A growing number of artists are finding inspiration in the wonders of horology. Using a variety of different styles, from graphite sketches to bold watercolors, CAD drawings and floating sculptures, a new version of watchmaking art is emerging, much to the delight of watch collectors everywhere. In part one of a two-part series, Revolution’s Sophie Furley talks to artists from all over the world to discover more about how they developed a passion for watchmaking.
Mike Brend, Eleven 11
Eleven 11 is the company name of British artist Mike Brend who is a mechanical engineer by day and artist by night. “It all started as a hobby. I am really into watches and I’m inspired by the Scandanavian minimalist style. I am a project manager for an oil and gas company and am used to doing technical drawings. I like the clean lines of the geometric shapes and the two came together.”
Brend’s first piece was a drawing of his Rolex Submariner, which he created using a 2D-CAD program. He put the picture on Instagram just under a year ago and now has a fully-fledged part-time business creating technical drawings for watch collectors. “The business has stemmed from my Instagram account. I only have about 2,000 followers, but the interest in my work has skyrocketed. I started last year in October and sold my first drawing in December 2016. I have produced over 700 prints to date.”
The prints come on high-quality satin-finished photo paper, but Brend can also produce works on canvas or steel on request. There is also the possibility of having them framed. Prices range from £20 for an A3 print, to £35 for an A1 size, and up to £200 for a special order. “Many people have told me I should charge more, but I just want to give watch fans a quality product that they can enjoy.”
Brend’s clients are mainly watch collectors and watch boutiques and his most popular print by far is the Rolex GMT. He has produced drawings of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Cartier, TAG Heuer, Breitling and Richard Mille and the list keeps growing.
“If this starts to pay me more than my regular work maybe I will leave my job and dedicate my time to this. I was recently invited to Dubai by a watch retailer to do some commissioned work, so if I could do more of these kind of projects, I would definitely leave the engineering behind!”
An autodidact artist based in Copenhagen, Cay Brøndum creates a unique form of watch-inspired art that he calls historic horological art. Like many artists it was chance that brought him into the world of watchmaking.
Not a watch collector himself, he hadn’t even worn a watch for more than 15 years when an old friend asked to swap an Omega Speedmaster for some old motorbike parts. “I initially said no, but he insisted, telling me that the watch had been on the moon. This immediately sparked my interest. It obviously wasn’t the actual watch that had gone to the moon, but I loved the story. I love a good story and storytelling is a big part of my work. I read about the watch and made the swap. As an artist, each time I set my eyes on something new it sparks interest and becomes part of my artwork and this is what happened with the Omega.”
Brøndum painted a picture of his new watch on an old paper with the moon rover from 1969 in the background and then posted it on Facebook. “A friend of a friend saw it and asked if it was for sale. I was actually planning to put it on my wall as I really liked it, but I agreed to sell it to him and he put a photograph of it on a watch forum and then other people started to contact me.”
Painting mainly with watercolors, ink and acrylic, Brøndum’s style isn’t detailed. He prefers the more lifestyle interpretation of a watch with different textures. The watch is precise, but there are splashes of paint and brush strokes that add something unique to each artwork. He once found a bunch of old papers from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s and decided to use them as a backdrop for his work, but now he is working on larger canvases as he is running out of old papers!
Brøndum doesn’t only paint watches, his work covers a broad range of subjects and styles, but the watch work has hugely influenced him. “It is funny, but watches often sneak into my regular work. For example, I did this picture of a rabbit holding a pocket watch. On the pocket watch I painted a Patek Philippe Calatrava symbol. Watch fans pick up on this, but the art enthusiasts, who have no knowledge of watches, just think it is a compass or something!”
Brøndum creates a wide range of artwork from limited edition prints on aluminum (starting from €379) to large limited-edition artworks on canvas. He has stopped doing commissions due to a lack of time, but is happy to add a detail or two on request!
Quentin Carnaille comes from Roubaix in northern France and started his artistic career in architecture before becoming interested in sculpture. “I really loved architecture at school, I loved the idea of reinventing a town, it was so creative, but then there were restraints such as budget that put restrictions on my creativity. It was then that I started branching out, notably in horology where I felt free to create.”
