Julie Kraulis has been drawing her entire life, but when she was sketching, painting and playing with crayons at her kitchen table as a kid, she probably never thought she’d make a living drawing watches. Kraulis, as of present, doesn’t even own or wear a watch. “It’s crazy, I’m a watch artist and I’ve never had one my whole life,” she tells me. “Time has never been all that important to me, I flow through my day without much attention to it. So I never needed a watch for practicality’s sake.”
Yet Kraulis has quickly become something of an Instagram sensation in the watch community with over 13,000 followers thanks to her incredibly-detailed, hand-sketched portraits of watches that, by her estimate, take anywhere between 200 to 280 hours and 30 to 50 pencils to finish. (Her weapon of choice, if you’re curious, is the Staedtler Mars Lumograph.) And while she has sketched modern timepieces before, her main subjects are vintage pieces like Paul Newman’s iconic Daytona or, most currently, Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner.
But Kraulis’s sketches are more than just meticulously crafted, insanely detailed prints – they hint at the rich backgrounds and personalities of each timepiece she draws. And, naturally, each is a one-of-a-kind. I spoke with Kraulis on the phone to learn more about her, her process and her budding relationship with watches.
Q: How did you start drawing watches?
A: It was about two years ago – I had been looking for a new subject to study and for a new collection. I’ve always been into design and details, and didn’t know anything about watches, but came across an article about iconic watches. And so I started reading a bit more, then posted my first watch and it had a great reaction and I thought that there was more there. I was drawn to the vintage side of watches because of the stories behind them. I’ve worked on new watches, but most have been vintage.
Q: What are some vintage watches you’ve drawn?
A: Probably the most famous one is Paul Newman’s Daytona. It was after the article in Wall Street Journal about Phillips selling the watch at their Winning Icons auction. So I read the story, it was really interesting, and Paul Newman is so Iconic and legendary and charismatic it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. I did a deep dive, started watching his films, and started researching the watch. Now I’m starting to work on a Rolex Submariner 5513 and I’m starting to read about Steve McQueen, another racing and Hollywood icon.
Q: Could you explain your process for weaving the story of the watch into the sketch?
A: In the primary stage I do a lot of research and reading. If it’s a commission I work closely with the client to glean as many details as I can. I then take those details and I just sort of let them roll around and distill into ideas. There are often strong themes with watches — with the Submariner it’s water — so I read and look at many sources of inspiration and then there’s usually one or two details that stand out. I want them to be secondary because the focus is to recreate the iconic designs — I want you to know what the watch is, but the secondary details should echo the heritage.
Q: What do you love most about drawing these watches?
A: I think every watch has its own unique thing that I love about it. I guess because I’m fairly new to the subject matter, I’m learning a lot. So they’re teaching me to deal with shiny, matte textures and patina — patina’s been one of the hardest things to work on. So every watch has afforded me a great challenge. I think the most recent one, was the most challenging one, which was the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph. The Lange watches are some of my favorites. They’re as beautiful, if not more beautiful, on the back. So I wanted to take a portion of the back and weave it into the front. It was so challenging but I love the way it turned out.
Q: Is there anything you were surprised to learn about watches or watch collecting?
A: The most surprising thing is I have no idea why I started watches. I know generally why I start, because it just seems interesting. But it’s a niche and passionate culture which is very infectious. The longer I’m at it the more I realize why I’m doing it. The parts of the industry that appeal to me are that I’m a really curious person and you’re always digging and can never really find the bottom. You never get to learn it all, it’s this vast ocean of things. I guess the reason now why I realize why I’m doing it in graphite — besides loving working with pencils — is that I’m working on a monochrome palette and you can narrow in on the details — lines, balance and form — without the distraction of color.
Q: Do you think, at some point, you’ll finally get a watch?
A: Now that I’m in the watch world I have a list of things that might be my first watch. The Lange 1 is the highest on my list, so I’ve been seeking out one out with help from some people in the watch community, though it’s mostly a matter of money [laughs]. Half the fun is the search for the watch.