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 two of a two-part series (part one here), we speak with artists from all over the world to discover more about how they developed a passion for watchmaking.
Marcus B. Williams
Marcus B. Williams has been drawing watches and movements for over six years now, but it was never his professional plan. He was working as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and drawing in his spare time when he came across a photograph of the caseback of a Richard Mille that instantly caught his eye. “I was fascinated by the gears and mechanics and found it really fun to draw. When it was finished my girlfriend at the time suggested I put it up for sale on eBay for $1,000. I never thought it would sell, and yet six days later a collector in Hong Kong bought it.”
Williams has been drawing as long as he can remember. “My parents are both artists, so it is a bit like where Tiger Woods’s parents gave him a golf club, I got paper and pencils.”
He likes to work with graphite pencils and inks to create strong, sharp contrasts, but also enjoys using bright colors. “The collectors love the ink work. Each piece starts out as organized chaos. I first outline the important parts and then sketch for the depth. Some pieces are simple and others are far more complicated. Drawing a triple axis tourbillon, for example, requires a lot of math as everything has to be in the right place. Some of these pieces can take up to a month to complete. I also love to do colorful Pop Art-type pieces with markers that are a lot of fun.”
Williams’s work has caught the eye of a number of watchmakers and retailers and you can often find his work hanging in watch manufactures and boutiques worldwide. He reates everything from small prints to large murals and resin-coated canvases.
Prices range from $125 for a limited-edition print and go up to $20,000 for a large complicated mural. Commissions start at $5,000 for a mid-sized work in ink.
Jon Nelson, TickerArt
Britain-based Jon Nelson started creating watch art three years ago after having a light bulb moment while on holiday in Majorca. “I have always been a watch enthusiast. My first watch was a TAG Heuer Formula 1 and my first luxury watch was the Montblanc TimeWalker. Before buying the TimeWalker, I had cut out a picture of it from a magazine and put it on my wall as motivation. Every day I would look at it and was inspired to work towards the goal of one day owning it. In September 2014, I was on holiday in Majorca and had this brainwave to create prints of watches to inspire and motivate others. The idea spun from here. The designs are created using a computer design program, something that I have taught myself over the years.”
Nelson was also inspired by a friend who was doing similar designs with sneakers. “I thought if so many people were fascinated by the world of sneakers, then watches could be hugely successful as there is such a huge amount of interest there.”
There is a large range of watch prints already available on the TickerArt website, but commissions are also a big part of Nelson’s business. “For custom work, clients can obviously choose the watch they want, but also the colors of the lines, the background and so forth. They can also put a special date in the date aperture, or the time they were born.”
Prints come in either an A3 or A2 size and larger prints are available on request. Nelson recently created a huge 6ft x 6ft for watch influencer WatchAnish, for example.
Prices start at $32 for regular prints and go up to $60 for special orders. A creation will take anywhere between two days and two weeks, depending on the complexity of the project.
Like many of the artists featured here, the vast majority of Nelson’s orders come through Instagram or via recommendations, and are from watch enthusiasts or friends and relatives looking for a unique gift.
A senior car designer at Peugeot in Paris, Olivier Gamiette started his career converting other designers’ sketches into 3-D models, but always had colored pencils on his desk and would be drawing on the side. After 10 years, his boss suggested he take a stab at designing, and he hasn’t looked back since.
His interest in watches started a few years ago after designing a clock for a concept car, which led him to do more and more sketches of concepts for timepieces, which he has now assembled in a book: “I wanted to let my imagination run free and propose a number of different ways to read time. I wanted each watch to show a unique way of reading the time as if they were all superheroes, each with a unique power.” Each concept has a fun name like Sentinelle with its six rotating glass cylinders, the futuristic Celerity with horn-like propellers, and Sublissime with its mesmerizing crisscrossing bands.
The book includes 35 concept watches, but also a tutorial section on how the design process works. Gamiette is auto-didactic and fondly remembers those friends and colleagues who told him to keep going and not give up. He hopes, in turn, to be able to inspire other youngsters who are interested in design with his work.
“As a child, I always loved drawing and designing things and didn’t know that there were courses in that. I ended up studying mechanical engineering, but I found my way, just 19 years later!”
Gamiette’s book, Soon Timepiece Phenomena, is available to order from his publisher Design Studio Press or directly on Amazon.com. It is a refreshing look at horology from a totally different perspective that will surely raise some interest in the watchmaking world, if it hasn’t already!
