A. Lange & Söhne Introduces the Grand Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”

The anniversary train rolls on.

The story of the A. Lange & Söhne 25th anniversary set is now well known: slated for October launch, the set will comprise 10 different Lange 1 watches, all clad in the same blue and silver livery. One watch has been announced a month since the start of the year, and the latest addition is the Grand Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”.

First introduced in 2003, the Grand Lange 1 was initially criticised for meddling with an iconic design. It has since matured well, helped by several redesigns as well as a movement conceived specifically for the watch.

A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 25th Anniversary (2)

Grand Lange 1 25th Anniversary

Bigger and better

It’s the larger brother of the Lange 1, with a case diameter that’s 2.5mm larger; making it 41mm compared to 38.5mm for the classic Lange 1. But because the movement inside was designed to fit the watch, it scales up the design while adhering strictly to the proportions and geometry of the original Lange 1.

The new movement was required to accommodate the signature, off-centre displays of the Lange 1, which sit on a neat grid. The cal. L095.1 is 34.1mm, compared to the 30.4mm of the first generation Lange 1 movement, the L901.0.

An upside of the larger movement is the consolidation of the twin barrels of the smaller Lange 1 into a single, larger barrel, while still maintaining the 72-hour power reserve. That leads to a small but crucial difference on the dial of the Grand Lange 1: the lettering at seven o’clock reads “Gangreserve 72 Stunden”, German for “72 hours of power reserve”, instead of “doppelfederhaus,” or “double mainspring barrel”, found on the original Lange 1.

Commemorative colours

For the Grand Lange 1 “25th Anniversary,” the blue and silver colours are repeated once more. The dial of the watch is solid silver, with blued steel hands and printed blue markings.

Like the entry-level Lange 1 “25th Anniversary,” the dial’s empty sections are recessed and given a frosted finish in contrast to the raised sections which are lighter in colour.

A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 25th Anniversary (1)

The two-tone dial

Visible through the sapphire case back is the hand-wound cal. L095.1. The movement is finished in typical Lange fashion, with the most prominent being the striping across the German silver three-quarter plate.

A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 25th Anniversary (3)

Cal. 095.1

Like the other anniversary watches in the set, the engraving on the balance cock is filled with dark blue lacquer, and also includes a “25” that replicates Lange’s oversized date display.

A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 25th Anniversary Balance Cock

The 25th anniversary balance cock

Key facts

Diameter: 41mm
Height: 8.8mm
Material: 18k white gold

Movement: Manual-winding cal. L095.1
Frequency: 21,600bph, or 3Hz
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Hand-stitched blue alligator leather, with white-gold prong buckle

Price and availability

The Grand Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” (ref. 117.066) is priced at €43,700, including 20% German VAT. It is a limited edition of 25 watches, which will be part of the 10-piece set that will be officially launched in October 2019.


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Hands-On: Urwerk UR-105 “The Hour Glass”

A throwback to Urwerk's early days.

Singapore retailer The Hour Glass kicked off its 40th anniversary limited editions with the all-platinum Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph, now followed by a pair of watches from leading independent watchmakers, De Bethune and Urwerk. The Singapore retailer is getting a three-piece limited edition based on the current UR-105, but one that’s also a throwback to the brand’s early creations.

In aged bronze and titanium, The UR-105 “The Hour Glass” similar to the UR-105 CT Bronze unveiled earlier this year, but streamlined and sans the sprung lid over the front – a simplification of the design that’s also an improvement.

Appropriate enough for a retailer that’s been selling Urwerk for 15 years, the commemorative edition features elements borrowed from Urwerk models over the years, creating a watch that’s a nostalgic reminder of the brand’s foundational watches from the early 2000s.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass lume

UR-103 reborn

The UR-105 was launched in 2014 as the successor to the UR-103, first launched in 2003. The bestselling Urwerk to date and arguably the brand’s signature watch, the UR-103 was the watch that made Urwerk a champion of avant-garde mechanical watchmaking.

A nod to that milestone watch, the commemorative UR-105 features a U-shaped sapphire crystal, just as it was on the UR-103.03. While the very first version of the watch, the UR-103.01, featuring a narrow, curved window for the time, the UR-103.03 of 2005 expanded the view with a far larger crystal.

Urwerk UR-103.09

The UR-103.09 launched in 2008. Image – Urwerk

The purpose of the U-shaped crystal was to reveal the mechanics behind the wandering hours display, essentially to show off the four hour satellites and the carousel that carries them. And that has now been reproduced on the commemorative UR-105.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 1

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 2

The time shown is just past 3 o’clock

Because the UR-105 is a significantly more complex watch than the original UR-103, the crystal serves a greater purpose; there’s simply more to see.

