Time for a new face in art

January 16, 2022 - 09:43

Vũ Thùy Dương has been creating her own brand of painting on watch faces in which she highlights Vietnamese folk paintings, along with classic international works of art.

Thanh Hà


A painting on watch face by Vũ Thùy Dương. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thùy Dương

Vũ Thùy Dương came up with an idea of drawing on the dial of a watch when looking at the beautifully engraved watches made by her husband. As a handiwork, each watch is unique.

For a year, Dương has been creating her own brand of painting on watch faces in which she highlights Vietnamese folk paintings, along with classic international works of art.

"My husband produced engraving tools some years ago before turning to engraving watch faces. I was very interested in his creations and thought I could make personalised watches myself by drawing a tiny painting on the dial of a wristwatch," Dương, a former Hanoian journalist, told Việt Nam News.

"Many people have been successful with painting on paper or canvas. Painting on the face of a watch is relatively new and different. I want to experiment with it and I am happy to see my works have been well-received." 

Visible challenges

Nothing is easy in the micro painting field, which requires patience and dexterity. Dương spends hours every day by her microscope to draw on a tiny surface of about 3cm in diameter.


Vũ Thùy Dương spends lot of time using a microscope to create micro painting on a surface 3cm in diameter. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thùy Dương

"I faced a lot of challenges in the first days and was a little discouraged. Blending colours on the watches is different from blending on paper. Drawing through the microscope was an obstacle while testing chemicals on the watch surfaces also takes time to get to know the best effects," said Dương.

"I had to do the same thing many times before finding the best way to overcome these difficulties and manage the pace of work."

The paintings might be tiny, but each can take the 37-year-old from 10 to 15 days to complete.

First, Dương sketches a design on paper, then it is transferred to the watch dials and hand painted with particular care. Some details are plated if needed, using materials such as gold, abalone shells or insect shells.

Creating miniature paintings with super small details on a watch dial that is approximately 3cm in diameter requires more than just an artistic talent. The artist must be highly focused, careful and meticulous to not miss any small details.

"I do every step under a microscope to ensure accuracy and finesse. Furthermore, micro paintings require very small tools. Tools available in art shops are not suitable, so I have to modify them by trimming the brushes, leaving only few strands to be able to paint the thinnest lines. Some details must be painted with a metal needle that is only 0.08mm in diameter," said Dương, who has made almost 40 artworks.

Dương uses layers of colour to create depth and richness in her miniature paintings. 

Limitless creativity 

Her first work was a tiny replica of the famous oil-on-canvas The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. It was a milestone for her, as she found herself pushing her artistic limits and mastering a new arena.

Vũ Thùy Dương's tiny watch paintings range from classical art works to people's portraits, or even both at the same time. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thùy Dương

She presents paintings with different themes ranging from beautiful landscapes and fauna and flora, to people's portraits and famous characters .

"The technique of the artist plays a key role in making an impressive painting. She or he must focus on not only drawing but also colour mixing. A beautiful product should be a harmony of colour and shape of the picture combined with the colour, form and size of the watch," Dương said.

Recently, she has introduced a set of watches drawing "Five Tiger Generals", a genre of Hàng Trống folk paintings, to celebrate Tết (Lunar New Year).

Five tigers of five colours -- white, black, green, red and yellow -- represent the five elements of yin and yang: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, showing the power of nature and how the laws of motion interact with the earth. 

With help from her husband, Dương applies lacquer sanding and gold plating techniques before using a special kind of paint to make a protective layer that can ensure the durability of the paintings over many decades.

Dương has created a set of watches with dials having Hàng Trống folk paintings, Five Tiger Generals, to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thùy Dương

Sharing a passion for designing watches, her husband strongly supports and encourages Dương. He gives her precious advice on materials and colour to make her work more attractive and beautiful, and helps her in the last touches.

"Folk art has an important value in Việt Nam's culture and it also excites me a lot. There are many beautiful Vietnamese folk paintings. which have great meaning. It is not only transferring this folk painting on the watch dials, but an artist must convey emotion, making it soulful, lively and eye-catching," Dương said. 

"My set of 'Five Tiger Generals' is first to welcome the Year of the Tiger, this lunar year. But I also want to preserve the beauty of national folk art, and give it a new look as well."  VNS


Micro painting on watch faces requires enormous patience and skill.


A beautiful landscape is painted on a watch face.


A beautiful watch has the painting's colour and shape in harmony with its colour, form and size. Photos courtesy of Vũ Thùy Dương