Architecture still left a huge impression on the artist. “When I was in my fourth year at architecture school I started to look at buildings like the Beaubourg (Centre Georges Pompidou) in Paris where the aesthetics and technical aspects of the building become one and the same. It is like a watch, where the rubies are beautiful but they also have their role to play.”
Carnaille’s father was a watch collector so he had been exposed to watchmaking from a young age and it was towards watchmaking that he turned when creating some of his first sculptures, using components from old watch movements.
“The production process is particularly fastidious as each movement has to be disassembled and then each piece meticulously cleaned. Most of the movements are over 100 years old. I use powerful magnets to keep the components in place, but not all the movement pieces are ferrous so I can’t use them all. Nickel for example is not magnetic, so I find solutions by leaving the nickel wheels on their steel axis.”
The main challenge when working with magnets in this way is that they have north and south poles, drawing the metal components to the ends and leaving the middle bare. In order to cover the entire magnet with watch parts Carnaille attaches hundreds of tiny powerful magnets around the middle of the main magnet. Each of these tiny magnets has to be coated in resin so it won’t stick to the other magnets, which demands extreme patience.
Each of Carnaille’s creations takes about a month to create and they range in price from €9,000 to €60,000. They are available at the M.A.D Gallery in Geneva, Dubai and Taipei. He also has an upcoming exhibition at Pisa Orologeria in Milan from September 4th to 19th.
Julie Kraulis is a Canadian artist, author and illustrator based in Toronto. She has a Bachelor of Arts in illustration from the Ontario College of Art & Design and admits that it is a little unusual that she draws watches. “I was never exposed to watch culture. It is far more dominant in Europe than it is here in Canada, but I wanted to work on larger drawings so I started to think about what objects would be interesting to draw and I stumbled across watches.”
She uses Staedtler pencils on Arches hot-pressed paper in a 26 x 40-inch (66 x 102 cm) format and will spend between 150 to 200 hours on each piece. Her style is extremely detailed, yet hyper realistic. “I like to have a narrative in my work so that it isn’t mistaken for a photograph; different design elements are always woven in.”
She has been drawing timepieces for about a year now and thanks to Instagram, has gained a strong following of watch aficionados, many of whom have commissioned works from her. “What I enjoy the most about this kind of work is learning about the watches I draw; I love to research the history of each piece. I also love how passionate watch fans are and how strong the watch community is, regardless of the brand.”
Her favorite piece to date was a live work she did for Omega at The Tate Modern in London to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster. “My work takes so long that I did 50% of the drawing before the event and continued it on the night. I even drew the moon phase from the night of the event. This is hands down the most fun piece I have had the opportunity to create so far.”
Commissions start from $5,000.
Nicholas W. Starr
Based in Orange Country, California, artist Nicholas W. Starr works in corporate management and paints in his free time. “I am a corporate guy so the art is a side passion. I have a degree in fine art from California State University, Fullerton and started my early career as an artist designing for Dreamworks doing painting and graphic design, but then I followed a more business route.”
His interest in watches has been with him from a young age and when he started painting again he decided to paint a Rolex GMT 1675. It wasn’t a watch that he owned, but one that he really wanted!
He paints on canvas with acrylic and likes to use different inks among other materials: “My style is aggressive and heavily gestured; some people say it is almost street style.” He loves to paint watch faces and frequently does commissions for watch collectors.
One of his most recent collections was created together with Danish watch expert and author Kristian Haagen. “How I met Kristian was very organic. I used to follow him on social media and then a collector friend showed me his book Hashtags and Watches. Collecting is always so serious, but his book featured the most amazing watches that were explained in a really fun way. I reached out to him and he loved my work and style and thought it would be great to do a collaboration. We bounced some ideas back and forth over a few months and I came up with the idea of painting a series of book covers as he is an author and I am an artist. The book covers are light-hearted and funny, and only watch connoisseurs really get them.”
The originals come in a large format (30 x 40 inches) and cost $19,480. Artist proof canvas prints that are hand-signed and limited to 150 are $4,950, and limited prints on museum etched paper (limited to 250 prints) are $680.