by Pier Five Staff Writer
Are you a fan of watches, art, sneakers and/or vinyl toys?
If you’ve answered yes to any or all of the above then you very well might be into sculpture artist Dan Tanenbaum, aka Watch Parts Motorcycles. Over the last ten years, Dan has been honing his craft meshing watch parts and pop culture to create some of the wildest sculptures out there. With no two pieces being the same, Dan has created hundreds of watch part encrusted works for collectors, gallery curators, friends and family and celebrities such as rapper Chief Keef and DJ Steve Aoki. Dan has also amassed an impressive following of nearly one hundred thousand people on social media. With an attention to detail that is unmatched and a unique style, each of Dan’s sculptures come with a story. His work is revered by many and coveted by collectors, sneakerheads, artists and the like around the world.
Dan started his career as an art director in his twenties and moved on to become a serial tech entrepreneur in his thirties which he still does full time. Early after the transition to tech, Dan started feeling his creative side taking a back seat and sought out to change that, leading to what is now a major endeavour in the art space. “I’ve always had art in my bones and once I stopped working as an art director, I felt myself missing that ability to create and design in that way.” Dan explains. “Then one day I took a trip out to one of my watch dealers in London [Ontario] and came across this box of hundreds of old watch pieces which the dealer said was his box of garbage… so I was like “I’ll take it!”
While some of Dan’s most famous sculptures today are his watch encrusted Kaws and KidRobot Dunny figures, it didn’t originally start there. He initially used the pieces he sourced to make cufflinks and then graduated to, you guessed it, mini motorcycle sculptures which is where the name Watch Parts Motorcycles came from. “Once I started gaining traction from the motorcycles, I thought that was it. I was getting really immersed in the motorcycle groups and it was so cool seeing what these pieces meant to some of those people” Dan explained. “Besides using the art as an escape, I think the reveal and seeing the buyer connect with the piece was what I really loved about this and made me keep going”.
From day one, Dan has focused on making sculptures that hold a lot of meaning and sentimental value. His favourite sculptures to make are the ones that are customized specially for the collector and this is why every piece that Dan makes, other than his recurring Time Bomb series, is made to order and a unique one-of-one. “I love consulting with a collector to make something relevant to their life.” Dan says. “Oftentimes, I’ll get messages for a Dunny or a Jordan sneaker but I’ll ask them about what else they collect and see if we can think of something that will be more personal to them.”
Most recently, Dan encrusted a ski boot for a father to remind them of their time on the slopes and before that, a three foot tall Star Wars stormtrooper to add to an LA collector’s 8-piece stormtrooper collection from artists around the world. In addition, Dan likes to take personalization to another level by often including special watch parts into the piece. Whether it’s a dial from a client’s childhood watch or a strap that belonged to their grandparent, Dan will always go the furthest to make each piece as tailored to the customer as possible.
What does a new tailored suit or a handmade bag have in common with Dan’s art pieces? For all of them, there’s always an amazing feeling that comes with getting something that you know took countless hours to make specially for you. From the initial consultation to the documented journey with Dan as he creates a piece for you and only you, the work of Watch Parts Motorcycles is almost more experience than art. “While I might go into the studio and work for four hours at a time without any breaks, I do try to keep the buyer in the loop. I think it’s cool to document the process and I think it adds a lot of value to the final product.” Dan explains about his works.
Most of the time, it’s even hard for Dan to part ways with his work after it’s completed. “The hardest part for me is letting it go. Once they’re gone they’re gone.” Dan explains, thinking about some of his recent creations. “I’ve always marvelled at the idea of making multiples so that I could keep one but I don’t think I ever would.” he continues. So, if you own one of Dan’s pieces, consider yourself lucky because he likely had a tough time handing it over. If you don’t, the first thing to do is check out his socials and follow along as Dan encrusts the world in millions of watch parts, one piece at a time. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll turn that Mickey Mouse watch from your childhood trip to Disney World into the coolest thing you’ll ever place on your shelf.
For more on Watch Parts Motorcycles, check out Dan’s Instagram below and keep it locked to Pier Five for more stories and interviews with the best in fashion, art, business, food & more.