As the first watch portraitist in the world, Julie Kraulis invented a new art genre: the meticulous drawing of iconic timepieces in enlarged versions.
For her collector customers, watches are the ultimate luxury, for artist Julie Kraulis, luxury is that until recently she did not need a watch. “Now I bought one for the first time,” says the 36-year-old blonde proudly from her home studio in Toronto, Canada. The reason? ‘I am so grateful that I have been able to continue working for the past six months – my job has always been corona-proof. But now I’m really busier than ever,” she says.
Kraulis does not seem to immediately fit into the stereotypical serious and mostly masculine image of the average watch lover. ‘It is indeed still a predominantly male world, but that is precisely why I stand out’, says the artist, who is involved in the enlarged drawing of iconic watches on a daily basis. ‘It’s mainly about private assignments, occasionally I’m also asked by brands and companies.’
Omega invited her to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the moon landing. She drew the Speedmaster, the watch astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore when he walked on the moon on July 21, 1969. At the ‘Lost in Space’ event that Omega hosted at the Tate Modern, Julie Kraulis was the ‘special guest’, along with actor George Clooney and Buzz Aldrin. ‘An unforgettable evening.’
Until five years ago, it was mainly publishers who came knocking on her door. Kraulis started her career as an illustrator of art and children’s books. ‘An Armadillo in Paris’, for example, a cute publication from 2014.
‘For a while now, I felt the need to dive deeper into a subject. Until then, I kept jumping from one expertise to another. Until I happened to see an article about the most iconic watches in history. I’m hugely intrigued by timelessness anyway. How ironic, right?’
In 2015, Kraulis drew a watch for the first time. Not on a perfect scale, but quite magnified. ‘I think that gives the watches their own personality in this way. Not only the size but also the different styles and characters of the watches are magnified,” kraulis explains. ‘Moreover, zooming in gives me the opportunity to go into extra detail.’
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And that is necessary. Mistakes are not allowed in her work, even the smallest inaccuracies are noticed. ‘Watch collectors know their watches down to the smallest detail. These are often vintage models. I love the patina and the small defects in those pieces.’ Defects that of course do end up on the drawings. ‘I never get to see the pieces myself. Are you crazy? They are far too expensive. I do my own research and receive tons of photos from the owners.’
When Kraulis’ first drawings ended up on her Instagram account, she soon found herself in the crosshairs of watch collectors worldwide, who easily pay 4000 euros for a pencil drawing of her hand. The first order came from Peter Goodwin, an avid watch and car collector. He immediately ordered three drawings of his favorite Rolex watches that he puts in a Rolex watch winder to hang in his garage. This way he could see all his treasures together at a glance.
In the years that followed, Kraulis’ drawings ended up on walls all over the world. In California, there is a work of hers next to etching by Rembrandt, and works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Not bad company. ‘I really had no idea that so many people were passionate about watchmaking. And for years I didn’t catch it either, that passion for a small object on your wrist.’
Until the Canadian was invited to the headquarters in the German municipality of Glashütte by the prestigious label A. Lange & Söhne at the beginning of 2019. ‘There I was literally blown away by the craftsmanship that creeps into the watches. I spent hours in the different studios. Under normal circumstances, I would have taken a watchmaking course myself this summer, but it has been postponed until further notice.
What has also been postponed: the delivery of her very first watch: an A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in rose gold with a silver-plated dial from the year 2002. Nicely paid. “I’m not a watch influencer, no. (laughs) My independence is very important, I consider it an enrichment to be able to work for different brands and personalities.’
She made drawings for Tag Heuer, and also in the boutique of A. Lange & Söhne in the Upper East Side of Manhattan hangs a work by Kraulis’ hand. But auction houses also have her on the radar. In 2017, the Phillips auction house asked Kraulis to join them in residence in the run-up to the auction of actor Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona watch.
Whoever grabbed the watch at the auction itself – which went under the hammer for no less than $ 17,752,500 – could console themselves with a drawing of the jewel. The prints worth about 1000 euros each flew out the door in less than an hour.