People & Watches

A look at artist Teun Van Heerebeek’s horological illustrations at Watches & Pencils

On his platform Watches & Pencils, Teun Van Heerebeek’s artworks of timepieces offer a light, humorous take on design, collecting, and the industry as a whole
Collecting and being interested in watches is often perceived to be niche and serious, but artist Teun Van Heerebeek has a different take on this. With a goal to demystify the subject, Heerebeek creates horological artworks that are fun, light, irreverent even. 

Teun Van Heerebeek

Just a scroll through his Instagram handle, @watchesandpencils, proves this. The post that instantly cracked me up was his ‘smooth-smoother-smoothest’ concept illustration that highlights the precision of Grand Seiko’s movements. Then there is the Triple Calendar artwork, which demonstrates the day, date, and month counters stuffed creatively inside a burger. And how can I not mention the concept artwork of Swatch X Willy Wonka watch with dripping chocolate.

Based in the Netherlands and a UX designer by profession, Heerebeek’s interest in watches started developing in 2009, when he was an art student. Initially drawing and illustrating, he combined these with his love for watches in the website Watches & Pencils 10 years ago. “I started with one illustration and now it's about 500-600 illustrations. I still have so many ideas to create,” he says.

The relatable watch illustrations shared via his instagram handle are Teun’s way of expressing what he thinks about watches, while at the same time initiating conversations around the subject; the ‘cartoony’ illustrations further ensure that the artworks have an easygoing vibe. Like the artwork he created for Zenith, in which, in a classroom, Zenith’s El Primero teaches Rolex, Omega, and Breitling about high-beat chronographs.

Today, Herebeek has shared more than 1000 creatives and gained around 10K followers, apart from creating custom artwork for the French magazine Leakey, and American jewellers Wickson jewellers. Recently, he created a playful perspective on @watchesandwonders for Tatler magazine.

WatchTime India spoke with Teun about his artworks, personal collection, and love for watches. 

WatchTime India: Why are watches largely your subject?
Teun Van Heerebeek: I am a watch enthusiast, and like one, I read and see a lot of watches, and my way to process that is to draw the topics or the watches. For example, when I see a watch auction, where watches of multiple billion dollars are sold, I try to create my reactions on that through my drawing. My art is a way of communicating. Same can be the case about a watch that I want to buy, but cannot afford - so the art is the substitute. This way, I can create the watch in my Watches & Pencils world, and though I cannot buy it, it is the second best thing. It’s cool that I try to get a feeling of the watch and add it to my Watches & Pencils collection. 

WTI: What purpose does your art serve for watch enthusiasts?
TVH: I try to create conversation pieces, pieces of discussion, and try to show how watch enthusiasts are apart from the people with other hobbies. I always try to showcase my honest ideas and opinions without offending the brands, and always keep it cartoony so to speak. 

There are so many artists who create fantastic drawings and paintings of the watches but my art is more conceptual. It’s difficult, as I think about how it can bring a smile to someone's face. Sometimes, I spend two hours drawing something and sometimes I take three weeks. And when I post them, the one that I made in two hours gets more likes, appreciation, and attraction. But it is always like an experiment for me.

WTI: How do you choose your topics?
TVH: I choose general topics. For example, where do you store our watches? I created what my dream wardrobe will look like, and instead of putting clothes in all my wardrobe, I took only a certain set space for T-shirts and sweaters, and rest is all for watches and watch boxes. I am glad that people reacted the same way.


WTI: What is this process of creation like?
TVH: I draw my illustrations in my sketchbook first. The illustrations you see on my Instagram  are a small part of my creation - the rest is in my sketchbook. I digitise my ideas, create shadows, use a nice colour palette etc. I created this process in the beginning and I am still holding on to it because I believe it’s a part of my artistic life. When people see the art, they don’t realise that it’s not only the end result but the whole process, from brainstorming in your head, to putting it on the paper, refining it, the digitalising it, creating a colour palette and a balanced piece. 

WTI: Memorable collaborations?
TVH: I have done one with Baltic on their new Hermétique watch. The brand asked me to create an artwork with fun, so I created a small animal which also likes a watch. Normally, people only see the beauty but in this, it’s so cool that an animal also loves the watch.

WTI: What was your first watch?
TVH: In the beginning I used to buy more fashion watches, but my first real automatic watch was an Oris Diver. And then shortly after, I bought a Tudor Pelagos.

WTI: And what sort of watches do you tend to like?
TVH: I like colourful watches in particular. I am not a guy who’s totally into one particular brand. For me, the design, the quirky details, and the innovative movement wins the game. I have watches of all kinds, from microbrands to the ones like Rolex and Omega.

WTI: What does your watch collection look like?
TVH: I have two Rolexes, both are very special. One is a vintage Rolex 1603 Datejust which I bought when my elder daughter was born, and another one is green Oyster Perpetual in 36mm, as my favourite colour is green, bought when my younger daughter was born. I have a Tudor Black Bay 54, and a Speedmaster. These are the ones very dear to me. 

WTI: A watch from your collection that you wear the most?
TVH: I tend to love simple watches. The watch should have a clear and readable dial, clear indexes and a nice bracelet. So, it’s mostly the green Oyster Perpetual. I love smaller sizes, so the 36mm case looks perfect on my wrist. 

WTI: Which are your holy grail watches?
TVH: I recently bought an Omega Seamaster from my birth year. That was a very special moment because it’s a holy grail for me. 

WTI: What do watches mean to you?
TVH: A watch connects life from one point to another. Because time connects everything. Also, from a design perspective, we can visualise time in so many ways. I love watches and I have a hobby around that, so time has endless possibilities for me.

Images: Courtesy Watches & Pencils's  Instagram

Launched in 2012, WatchTime India is the result of a collaboration between America's most-read watch magazine, WatchTime and, India's leading media house, Malayala Manorama. With an aim to popularise and celebrate the evolving watch culture of the country, the publication is your one-stop destination for everything related to fine luxury watches. From the latest tests to reviews, to exclusive features on the history and horological heritage of some of the most spectacular watch brands of the world, the WatchTime India portal has a lot to offer. Stay tuned for an exciting journey, through the fascinating world of watches!

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