Why Watches Matter Now

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Tudor 1926 sidewalk - watches matter!

Over at Quill & Pad, GaryG tackles the question “How in the world can you possibly be focused on something like watches at such a terrible time?” Seriously? Why do watches matter to horophiles during Coronageddon? They help keep us sane. Instead of offering this simple reply straight off the bat, GaryG tells Sherman to set the WayBack machine for 1852 . . .

“This too shall pass away”
– Medieval Persian fable retold by Edward Fitzgerald in Solomon’s Seal, 1852

The tradition of timekeeping both allows us to place historical events in context and – if we reflect on it – helps us to realize that our current difficulties will pass as well, giving us cause for optimism.

King Solomon

And if we heed the moral of the tale in Solomon’s Seal, we realize as well that the good times that follow will in time “pass away” and yield to further challenges and respond to that realization with vigilance and preparation to soften the blows of future adversities.

Does King Solomon look like a happy camper to you? But I get it: watches remind us to keep our chin up because time passes. Better days lie ahead. And worse, apparently.

Mondaine Ultra Thin in the garden

Yes, well, I don’t know about you, but looking at my watch during the pandemic lockdown has a negative effect. It’s only six ‘o clock? Wait. What day is it?  Will this day, this quarantine ever end? Or will I die with a tube shoved down my throat before it does?

That said, I don’t blame the messenger. In fact, I reckon optimism has as much to do with watches as pessimism has to do with toasters.

At the same time that watches help us to be mindful, they have the power to help us forget – or at least to divert ourselves from current troubles. Who hasn’t looked at his or her wrist to check the time, gotten lost in the look of the dial, and forgotten to find out what time it is?

Humism Dasein - this watch matters to aspiring hypnotists

Just for the record, I’m not Joe Biden. While I share watch lovers’ tendency to stare at a perfectly realized dial, I still have enough mental acuity left to remember to read the time. Unless I’m looking at a Humism Dasein.

Having the gift of time during the current isolation has allowed me to pull out some old favorite pieces and “forget” at greater length as I slowly wind them, consider the shapes of their cases, or peer into the depths of their movements using macro photography.

So there it is: watches as distraction. And there’s GaryG’s most excellent list of watch-related time killers – which includes this shot across the bow at HoDinkee’s guilt-ridden champagne socialist:

 Is it immoral in troubled times to buy items that are considered luxury goods?

When it comes to watchmaking, I’m happy to argue the opposite: that sustaining the embedded knowledge of the craft and supporting the artists who create the ticking treasures we love at a time when they need us the most is a noble pursuit.

Watches matter! Hamilton 950R pocket watch

Yes! Yesterday’s purchase of a Hamilton pocket watch was nobility personified! Although the people who created it are dead and buried. While I await its arrival, props to GaryG credit for identifying the reason why it’s OK to fixate on horology during Coronageddon.

If we are going to ask, “why watchmaking” we might as well ask “why music?” or “why literature?” As we cope with challenging times, the inspiration of creators and the visible thread of artistic and craft traditions from the past, through the present, and into the future helps to sustain our spirits.

As Pablo Picasso pronounced, “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Just don’t forget to wash your hands.

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