First of all, this isn’t a critique of any particular brand or house or group or what have you? This is story about when you and I spot a watch and go “What the fuck?” It is at this point most of us, myself especially are told that we simply do not understand the timepiece. That may be true in many cases where a horological piece is re-thought and given a new presentation. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a few moments to understand an Urwerk and perhaps a few more for a SevenFriday! But upon ‘getting it’, I could then go forward with understanding the mechanics or dial structure that so flummoxed me.
I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about watches that even after someone explains the whole deal to you, in simple language, and slowly too, you still go – ‘What?’
No telling what time it is
For instance, I don’t ‘get’ watches that don’t tell time. I have been lectured about how watches can be used as fashion accessories. But isn’t watch that doesn’t tell time actually a bracelet or a bangle? No, it’s not apparently! Because, and read this part slowly – who’d be stupid enough to wear a bangle that has a watch face on it? Now if you’re having a ‘wait, what?’ moment then join the club. Slightly more forgivable are watches with a no or perhaps a single hour marker. Unfortunately, with the advent of cheap quartz movements from China and trend driving brands like Daniel Wellington, these watches are now rather popular. Where once this was the domain of the glamorously chic, it is now on the wrist of the working class. Except we don’t have groupies to keep time for us.
But we have smartphones with clocks, I hear you say? Then why the watch in the first place? Style and fashion again? Okay, that’s fine and all but it all seems a bit contrived. It took 400 years of watchmakers going insane and blind to miniaturise the house clock to fit on a wrist! If this all seems so petty, wait until you miss an important meet or deadline based on a ‘more or less’ watch. I’ve experienced it, others have to – it’s all fun and games until you miss an Air Asia flight because the gates closed five minutes earlier. #justsayin
Over the top
Moving on, I also question why some manufacturers feel the need to overdo something. Be it size or complications, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible is not always in good taste. Just because you can stick four tourbillons in a watch case doesn’t mean you should. In fact, there is an argument to be made with the idea that ‘because I can’ and how we should think about it. After all, remember that old Spiderman quote – With great powers come great responsibility. And while I’ve seen first hand the rush of watchmakers to do something new in an industry where almost everything was discovered a century or more ago, there has to some thought about who will buy your watch. Asians in general love larger cases but once you go over 60mm, are there any takers?
I suppose my point is the question that is there a point to these watches? Spectacle, fashion, art? There are no end of excuses or reasons, just as there are all sorts of apologists for all sorts of watches that are mainstream. I am told every so often that watches are a man’s only accessory and occasionally, a watch can be a talking piece. And on both points, I am hugely supportive. My only concern here where do you draw the line on the watch being the centre of attraction and where you come off looking stupid? It’s a fine line for some to walk.