This crazy obsession with timepieces
This is an interesting time to have a passion for timepieces. We live in an age of smartphones, computers, tablets, wifi and digital displays. The time of day is (very accurately) displayed almost everywhere you go- the mall, the office, the subway… In today’s world, a mechanical timepiece serves no practical purpose at all. However, the popularity of “proper” mechanical watches has surged in the past decade and prices have soared as well. There seems to be more interest in watches today than ever before. Why?
Why? … Oh, I love it when someone asks me why I would spend a serious amount of money on a timepiece. Why spend hours and hours reading books, magazines and blogs about watches? Why? What could possibly be so intriguing, so important, about a watch? Why devote so much time to this subject? Why?
I got my first watch (a kids’ wind-up Timex) when I was about 5 years old. It was a gift from my grandparents and I still have it. So that was my first taste of timepieces. But it was my love of Formula 1 motor racing that really led to watches. I often compare watches to cars and watches have always been associated with motor sports. This link is evident in lots of marketing and it definitely influenced me.
Around the age of 8, I became a very passionate Tifoso, meaning I was a madly devoted Ferrari fan and I have followed F1 ever since. In the 1990’s, you would see TAG Heuer displayed all over F1- they were the official timekeepers of the sport for years and they are still a major sponsor of the McLaren team. So I thought that it would be super cool to one day own a TAG Heuer watch. For me, a TAG Heuer became a status symbol. And I think that the status symbol aspect of watches is fairly important. I bought my first TAG Heuer 5 years ago and it really felt special. It was a big moment for me. But I did not know what I was doing and I bought….a quartz. Oh, the shame. You will find that I am not really a watch snob, but I do not consider a quartz watch to be a real timepiece at all! I enjoyed that watch, though. And two years later, as a wedding gift, my wife gave me a TAG Heuer Aquaracer Automatic Chronograph. Wow. Automatic. Chronograph. Yes! Once I realized how differently an automatic functions compared to quartz, I began to read. And learn. And research. And discuss. And the more I learned, the more I liked the subject. If you Google, “automatic vs. quartz” or “mechanical vs. quartz,” you will find a few great articles that really describe the allure of a fine mechanical timepiece.
So back to the question- why? Why spend thousands of dollars on a mechanical watch that is far less accurate than a $50 Timex? Why spend your savings on a watch when you have accurate time on your cell phone? Why?
Well, a “proper” watch is a tiny mechanical marvel. Depending on the movement, it could have over two hundred tiny little parts. It is powered by a mechanical movement with a spring rather than electricity. The creation of such a watch requires engineering, craft, precision, knowledge and design. Many companies that produce timepieces are more than a century old- some are hundreds of years old. These companies have rich, proud heritages and owning one of their fine products can certainly be a status symbol. Some newer companies are making their own name by introducing high-tech materials and mechanical innovations. Watches have different purposes and designs, allowing their owners to express their style, taste, values, etc. It’s not about telling time. It’s about telling a story. When you choose your watch for the day, you are choosing your style and image for that day. You are expressing yourself. To wear a fine mechanical timepiece is to tell the world that you value craft, heritage, tradition and quality. It is also extremely satisfying to wear a tiny mechanical device on your wrist- something to remind you of days gone by. I enjoy winding my watches, setting the time, tracking their accuracy and testing the power reserve. I especially enjoy using my chronograph to time my steaks on the BBQ!
To use the car-watch analogy, a watch is like a miniature car. It has an “engine,” which is the movement. It has its own style and design. Whereas a car can have different wheels, a watch can have different bracelets and straps. And, as with cars, there are many different watch brands that allow you to express your values and ideals. But you can wear a watch all day; while a car must stay parked somewhere until you need to drive it. As I have often said, when I show up for a power meeting in a big board room, no one knows what car I drove to get there. Or if I took a bus or a taxi. But everyone notices my fine timepiece.
So there you have it. Craft. Prestige. Style. Mechanics. Heritage. These are the factors that drive my obsession with timepieces and I am certain that many of you feel the same way. Those that don’t may, however, may now understand the obsession a little better!
Thanks to my gracious hosts for inviting me to write this blog. I look forward to writing more about my passion in the coming months. I will share some thoughts on different brands and different issues. I may also present some of my own timepieces. I hope you will tune in and enjoy.