When people find out the things that make me tick (pun intended), I’m usually met with an “Oh!” or a funny (for the lack of a better word) look on their faces. Within my circle of friends, I’m sometimes (playfully) referred to as the Resident Snob. Primarily because most of my interests either seem archaic, esoteric or financially inaccessible.
Sure, my interests aren’t what one would call ‘mainstream’ for a college going kid, but by no means are they inaccessible, financially or otherwise. The aim of the ‘Why It Interests Me’ series, of which this is the first post, is for me to attempt to explain why I find each of my interests… well, interesting. Hopefully by the end of this, some of you will understand my borderline unhealthy interest in mechanical wristwatches and who knows, maybe I’ll even manage to convert someone. 🙂
In our daily lives, we’re surrounded by gadgets and appliances that can tell us what time it is. From our smartphones and laptops to our microwaves and coffeemakers. While I still see some wall clocks around, they’re prominence has faded quite significantly as well. Our wrists are increasingly becoming home to a fitness tracking device or a smartwatch.
For those who still sport a wristwatch, it is usually either a fashion accessory or a utilitarian piece. However, there is a small subset of the population that pays a lot more attention to their wrist pieces. Granted, the world of horology enthusiasts and watch collectors has always been small, but the divide has never been wider.
To start off I think it’s important to understand that there is a difference between being interested in watches and being interested in horology, at least in my books. Everyone interested in horology is also interested in watches but not everyone interested in watches is also interested in horology. (Let that sink in for a moment)
Someone who buys watches for the aesthetic/design appeal and views them as a fashion accessory but takes the time to select and maybe even build a collection of watches is interested in watches. However, there are people, like me, who find joy in the inner workings of a watch as well. Mechanical watches, are a testament to what we are capable of as humans.
An A Lange & Söhne Datograph (go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait…) is a thing of beauty. I’ve yet to see one in person but the pictures of the movement (that’s the innards of the watch, the thing that makes it tick) alone can make you stop and stare. The entire watch is hand made with the greatest care and attention by master watchmakers. To me, it represents the perfect fusion of art and science.
However, the Datograph costs nearly twice the average American household income and represents the summit (or close enough to it) of what exists out there in the horological world. On the opposite end of things we have companies like Seiko, which ironically almost destroyed the mechanical watch industry back in the ’70s, revolutionizing the watch world by creating the first automatic mechanical movement that is assembled with no human involvement.
By automating the entire process, Seiko was able to make the mechanical watch just as competitive as a high quality quartz watch (watches that run on a battery). So much so that you can get a Seiko for as little as $55 these days, if you’d like to dip your toes in the water first.
Between the Datograph and the humble little Seiko exists an entire world of varying levels of mechanical complexity and ingenuity, and artistic prowess. And we haven’t even got into the world of complications (that’s the term for the extra things a watch can do besides tell the time) or vintage watches (for example, this Patek Phillipe that sold for more than $11 million).
A well built and maintained mechanical wristwatch will outlast you, your children and quite possibly your grandchildren. Unlike a smartwatch it does not become obsolete in a year or two, sure your tastes may vary and you may lust after other watches, but there’s no reason why you can’t go through life wearing just one watch. In fact, it was my grandfather’s watch (pictured below) that sparked my interest in horology. It went missing for several decades, but was found eventually and after a CLA (clean, lubricate and adjust), it ticks away just as healthily as the day he bought it and was my daily driver for over a year.
In essence, a mechanical wristwatch appeals to me on an intrinsic level. The science behind it intrigues me, the skill and craftsmanship that goes into creating one fascinates me and the possibilities astound me. Is any of this necessary? Not at all. Sure it may be archaic and excessive but so what? To me something like the Datograph is the very essence of doing something not because you have to but because you can, simply for the sake of it. As a testament to what is capable.
Finally, I’ve also been lucky to have found friends and mentors who happen to share this interest with me, have mentored and advised me, and let me live vicariously through them. I tried to keep this piece as short as possible as I didn’t want to run the risk of putting you to sleep by jumping into too many of the details, but I hope some of you understand why watches fascinate me so much.
Stay tuned for next week’s ‘Why It Interest Me’ on cigars.