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Apple hires legendary designer Marc Newson ahead of 'iWatch' launch

The esteemed Australian designer has already been working with Apple design guru Jony Ive for months ahead of a presumed wearable launch next week.

Marc Newson, Bono and Jony Ive (left to right) attend Jony And Marc's (Red) Auction at Sotheby's in New York City late last year. Getty Images

Apple has hired world-famous Australian designer Marc Newson, known for his watch company Ikepod and a futuristic design style tuned to high-fashion concepts.

Newson will remain in the UK where he will take on the role of senior vice president of design under Jony Ive, who leads industrial design as well as Apple's so-called "Human Interface" software teams. The news was reported by Vanity Fair earlier Friday.

Apple is expected to release a long-rumored wearable device, dubbed the "iWatch," next week alongside two new iPhone models. That makes Newson the latest in a string of high-profile hires Apple has made from the fashion community to help steer its brand and design as it enters its first new product category since the 2010 introduction of the iPad tablet. Apple's top executive talent also includes Nike's Ben Shaffer, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, and Paul Deneve, the former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent.

With Ikepod, which Newson founded in 1994 and departed from two years ago, the designer blended high-end fashion with the wacky designs of sci-fi concept art. He's perhaps most famous, though, for his Lockheed Lounge, a aluminum-covered chair he designed in 1986 and built with his bare hands. In 2006, one sold for a record $1.6 million, the highest amount ever paid at the time for the work of a living contemporary designer.

Newson has also worked with Swiss time-piece maker Jaeger-LeCoultre; created a concept car for Ford; and designed products as diverse as boats, Nike shoes and Japanese mobile phones. He's also been involved with plane design, constructing interior concepts for Australian airline Qantas and designing a one-off personal jet for the Foundation Center in Paris in 2003. Called the Kelvin40, the aircraft looks like it came straight out of "The Jetsons."

It's important to note that Newson is not being brought on just as Apple prepares to launch its wearable, which would suggest he hasn't had any input on the device. Rather, Newson has been working with Ive for the past year behind closed doors, where the two have collaborated on Apple design projects, Vanity Fair reported. The publication said Apple didn't disclose whether those projects include the iWatch.

A customized version of the Atmos 561 clock created by Newson for Jaeger-LeCoultre. Featured in the (Red) auction, it required no battery replacement or charging -- it drew its power from atmospheric temperature changes. Sotheby's

Newson and Ive do have a history. Last year, the two designers curated a benefit auction for (Red), the global branding initiative for AIDS research awareness launched in 2006 by U2 frontman Bono. Newson and Ive personally designed many of the items, including a red Mac Pro, solid rose-gold Apple earbuds and a customized Atmos 561 clock originally created by Newson for Jaeger-LeCoultre. The auction raised $26.2 million for Red's partnering research and charity organization, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"Marc is without question one of the most influential designers of this generation," Ive told Vanity Fair. "He is extraordinarily talented. We are particularly excited to formalize our collaboration as we enjoy working together so much and have found our partnership so effective."