The black-coated aluminium carousel inside the UR-105 “The Hour Glass” is open-worked, revealing the hour satellites, each with three hour digits. Under each satellite is also a bit of bronze: the Maltese crosses that drive the satellites are cast in beryllium bronze.

The open-worked carousel reveals the honeycomb seconds disc (on the lower left corner) and power reserve indicator (on the right), features only available on the open-worked versions of the UR-105.

The power reserve is straightforward, indicating the energy left in the mainspring on a coloured scale; on full wind it’ll run for 48 hours or so. The seconds display is more interesting.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 10

Seconds are indicated by a red frame over the open-worked seconds disc, but because the disc is graduated in tens, it is more of an approximation. Nonetheless, the constant motion of the minutely detailed disc is one of the most compelling elements of the watch.

Creating the honeycomb seconds disc required a high-tech process known as photolithography, also used to fabricate printed circuit boards and microprocessors. It allows the disc to be both intricate in miniature and lightweight. The seconds disc weighs less than a tenth of a gram – crucial because of its continuous movement.

In the dark the watch lights up, literally. In the daytime, the luminous material is in its natural colour, which is a plus. While most of the watch industry pairs bronze cases with faux-aged “lume”, often an unnecessary affectation, Urwerk opted for green Super-Luminova, a welcome choice.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 9

Of two worlds

This UR-105 straddles two schools of design, combining the look of a medieval weapon with Urwerk’s traditional sci-fi styling. The aged, steampunk aesthetic of the bronze bezel makes for an interesting departure from the modern look that most Urwerk timepieces embody.

Secured by visible oblong pins that extend from the titanium case below, the bronze front of the UR-105 “The Hour Glass” is matte and muted, having been finished to create a slightly aged look, though one less extreme than on the UR-105 T-Rex from 2016.

Urwerk UR-105 THG

The pins securing the front visible on either side of “Urwerk”

Because of the large, flat and smooth surface, however, the future patina should be an interesting one, since even the most minor of surface variations will be obvious. But unlike the UR-105 CT Bronze, this does away with the hinged lid, meaning the wearer has no reason to touch the bezel, presumably slowing the oxidisation.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 3

Like other Urwerk models, the watch appears much larger in photos than on the wrist, one reason being its lack of protruding lugs.

The dimensions are identical to the standard  UR-105, 39.5mm wide with a length of 53mm. The thickness of the watch is 17.8mm, making it a thick watch but one that is well proportioned.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 7

The titanium case means the watch is light and comfortable enough, despite its bulkiness. But flatness of the case back, coupled with its length, however, means that it might not sit perfectly on smaller wrists.

The back of the Urwerk UR-105 is quintessential Urwerk, showing the “turbine” automatic winding, a nifty mechanism designed to optimising winding efficiency based on the wearer’s physical activity.

So someone sitting at a desk should have the watch on maximum winding, while someone playing tennis should stop the winding mechanism (though its ill-advised to play tennis with a mechanical watch, unless worn on the non-playing arm).

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 5

Just below each turbine is slatted display that indicates the winding setting. That’s controlled by a lever with three settings: “full” is painted in green SuperLuminova and means maximum winding for the desk-bound, “red” means reduced winding for moderate activity, and “stop” disengages the winding system, meaning winding is only possible manually via the oversized crown at 12 o’clock.

Urwerk UR-105 The Hour Glass 6

Concluding thoughts

Several current Urwerk models seem to try too hard; the hinged lid on the standard UR-105 is an example. So even though the UR-105 “The Hour Glass” isn’t that different from the standard model, it is an improvement, focusing instead on the key elements while also being a reminder of the exciting early years of the brand.

The only downside is if Urwerk puts the lidless UR-105 into regular production, which would diminish the appeal of this edition.

Key Facts

Diameter: 39.5mm
Length: 53mm
Height: 17.8mm
Material: Titanium case with bronze bezel
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: Self-winding UR 5.03, governed by twin turbines
Frequency: 28,800vph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Black alligator leather

Price and availability

The Urwerk UR-105 “The Hour Glass” is priced at 100,100 Singapore dollars, which is about US$73,300. Already available at The Hour Glass stores, it’s is limited to just three pieces.


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Hands-On: De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue “The Hour Glass”

A skeleton dressed in blue.

