 | 08:18 pm PT
A picture of the Trung sisters, Vietnamese historical figures, featured on a watch made by Swiss company Christophe Claret is said to have images from paintings by Xuan Lam.

The company unveiled the new watch on its Facebook account on May 26, saying it wanted "to pay homage to the two sisters" and "the entirely handmade miniature painting [was created] by André Martinez."

The price of the watch has not been revealed.

The brand also showcased another watch that pays homage to King Naresuan of Thailand.

The Hai Ba Trung (The Trung Sisters) design made by Christophe Claret. Photo from Christophe Claret’s Facebook

The "Hai Ba Trung" (Trung Sisters) design made by Christophe Claret. Photo from Christophe Claret’s Facebook

As of June 5 the post had attracted over 28,000 likes and 1,400 comments, with most Vietnamese commenters expressing happiness at seeing a Swiss watch brand paying tribute to Vietnamese historical figures.

But many also pointed out the likeness between the design and paintings Xuan Lam had displayed in a personal exhibition in 2019. His works were based on the concept of repainting folk paintings in contemporary style.

In one of his paintings, the sisters ride their elephants side by side, while in the watch design they are separated.

But their gestures, features and colors are evidently similar to those in Lam’s paintings.

Besides, a bird featured on the watch bears an uncanny likeness to one in Lam’s "Thien Ha Thai Binh" (A Peaceful World).

Lam’s paintings Thien Ha Thai Binh (A Peaceful World, L) and Hai Ba Trung (The Trung Sisters). Photo from Lam’s website

Lam’s paintings "Thien Ha Thai Binh" (L) and "Hai Ba Trung." Photo from Lam’s website

Nguyen The Son, a curator of social fine arts projects in Hanoi, said: "To me, the design looks definitely like Lam’s paintings.

"Lam has long been pursuing this style of redrawing folk paintings using modern coloring and shaping techniques."

The artist himself has not responded to the issue.

A graduate of the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, Lam, 30, has received a Fulbright scholarship and is about to start a master’s program in the U.S. this fall.

Named after its founder, Christophe Claret is renowned for their high-end watches.

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