Copper in the Arts

December 2012

The Whimsical Way of Watchcraft

By Jennifer Hetrick

Watchcraft watch.Eduardo Milieris' Porthole watch is trimmed with a copper concrete design and embellished with a brass texture design.

Photograph courtesy of Watchcraft

Tinkering with wristwatches since his childhood days, it was only a matter of time until Eduardo Milieris opened Watchcraft in 1994. Today, his limited edition artisan watches can be found in more than 400 galleries worldwide, and have even caught the eye of celebrity chef Rachel Ray and rocker Steven Tyler.

Originally from Uruguay, Milieris relocated to New York and currently handcrafts more than 100 different styles of watches out of his Long Island City studio. Long Island City became the home of his copper and brass-centered watch-crafting efforts back in 2006 when he relocated to Queens.

Milieris dabbled in creating and redefining his very first watches around the age of 11 and recalls an example of one still. He peeled and chipped away a store-bought watch's original paint and colored it in with markers to make it his own.

"And I recently discovered drawings from when I was six-the houses I drew back then always had clocks at the top," he reveals, with a soul-stirred smile in his voice.

As a child, Milieris attended a show of a female sculptor named Mariví Ugolino. Inspired by her work, he took classes with her despite his young age, then of only 13, and gained the wisdom to appreciate that opportunity later, in his teenage years.

Milieris studied at the School of Liberal Arts in the capital city of Montevideo in the early 1980s. While there, he invested his energy in practicing ceramics, printmaking, photography, metalwork, video art and sculpture.

Eduardo at work. Eduardo at work in his studio.

Photograph courtesy of Watchcraft

But understanding that the culture he knew so well did not consider an art degree valuable, he brought his talents and passion for time-inspired art above the equator.

Today in his wristwatch lineup, Milieris sources his movements from several suppliers in Japan. For copper and brass, Milieris often reaches out to New York-based Metalliferous but also buys from a number of other local suppliers.

Milieris generally makes anywhere from just one to 1,000 watches in a specific style; he estimates that he's designed around 300 different styles within a considerable number of collections throughout the years since Watchcraft opened.

Still significantly inspired by found objects, too, he sometimes ties in pieces of fallen parts from cars and trains when he recognizes something old yet new while walking in the city.

Anything that pulls at his interest visually and provokes him to carry whatever it is back to his studio for watch-creating possibilities can become incorporated into a design. And if not, it at least whisks ideas for new designs into his mind.

A visit to a museum or even a trip to the supermarket might spark design approaches for him, too.

"I look at people's wrists when I'm riding the train," Milieris says, noting how observation in his daily routines has a considerable impact on the malleable and artistic aspects of his creativity.

An interesting detail he has gleaned is how he thinks he sees a watch on someone's wrist from about 10 feet away and how different it can sometimes look once he sees them up close in passing, while departing from the train. But all is inspiration.

Wathccraft watch. Watchcraft Gates of Time watch. Distressed and oxidized brass, copper, sterling silver, and metal alloys with spring doors.

Photograph courtesy of Watchcraft

He does sometimes build wooden, oxidized steel and, once in a while, copper clocks, but he mainly focuses his artistic efforts where he has seen a powerful demand from across the globe-with his warm-hued watches conveying strength, yet weaved in metalwork of an often soft, captivating lure for the eyes.

"Copper is probably my favorite because of the different patinas and finishes possible," Milieris says about his watches, preferring copper over brass but understanding the different levels of aesthetic value and use in each.

From orange to red to all in between, to different shades of brown, he has grown a commanding appreciation of the colors possible when he is giving his attention to copper in his wristwatches.

"When people see them, they just go crazy and say, 'I didn't know I was looking for this watch, but now that I found it, I know.' Basically, their reactions to my watches are that they either don't care and or pay attention, or they go crazy and say, 'I need this,'" he says about the extremes in types of people he has witnessed in watch-speak. "And there's not much in between."

Colors weaved within nature, and hues often akin to sand, are ones he has noticed that some people really seem to like when they do discover his watches and begin to develop a strong fascination with them.

His watch collections appear in nine different countries and more than 400 locations across the U.S., with California, New Mexico and Arizona as some of the places where he sees the most demand. But surprisingly, he has seen a significantly interested market for his work in Arkansas, Alabama and Iowa as well.

Watchcraft watch Watchcraft Minstrel Collection timepiece. Made from recycled metals, embellished with sterling silver, copper, and brass.

Photograph courtesy of Watchcraft

Japan's curiosity for the imperfect and what's not pristine, neat or clean-cut in the craft arena leads to a lot of sales, too, as Milieris has around five vendors in the country. And with variations from one watch to the next, this adds to the eye appeal value for his handcrafted work.

Milieris will travel to Florida for The American Crafter Retailers Expo in Orlando from January 21 to 23 next year to vend his wristwatches and will be a part of two other shows following that early winter exhibition.

He is lined up to be a part of the Buyers Market of American Craft in Philadelphia from February 16 to 18, where he will work alongside Ulster County, New York clockmaker Leonie Lacouette.

"She calls herself the Queen of Clocks and me the King of Watches," Milieris says with an affectionate laugh.

Milieris will also vend at the JCK Las Vegas Show from May 31 to June 3 once the warm season hits.

Celebrity chef and cookbook author Rachael Ray once found herself perched at a book signing and soon went across the street to a shop that sold his watches, buying a sampling from his collection; Milieris noted that Ray may have more than one piece from his collections by now.

Famed musician Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is known to have a wristwatch from the Watchcraft collection known as "Gates of Time," which involves 10 different designs of watches, all of which have doors that open and close overtop of the face of the clock, tucked and well protected underneath.

"I knew I'd be an artist, and I knew I loved watches, but that was all," Milieris says about his youngest days and not quite knowing where his talents would lead him. "I never dreamed I'd be a watchmaker."

Resources:

Eduardo Milieris of Watchcraft Demonstrating His Unique Metalcrafting Techniques

Watchcraft, 22-14 40th Avenue, 4th Floor, Long Island City, NY (718) 786-3713

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