Art and Watches

After two longer and intense episodes about sandwich dials and Frankenwatches I would like to kick-off in 2016 with a shorter episode and more visual density. Since I like watches ánd art I thought it would be nice to take you on a museum tour and discuss several older (Dutch) artpieces which are watch related in some way. Along the tour we will discover one of the earliest lollipop hands I’ve ever spotted and a fancy pancy watch stand that will blow away most of regular stands nowadays. So, follow me and…. Don’t touch anything!


Despite of my intense research for art with (wrist)watches it was quite difficult to find a few interesting ones (not the standard portraits) in the targeted time period: pre-WWII. Logical, since the earliest mass-produced wristwatches date from around 1900 or newer and thus do not appear in many art pieces from that time period or earlier. Because of this I’ve decided to discuss a fine (art) selection of pocketwatch related stuff, the ancestors of the modern wrist watch. A famous example for this topic is of course the melted pocketwatch painting by Salvador Dali (The Persistence of Memory, 1931), often connected with the Cartier Crash. Though, due copyright and the fact that this piece is widely known I’ve decided to skip this one and discuss some less known but not less interesting pieces.

Watch Dial and Case Design

I would like to start with a mind-blowing etching with foliate scroll motives. A design for an octagonal dial sandwiched by two case sides:

Dial and case design etching

Watchdial design with foliate scroll motives, Michiel le Blon, appr. 1620 – 1626

On the most right case side you can spot several hunting objects like dogs and a hunter who is kneeling down. Maybe this was also a source of inspiration for the recent decoration on the Grand Master Chime of Patek Philippe (ref. nr. 5175)?

Pocketwatch with ‘Lollipop’ Hand

Let’s continue our tour with one of the earliest examples of a lollipop hand I’ve ever seen. A beautiful men’s pocketwatch with a guilloche back and skeletonized fan-shaped pendulum. The silver dial is hand decorated with a fine waffle-like motive. Check the big second-hand. A lollipop!?

Pocket watch - F. Breul

Pocket watch for men with cobalt ‘lollipop’ second hand, F. Breul, appr. 1800 – 1815

Cartoonish Intermezzo

Before we move on I would like to expose my watch related “piece of art” for this episode:

Mona WIS-a Watch Art

I’ve created a Mona Lisa with the same passion for watches as most of us do. Especially pay attention to the lower section where you can spot several iconic ‘grails’. From left to right: Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, Breitling Navitimer, Rolex (Pepsi) GMT and a Panerai Radiomir. As extra topping I’ve also included a watch roll:

Mona WIS-a detail

Watch Stand

Nowadays some watches are being stuffed with all kinds of diamonds to catch more attention. To enhance modern watches even more, tons of stunning crazy watch winders and stands were introduced and produced in the past decades. Let’s look at this over-the-top (pocket) watch stand and see that this hunt for attention is nothing new:

Rococo watch stand

Glazed pottery (faience) watch stand with swirly rocailles and three lackeys, anonymous, appr. 1765 – 1775

This is a good example of a piece from the Rococo style period. A highly decorative style-period around 1730 and 1770 with focus on rocaille (shell shaped) and asymmetric inspired motives. The pocket watch can be mounted in the centered socket of this stand and will turn it into a prominent eye-catching table-clock. Although table clocks aren’t as popular as back then, they are still being produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre for example.

Watchmaker Portrait

Below a pencil drawing by Jan Gerard Waldorp along the lines of a painting by the famous Dutch artist Frans Hals. The story goes that the person we’re seeing is a watchmaker (probably from Haarlem) of the 17th century and he is holding one of his “babies”:

Portrait of a watchmaker

Portrait of a watchmaker, pencil on parchment, Jan Gerard Waldorp, 1780

In this work the watch is used to display a profession. Besides this, back then (pocket)watches were often used as symbol for transience of our lives. Those pieces had more to say then just being a nice object or shape in the painting (still lives excluded). Quite a contrast if you compare it with the general purpose of watches in paintings or pictures nowadays. Most of the time when a watch is included there isn’t a “secret” layer anymore and is it purely ment to highlight wealth or beauty.


Below I’ve included some extra art pieces to top this episode off. All the used pictures are public domain and hosted by the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I would highly recommend to visit this museum if you’re nearby Amsterdam. Otherwise, please take a digital tour in the ‘Rijksstudio’ at

Hope you’ve liked the tour!