De Bethune is the latest amongst a number of watchmakers to take the covers off a commemorative edition to mark the 40th anniversary of Singapore watch retail powerhouse The Hour Glass. For the occasion, De Bethune has put together a variant of its signature DB28 with sprung lugs that’s entirely clad in brilliant, blued titanium.

First unveiled in polished titanium in 2018, the Steel Wheels is essentially a DB28 wearing a little less. A partially open-worked dial – which is actually the delta-shaped barrel bridge – reveals its pair of skeletonised barrels and gears.

While the original Steel Wheels captures the essence of De Bethune, combining its trademark design with the brand’s fundamental technical innovations, it was lacking a generous dose of blued titanium, a gorgeous, heat-treated alloy that is synonymous with the brand.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 2

Colour consistency

That has now been rectified with the DB28 Steel Wheels Blue, arguably the purest – and bluest – distillation of the brand’s core values and technical achievements.

It features an intense, mirror-polished, blued titanium case and dial that form a striking contrast against the exposed inner mechanics. Though blued titanium is also used by other brands today, De Bethune was amongst the first to mirror-polish its titanium cases and more crucially, started using heat treatment to blue titanium way back in 2006.

De Bethune DB25L Picciotto Chronopassion 9

An example of an early De Bethune using blued titanium, a DB25L from 2010 with a blued dial and white gold case

All the components of the watch, both steel and titanium, are first mirror-polished, cleaned thoroughly, and then fired in an oven at 700°C so as to achieve the striking, uniform shade of blue.

Because the bluing is done by hand, the blue is not exactly identical across surfaces, especially on large components like the case. But the variation is small enough to be negligible, and also adds to the shaded colour and character of the watch.

The gorgeous blued titanium case has only one practical downside: the blue finish is the result of surface oxidisation of the metal, meaning it is prone to chips and scratches that often result in the natural grey colour of titanium showing through the blue.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue THG 3

The DB28 is also about its case, which is all titanium and fitted with spring-loaded, hinged lugs, making it large, lightweight and ergonomic.

The case measures 42.6mm in diameter and 9.3mm in height – big, yes, but slender and elegant at the same time, helped by the refined look of the polished surface and skeletonised lugs.

Best of all is the brand’s patented lugs that ensure the case hugs the wrist. The lugs also mean the watch wears a lot smaller than expected given the case measurements. And De Bethune also offers two lug lengths, with the shorter lugs catered for smaller wrists.

As a result of the articulated lugs, the crown is located at 12 o’clock, giving it a symmetrical case silhouette.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 5

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue THG 1

Using blued titanium for the components within the case is more practical, and there’s lots of that here.

The chapter ring and hour spheres are all in blued titanium, while the minute hand is in blued steel. Most unusual is the hour hand, which is in clear sapphire crystal fitted a blued steel central insert and frame.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 4

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 1

Unique to the Steel Wheels – all other DB28 models have a solid dial – the triangular barrel bridge and parts of the dial have been skeletonised to reveal the gears underneath. The mainspring barrels and ratchet wheels have also been open-worked, giving the dial a light, airy and slightly mechanical feel.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue THG 2

The delta-shaped bridge is also decorated with a “microlight” engraving – essentially engraving on a tiny scale done by machine – of Côtes De Bethune, the brand’s take on Geneva stripes.

While traditional Cotes de Geneve is lightly applied and wavy, De Bethune’s striping is sharply done and almost harsh. It does lend an unusual depth and texture to the dial, but the engraving striping looks distinctly mechanical and pronounced, and feels a step less refined than the other components of the watch.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 3

Exotic tech

Powering the watch is the hand-wound cal. DB2115V4, which boasts a total of five in-house innovations, three patented and all are visible on the front.

Every aspect of the transmission system, from the barrels to the hairspring, has been optimised to improve performance on the most fundamental level.

Visible on both sides of the delta-shaped bridge is a pair of mainspring barrels that offers a six-day power reserve. According to the brand, six jewelled blades are installed on both faces of the inside of the barrel, in order to minimise the friction of the mainspring against the barrel interior, and optimise energy transfer.

This is further supplemented by a silicon escape wheel, which operates with almost no friction and requires little energy, being less than a third the density of steel. Though the longevity and future available of silicon components is always a worry for small, independent brands.

Notably, De Bethune remains one of the few independent watchmakers that have embraced silicon technology without fear of reprisal from the major players that own most of the patents related to silicon watch parts. In fact, De Bethune was the first brand to incorporate silicon into a balance wheel in 2008, combining it with a hefty metal like platinum so as to achieve an ideal mass-inertia ratio.

DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 9

Next on the transmission chain after the escapement is a patented, high-performance balance wheel, held in place by a beautifully polished, blued bridge flanked by the brand’s patented “triple pare-chute” shock absorbers. It is essentially an additional pair of springs that supplement the conventional Incabloc shock protection for the balance staff, hence the “triple pare-chute” moniker.

The balance is made from blued titanium and fitted with white gold regulating weights on its periphery. The weights on the rim provide ample oscillating inertia, while the low density of titanium keeps the overall weight down. Its design has also been optimised for better aerodynamics and thermal stability.

The hairspring is made of Nivarox, the usual nickel-iron alloy used in a vast majority of movements. However, it is distinguished by a unique terminal curve formed in-house by De Bethune’s watchmakers. In contrast to the Breguet overcoil, the hairspring is flat, but with a wider terminal curve, which reduces its height while enhancing concentricity.

And lastly, located at six o’clock is De Bethune’s modernist, spherical moon that is composed of two hemispheres – one in palladium and the other in blued steel. As is standard in watchmaking, it maintains accuracy to within one day every 122 years.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 6

While all crucial elements of the movement are visible on the dial, the only functional feature located on the back is the power reserve indicator with its long and thin rack and a blued pointer.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition 7

Concluding thoughts

As is perhaps apt for a brand with a deep focus on technical engineering, the DB28 Steel Wheels Blue, with its contrast colour, open-worked dial, draws attention to De Bethune’s most crucial innovations like never before.

And the blued titanium case – a feature that has singularly come to define the brand – was the final touch it needed to become one of the most complete and essential De Bethune watches.

Key Facts

Diameter: 42.6mm
Height: 9.3mm
Material: Blued, polished grade 5 titanium
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: DB2115V4
Frequency: 28,800vph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 6 days

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle in blued polished grade 5 titanium

Price and availability

The DB28 Steel Wheels Blue The Hour Glass Edition is priced at 162,100 Singapore dollars and limited to five pieces. It is available only at The Hour Glass and is already available in stores.


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Commissioning Horological Art – A Watch Collector’s Experience

Watches in paint and pixel.

Lovers of horses, airplanes, yachts and cars can choose from many specialised painters if they want a piece depicting their favoured object for the walls of the home or office.

While Salvador Dalí’s surrealist “melting watch” paintings are amongst the 20th century’s best known artworks, a search for current day artists specialising in the figurative depictions of watches generates barely a handful of names, though most of whom show their works on Instagram. This is the story of my first commission, a graphic of the Voutilainen GMT-6.

Watch art featuring the Kari Voutilainen GMT 6 by Alex Eisenzammer/@watchoniste, commissioned by the writer

The Voutilainen GMT-6 by Alex Eisenzammer (@watchoniste), commissioned by the author

High-tech capture

Particularly when wristwatches are the subject of art, I follow the original Latin definition of ars, “skills” or “craft”. Therefore, I regard flawless photography of watches as art, as with the Voutilainen 28 “Sarasamon”, captured by specialist watch photographer Guy Lucas de Peslouan.

But perfect photographic illustrations tread a thin line between art and technology. When the photographer’s skills are not at the highest level and Photoshop is heavy-handedly applied, the results are hardly suited to truly capturing a watch, yet find often a place in press releases from brands.

Photo: Kari Voutilainen, photography by Artsight/Guy Lucas de Peslouan

Voutilainen 28 “Sarasamon”. Image – Artsight/Guy Lucas de Peslouan

The art of rendering watches or movements with software is very popular with manufacturers. CGI specialist Blade Render describes its philosophy as desiring “to create images that are not only realistic, but […] also idealistic”.

A sample of such creative graphic work is Grönefeld’s 1941 Remontoire movement. The result of this technique is a photographic image without the problems of depth of field and shadows, almost impossible to accomplish when photographing the many levels of a fully assembled movement.

Photo - Blade Render

The Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire. Image – Blade Render

While I love such renders and photographs, which are a perfect illustration of watches and movements in brochures and books, I have no ambition to decorate my home like an authorised retailer’s store. What I wanted was an artistic interpretation of a watch, yet still figurative enough that there’s no second guessing of the subject.