Sunflowerman aka Matthew Miller
Sunflowerman is the mysterious name behind American illustrator Matthew Miller. The name was a childhood nickname that he kept when looking for an artistic nom de plume. Miller initially started drawing menswear before becoming interested in watches: “I had started to notice how passionate the watch collectors on Instagram were, and how when they love watches, they really love watches, and it intrigued me.”
As he didn’t own a watch himself, he sent out a request on Instagram asking if anyone had a watch they would like him to paint. He asked each person to tell them the story behind their watch. The response was phenomenal and he painted 100 watches in 100 days. “I discovered all these incredible stories and it was then that I really fell in love with watches myself.”
Best known for his live painting, Miller started doing his art in front of an audience when he was invited by a menswear fashion show to paint for them. He did four seasons and eight shows, which then led to a number of trunk shows, boutique openings and an invitation to Baselworld. “I love doing live shows. It is funny because I get really nervous about certain things, but never when I am painting. I think it stems from being one of five children. I would always draw and paint in the kitchen with the TV on in the background, friends would come in and out, my siblings would argue around me, so the noise and the atmosphere are natural for me.”
Miller is often on the road so he prefers to paint with inks and watercolors, as acrylics can be a pain with airport security. He absolutely hates working with chalks and pastels due to the mess, and during his visit to Baselworld he worked with markers as they are the easiest to transport from meeting to meeting.
“I’ll paint both watches of my own volition and commissioned pieces. I sometimes work with magazines and brands too, it all depends. I also have some fun art products on my website too, but the work I like doing the most is the originals.”
A commissioned piece will range from $200 for a 6 x 9-inch piece and go up to $750 for a 9 x 12-inch piece.
Kpavio – Skulls of Time by Rubèn Pamies
Rubèn Pàmies (KPavio) from Reus in Spain is best known for his work with skulls. When he was 17 years old, he had a bone marrow transplantation and this life-threatening procedure changed something inside him. “The memory that I have of nearly dying has remained fixed and unalterable. Facing death is the only thing that really makes you consider the meaning of life.” As a result, he has always been fascinated by skulls and how they remind us of just how temporary life is.
KPavio fuses skulls with watchmaking parts, allowing him to develop works that reflect on these concepts of life and death. He purchases the skulls mainly from antique dealers. “It is not easy to find ancient skulls and most of the time it is somewhat complicated to locate pieces that are suitable for my purposes.” Once in possession of the skull he will observe and familiarize himself with it and carefully study the possibilities before starting work on how to convey his message.
Having worked in the haute horlogerie industry for 25 years, KPavio has a number of contacts who help him source the watch parts. What he loves is the challenge of the whole process, from finding the base skull to finding inspiration for the artwork and finally the realization of the piece.
Clients are mainly international private collectors of which 70% are art collectors and 30% are watch collectors. “I am a fervent advocate of the power of the Internet as a sales channel for my artworks, so the fans and potential collectors are using this medium.”
Each creation is a unique piece and takes a considerable amount of time to complete. The Pirate Time, for example, took over a year to complete and KPavio is working on pieces now that won’t be ready before 2020. Prices range between $25,000 and $500,000. Most of the pieces he creates himself, although he does collaborate with a jewelry workshop for the Remember Collection and has help from an orthodontics dentist on occasion – we can only imagine that is for the skull’s teeth!
Revolution has featured the work of Xavier Magaldi on a number of occasions. The Swiss artist even did a series of artworks for our Swiss edition in 2012, which were hugely popular.
Born in Geneva, Magaldi went to the Ecole d’horlogerie de Genève and has been largely influenced by watch culture his whole life. “I was naturally inspired by the things around me and loved technical plans, schemas, black and white graphics. I liked how precise and orderly they were and they naturally became integrated into my work.
He calls his style MecaFuturism which is characterized by the precision and geometry of technical drawings, but also of Cubism of the 1920s with its pure geometry and mechanisms promoted by Italian futurists.
His work appeals to a wide audience as the watch mechanism influence has evolved to something less obvious and more refined. “You can still see my particular style, but I want to open up the spectrum. I want to soften the gears and the energy in the gear train so there are less cogs and wheels with teeth, but the speed and the idea of turning motion and geometry is still there.”
His sculptures are perhaps the works that are most inspired by watchmaking as they have vertical and horizontal lines and are finished with an industrial Swiss touch. “I will always have my identifiable signature that is influenced by horology, I will never be able to escape it.”
Magaldi’s work ranges from CHF 1,000 to CHF 8,000 and can be seen in the Speerstra Gallery in Paris, Barcelona, Miami, Hong Kong and in his workshop in Geneva.