Artist David Galbraith’s stunning new clock collection pays tribute to the UAE
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Artist David Galbraith’s stunning new clock collection pays tribute to the UAE

Artist David Galbraith’s stunning new clock collection pays tribute to the UAE

Galbraith has brought his decades-long experience as an artist to the traditional craft of English clockmaking, with a deliberate focus on the Middle East

As a young child, David Galbraith always had two items on his person: a pencil and a sketchbook. By the age of seven, he added a third: a wristwatch gifted to him on his birthday that year by his parents. Those three items would go on to define the career, and now the legacy, of the Englishman.

England in the Seventies was an electric mix of cultural upheavals across the creative arts. It’s within that environment that Galbraith came of age. In 1974, he took up a part-time job as a junior graphic designer for an advertising agency in Canterbury, where his employers soon realised that his illustrative and graphic work was of a very high standard. Eager to hone that skill, he enrolled in the Medway College of Design, Chatham – whose alumni includes the likes of Karen Millen, Tracey Emin, and Zandra Rhodes — studying fine art and graphic design.

The year after he finished studying at Medway, Galbraith was offered a job as a graphic designer for a French architectural company in Saudi Arabia. “I arrived in Riyadh in the summer of 1976 to start my job. I was thrilled to be living and working in the kingdom. I enjoyed embracing a completely different culture and spent much of my free time exploring Riyadh, particularly the old part of the city, the ‘Batha’. I took many photographs in the surrounding desert, wadis and sometimes went out into the Empty Quarter too,” reminisces Galbraith.

“My life at that time was a huge adventure and the perfect opportunity. During my three years in Saudi Arabia, I visited many other parts of the Middle East, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE.”

Galbraith followed that up with several years as a designer, rising to the level of a creative director over time. But after over four decades in the industry, he knew he had to transition away from capping career highlights and towards defining his legacy.

In 2019, he left the commercial designing arena, deciding to focus on fine art. There was another aspect that Galbraith was keen to tie into this chapter: horology. “My interest in clocks started at the age of 12 when I visited Salisbury Cathedral, home to the world’s oldest clock. It was made in the 14th century, and absolutely fascinated me,” says Galbraith.

David Galbraith
David Galbraith

To realise his ambition of merging art with horology, he found a collaborator in Swindon-based Deacon & Son. “For 25 years, I’ve been a regular customer of the historic and high-quality jewellers in Wiltshire. Deacon & Son is a historic clock and watchmaker founded in 1848. I soon became a friend of Richard Deacon, the sixth-generation family member to run the business.”

Richard collaborated with Galbraith to form a separate company called Historic Times that produces high-end handmade clocks, decorated with Galbraith’s art.

“Three years ago, Richard and I decided to work together to design and produce fine, handmade English clocks featuring my artwork. The world’s clock market had for decades been swamped with cheap electric or battery-operated clocks, while the handmade mechanical clock business had diminished. But now, many people want to acquire mechanical clocks and wristwatches with a real heartbeat,” notes Galbraith.

While Switzerland has done well to secure its positioning as a world-class source of high-end horology, English watchmakers, including the likes of Bremont, Roger W. Smith and Robert Loomes, are just as equally skilled as their Swiss counterparts in the craft.

“Many people think of Switzerland as being home to the finest clock and watchmakers in the world, but England has a long and proud tradition of producing fine mechanical timepieces. Richard Deacon and I are embracing the opportunity we have to combine these wonderful timepieces with fine art,” says Galbraith.

Here in the UAE, Galbraith’s artwork, as well as the clocks produced by Historic Times, are on display at The Arabian Gallery, located within the Dubai headquarters of Motivate Media Group. Some of his exquisite art includes the nearly Dhs55,000 acrylic painting on poplar panel artwork, titled ‘The Arabian Falcon’.

Meanwhile, some of the clocks from Galbraith’s collection includes The Arabian Falcon Limited Edition Carriage Clock. The gold-plated clock, which features images of Galbraith’s Arabian Falcon artwork, has an eight-day power reserve, weighs 5kg and is limited to only 100 pieces. It is presented in a blue fitted leather case handmade in England.

Some of the clocks under the Historic Times collection are inspired by other famous personalities. The Sir Wilfred Thesiger Cheltenham Clock features 20th-century photographic images of Arabia, taken by the English explorer and travel writer Sir Wilfred Thesiger.

The photographic images were scanned and digitally printed onto the four panels of the clock, which are hand-lacquered and polished. The mantel clock with a polished triple chime movement has a solid brass rhodium-plated canopy, which reveals the movement. The clock is mounted on a handmade base with a drawer. The Sir Wilfred Thesiger Carriage Clock is limited to only 50 pieces. The Sir Wilfred Thesiger Navigator Clock are also available under this collection.

To celebrate the UAE’s 50th anniversary, a country that Galbraith is familiar with since the Seventies, he released a series of clocks specially designed to commemorate the nation’s golden jubilee. “I embraced the challenge of designing a clock to celebrate the 50th founding anniversary of the UAE. I was trying to think of a suitable concept for this particular clock [the Navigator] and coincidentally had ordered a book called the Arabian Nights whose cover happened to be in a particular style that immediately inspired me.

“I set about producing a digital drawing of the Al Jahili Fort in Abu Dhabi that I used as a representation of the unity of the seven emirates, and then created drawings of famous buildings from each of the seven emirates to show a sense of equality,” explains Galbraith.

The United Arab Emirates 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Navigator Clock, limited to only 50 pieces, not only features all those images at the base, but the 18-carat yellow gold-plated clock has a white dial, with 18-carat yellow gold-plated appliques. Similarly, there is a UAE 50th anniversary edition in the Carriage Clock style with similar work on it.

Three years into the venture that merges art and clocks alongside Richard Deacon, Galbraith says there’s much more to come. “We can design and produce bespoke clocks to order, and will work closely with a client to either produce new artwork or use existing artwork for the clock’s panels. We can design and produce custom dials along with finely engraved artwork to the client’s specifications.”

With these clocks, Galbraith has started placing the foundation stones of his legacy. “I am currently working on a new, larger and highly accurate clock called a regulator. The regulator will be available soon. I am passionate about my art and love of horology, and the combination of the two is my life’s legacy.”

To learn more about the clocks, visit thearabiangallery.com

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