Danish artist Cay Broendum's work. Photo - Cay Broendum

Cay Broendum’s historically inspired watch art. Image – Cay Broendum

Pen and paper to screen and stylus

As practiced by several graduates of Lycée Edgar Faure, the watchmaking school in Morteau, France, actual drawings are required to design a new watch from scratch the old fashioned way. Remy Cools, for example, conceived his tourbillon wristwatch as a pencil drawing first, before moving to a computer render, and finally starting the prototype in metal.

Commissioning Watch Art - Remy Cools (A)

Commissioning Watch Art - Remy Cools (B)

The Remy Cools tourbillon. Image – Remy Cools

Instagram watch artist Alex Eisenzammer then used Mr Cools’ finished prototype as inspiration for an illustration, abstracting the watch and presenting it as a stylised idea.

Mr Eisenzammer studied art before turning studying languages. He lives near Clermont-Ferrand in France, and relies on Instagram to promote his interest in art. He started to do portraits of watches that had left his collection to help finance the next dream acquisition.

Instead of just photographing the watches, he wanted to save their memory with more emotive means. That goal required a realistic interpretation of the watch, which led to the graphic style he still practises for commissioned work.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer Remy Cools Tourbillon

The Remy Cools tourbillon. Image – Alex Eisenzammer/@watchoniste

One of the best examples of Mr Eisenzammer’s work comes from the commissions of Martijn van der Veen, a Dutch Enicar enthusiast writing a book on the brand that will be published in winter 2019.

With custom photography and research that left no stone unturned, Mr van der Veen is also extremely demanding with the quality of illustrations in his book. The subdued style chosen for the custom graphics, all done by Mr Eisenzammer, add further visual interest to the book, and matches my own taste of what horological art should be.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer Enicar

The Enicar graphics. Image – Alex Eisenzammer/@watchoniste

When I asked Mr Eisenzammer what style he prefers personally, he responded that he enjoys adding a thematic background relating to the watch in the painting. The two samples below, featuring Seiko and Omega respectively, need no further explanation of the themes.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer_Story Background

Image – Alex Eisenzammer/@watchoniste

Two recently created graphics representing independent watchmaking are particularly impressive. The bold design of watches like the De Bethune DB 28 Tourbillon and the MB&F LM Perpetual are especially suitable for Mr Eisenzammer’s style of drawing. The graphic of the De Bethune reminded me of what a superb combination of modern design and traditional watchmaking this brand offers.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer_DeBethune_MB&F

Image – Alex Eisenzammer/@watchoniste

The Voutilainen commission

When I proposed a painting of the Voutilainen GMT-6, I was keen to integrate the technical features of the watch into the background. Prominent features of the Vingt-8 movement are the oversized balance wheel and patented double wheel escapement.

So I provided a couple of photos of the watch, which Mr Eisenzammer requires in order to begin any commission. And I also combined the proposed background elements the old school way – with photocopies, a pair of scissors, and glue (in extreme left image below).

The first proposal (centre) by Mr Eisenzammer didn’t convince me; I thought the illustrations of movement parts overwhelmed the portrait, particularly due to the completely different styles of the illustrations. Leaving out one of the elements (extreme right) also did not work.

Softening the drawing of the balance wheel by replacing black lines with dark blue ones and adding the graphics of the guilloche pattern led then to the final version of the illustration.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer_KV_Background Development

Mr Eisenzammer’s work is not a literal translation of a photography into a graphic illustration. He starts his work on an iPad Pro, and uses a stylus to create the image. It begins with the watch case based on a template, followed by the creation of the texture on the various parts of the dial, and finally the dial details are added.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer_KV_Designstep 1

Mr Eisenzammer’s work process, from left to right.

One by one, details like numerals, hands and the day and night disk, are then added on top of the basic texture of the dial.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer_KV_Designstep 2

With all features of the dial in place, the play of light and shadows have to add interest. First lights and shadows cast by the case are shaded on part of the dial, followed by shadows and reflections on case, crystal and hands. Finally, the strap is installed. This leaves the background and its details to complete the graphic illustration.

Commissioning Watch Art - Alex Eisenzammer_Designstep 3

Mr Eisenzammer is @watchoniste on Instagram. His posts are frequent because the commissions take only a couple of days to complete after he receives the photos supplied by the client. The finished graphic is delivered as a PNG file. The Voutilainen portrait arrived in a size of 3072×4096 pixels, which allows quality printing at 300dpi up to a size of about 26cm by 35cm.

With the Adobe Draw program used to create the graphic, a maximum paper size of about A1 for 300dpi printing is technically possible, but due to occasional software problems in saving the image file, the size I received is the preferred maximum at the moment.

