Wristwatches, like many things, have been influenced by the military. Several genres of wristwatch have evolved according to military requirements. The two best examples are diving watches and pilot watches. You all know how early Panerai were designed for underwater use by Italian navy frogmen, right? And you probably know that oversized cases and hacking functions were designed to meet the needs of bomber pilots back in World War 2. The mechanical wristwatches we love today evolved into their current form because they were once an essential tool for military personnel. Therefore, it is quite appropriate for WatchPaper to present its annual Remembrance Day special as we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the military.
You really have to care somewhat about history if you love proper mechanical timepieces. I mean, why else would you wear one? To tell time? Your phone tells the time. So does your car. And your computer. You wear a real piece because it is powered by a mechanism and reminds you of days gone by. A timepiece reminds you of a time before GPS and instant messaging. It reminds you that many professions once depended on reliable mechanical devices.
This week, in particular, is a time to reflect upon some brutal chapters of history — the major conflicts of the last century. I have spent a lot of time studying World War I and World War II over the last 5 years. Many would argue that they were both the same war and that there was merely a cease fire between WWI and WWII. When you study this period of history, you learn that the human species completely degenerated into something monstrous and evil as it committed unspeakable atrocities against itself. This realization is quite horrifying and shocking. But as you continue to study the first half of the 20th century, particularly WWII, you learn of incredible characters and amazing heroism. You learn of epic feats of engineering and science. You learn of willpower and determination. You learn of cruelty and tragedy, but you also learn of courage and survival against the odds. You see, while the World Wars were the darkest time in human history, they also saw some of mankind’s finest hours. These terrible and destructive times saw bravery and sacrifice in the face of unstoppable evil and madness. You could argue that the great wars, as terrible as they were, still managed to show the best of humanity.
And that is what mechanical timepieces are all about for me — the best of humanity. A mechanical movement is an absolute marvel of engineering and design. This tiny device with over 100 different parts can often function with 99.99% accuracy, even in adverse conditions. A mechanical timepiece represents some of mankind’s best abilities and the top houses produce pieces with sensational levels of quality. The top brands are pushing the boundaries of skill and design with new materials and new standards of performance. When I strap on a quality piece in the morning, I feel that I am wearing an example of one of man’s finest achievements. I derive satisfaction from the quality of the piece and its heritage. And yes, I think about a time when you actually needed such a device to keep track of time.
And this week, I am thinking about the great conflicts that shaped our world. I think about the terrible crimes and innocent victims. But I also think of the heroes and their determination. I think about how nations came together and transformed themselves in order to prevail. I think about how groups of people worked together to achieve the impossible. I think about my own family’s involvement in both world wars. And I wear my poppy to honor them all.