Mechanical watches have always fascinated Hungary-based pencil artist Feher Tamas. His journey as an artist, who loves to draw watches, has been a remarkable one. What started as a hobby early in life soon became a full-time profession, earning Tamas plaudits from all over the world. His artistic style is characterised by a sharp attention to detail. Devoted to creating portraits of some of the world’s most iconic timepieces, crafted by the human hand, Tamas has collaborated with various watch brands and auction houses for special art projects.
During an email interaction, Tamas speaks to GMT India about his artistic journey. Excerpts:
GMT India: What motivated you to become a pencil artist instead of a watchmaker, like your father?
FT: My passion for the world of watches developed in my childhood. Right from the beginning, I was simply fascinated by the complexity of these mechanical instruments, along with the beauty of their materials and finishes. My love for drawing sketches also grew early in life. I was obsessed with capturing through my drawings anything that grabbed my attention.
GMT India: Have you drawn any of the watches made by your father? Which were the first watches you drew and when did you create those?
FT: Yes, I have drawn watches made by my father. But these drawings are far less detailed. These were small in size. My first major creation involved the Moonwatch. In 2020, I really wanted to own this watch. But it looked so expensive in those times. So I decided to spend 70-80 hours on drawing the watch perfectly. During the process, I discovered even the tiniest details, which an actual owner may miss. It was better than owning the watch itself!
GMT India: Was it initially difficult to just focus on drawing watches? Was that lucrative enough to keep you going? How did you overcome these difficulties? How has the journey been so far when you look back?
FT: It wasn’t really difficult when I started out. After the first two drawings, I had more than 30 requests from friends and collectors. So, I didn’t hesitate; I had to do this. But, I decided to focus on quality instead of quantity. This style of art, i.e. realistic drawing, is really time-consuming. I can’t allow myself to draw faster or less precisely.
GMT India: How will you describe your creative process? How long does it take to complete a drawing?
FT: It depends on the project of course. Sometimes, a client has his or her own ideas; in that case, I have to combine those ideas with my own. I always start with the history of the watch itself. I read everything about it. I really like to combine the watches with their stories. When I finalise the whole drawing, I start to put the base lines on paper with the grid technique (it is a basic method in art). After that, detailing and shading begin.
GMT India: Which has been the most challenging piece for you? And why?
FT: Drawing Nautilus and Royal Oak watches has been the most challenging task so far. It’s insanely hard to recreate their textured dials on paper. As you know, on the Royal Oak dial, there are tiny cubes. These objects need to look perfectly the same and there are lots of them. It is really hard and time-consuming to draw these perfectly.
GMT India: Are you a watch collector as well? If so, how many timepieces do you own and which are your favourites?
FT: Yes, I would like to call myself a collector. But my collection is not so big or diverse. I like tool watches the most. So, almost every piece in my collection has a black dial. At the moment, I have 13 pieces. I have a Tudor Black Bay, which I bought with two of my friends. So, it represents a bond among us. My wife and I love the Speedmasters, so we have two of them. And my latest piece is a black Heuer Carrera dial from the 60s, which is a dream come true. I love racing watches as well; I have the Rolex Daytona 6263 with the racing flag.
GMT India: Of the many watch sketches you have drawn, which one is your favourite?
FT: The drawing that features a vintage Rolex GMT in the shards of a Pepsi bottle is my favourite. I love the watch because of the TV show, Magnum P.I. I found a guy in my country who collects vintage bottles. I picked one which was manufactured in the same year as the watch.
GMT India: You have said that a watch, to you, “is not just a timepiece, but rather a way of self-expression”. Which timepiece resonates with you personally?
FT: I think all my watches are part of my story. For example, when I feel like a race car driver, I wear a vintage chronograph. It is great to wear watches based on how I feel. It means a lot to me when I choose one piece from my collection; I can remember these great moments of my life.
GMT India: Your Instagram and website pages are called darksideofthewatch. How did you choose this name?
FT: I chose this name for two reasons: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd is my favourite album and secondly, graphite gives a nice dark tone to watches. I don’t know why, but I love the way they look in black and white. This combination highlights the shape and the design of each piece.
GMT India: What do you think is the key to being a successful horological artist?
FT: For me being successful means I can do what I love to do as my main profession. But there are many followers who aren’t interested in watches. I think they find my works interesting because these objects are small and they can see them on a huge scale.
GMT India: Have you worked with any watch brands yet? What are your future projects?
FT: I am so grateful because I had the chance to work with many great brands and companies, such as Roger Dubuis, Fortis, Christie’s and Watchbox. We made many great art projects together. I always think about new projects and ideas. I don’t want to spoil them by revealing details.