I found it convenient to get a data file of the artwork instead of a physical print, as it allows me to choose specific archival paper for the print. The price for commissions start at around €100, going up to about €250, depending on how intricate the details have to be.

More watch artists

Artwork created the traditional way – with pencils on art paper or acrylics on canvas – typically start at about US$5,000 for mid-sized works. Larger formats can be around $20,000, although some of these artists offer also prints of existing watch portraits at more affordable prices. Examples of such artists include Julie Kraulis, who works with pencil on paper, and Nicholas W. Starr, whose works are acrylics on canvas.

Another artist began his career as an illustrator covering fashion shows, and later developed a method of creating portraits, in watercolour on 600gsm paper, but executed quickly enough that he can offer original artwork at print prices. Matthew Miller, who goes by @sunflowerman.watches on Instagram, charges US$250 for an A5 size work, with rates rising to US$1,500 for a A3 painting.

Commissioning Watch Art -Matthew Miller_BookPages

Image – Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

Mr Miller is an American illustrator who was drawing menswear before watch photos on Instagram aroused his interest, although he didn’t wear a watch himself. Polling enthusiasts on Instagram as to what watches they would like to see on canvas, he began a project of painting 100 watches in 100 days.

The resulting watch portraits were done on pages taken from books, with the printed text becoming the background. Reproductions of the portraits were bound into a hardback volume that is still available on Amazon.

Matthew Miller's 100 Watches book. Photo - Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

100 Watches by Matthew Miller. Image – Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

Mr Miller practises his art in three distinct styles. His commissioned work is what he calls “studio art”.

According to Mr Miller, “in the studio is where the details are expressed. What I love about creating highly detailed watch illustrations in watercolor is the paradox. Watercolors are known for their ill temperament, their inability to follow direction, their wild nature. This stands in direct contrast to the rigidity and the precision of watchmaking. Fine watches are exacting and measured to the finite degree.”

Commissioning Watch Art -Matthew Miller_Studio Art

At work. Image – Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

Like Mr Eisenzammer, Mr Miller seems to enjoy particularly “editorial art”, which he describes as “watch illustrations [offering] a chance to move beyond the portrait of the watch and into the life and adventure of the watch. How does a watch change our perceptions of the world? How can we see a watch differently?” Such stories are told in the background of the watch portraits.

Commissioning Watch Art -Matthew Miller_Editorial Art

Examples of Mr Miller’s work. Image – Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

The third pillar of Matthew Miller’s artistic work is “live art”. This is more of a “freehand” approach and a less detailed depiction; it’s the style he uses for smaller commissions. Usually, these portraits are painted live at events like Baselworld or boutique openings.

He expresses his appreciation of such live painting sessions: “[I] love to be able to work quickly and maintain the attention of an audience. In about 20-40 minutes I can complete a full watch illustration from drawing to color. This is true of the Voutilainen [below]. Often in this process I will begin with a very simple line drawing in graphite. It will complete the the general shape of the case as well mark where lugs, indices and hands will be detailed. Then I continue with a black pen, sometimes Sharpie or Copic or Faber-Castell. To finish, I will end with marker or watercolor. It is dependent on the circumstance. Watercolor has more history, more culture, more gravitas.”

Commissioning Watch Art -Matthew Miller_Live Art_a

Live painting. Image – Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

Commissioning Watch Art - Matthew Miller_Event Art_b

Live art, featuring the Voutilainen Vingt-8 and Haldimann H1. Image – Matthew Miller/@sunflowerman

Art and soul

In watchmaking, “authentic” is often misused for marketing purposes, applied as liberally as “hand-made”.

During the panel discussion on independent watchmaking that took place in May at Phillips auctioneers in Geneva, Stephen Forsey emphasised how marketing alone cannot create an authentic and interesting watch. Rather, the necessary ingredient is a watchmaker who wants “to tell a story”.

That holds true for art. Scholars like Dennis Dutton, author of Authenticity of Art: The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, refers to “expressive authenticity”: the object’s character has to be “a true expression of an individual’s… values and beliefs”.

Messrs Eisenzammer and Miller create their watch portraits in a style they have developed to please themselves, recording watches for personal projects. I appreciate the resulting distinctive artworks, which do not, and need not, match my own preferred style down to the smallest detail.

For me, a most important quality of the work is to express the personality of its creator. As it is with watches, I want to see a bit of the creator’s soul.

European collector Björn Meijer focuses on world time and multi-time zone clocks and watches, but he is particularly fond of independent watchmakers.

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