Our dear publisher recently posted a provocative article entitled The Date Window Must Die! The “new normal” lockdown world (est. March, 2020) has left him in a stupor over what day it is. Casa de Montecristo is open every day and the computing machine will help him get the New Watch Alerts up on Friday, so who cares anymore? When it comes to date windows on watches, I do . . .
I date stamp documents at work. I can attest that relying on the paper calendar is problematic when mistaking which day of the week it is. The watch knows (unless one forgot to update their non-perpetual calendar on the first of the month and nobody said “Rabbit rabbit rabbit).”
Coronageddon meant that my dentist had new waivers to be signed. And dated. I was testing out the GEORGE pocket watch, so I had no date on my wrist. Option one was to query the masked staff, who had thus far treated me like a leper, admitting that I didn’t know what date it was.
They’d vanished, leaving me to cap the pen, set the clipboard aside, stand up, extract the phone from my pocket, swipe it to life and memorize the date until I’d performed all these tasks in reverse and could write it down. I so wished I were wearing one of my date-bearing Casios. The pen would have never left my hand.
The time is on wall clocks, in the corner of every computer, on the dash of the car, on microwave ovens. You’re pretty much covered. The date, not so much. Paper calendars are as scarce as paper newspapers, and the ubiquitous computer and cellular telephone require some coaxing to get that info.
Digital aids allegedly make analog date displays unnecessary. I’m doing something wrong. I get notices that my order should arrive by some date, or of an upcoming appointment on another date. Is that today, tomorrow, or the day after?
I need a frame of reference. The digital schedule will remind me later, but has some unentered conflict arisen since that was punched in way back when? I don’t need an electronic Filofax here. Today’s date is all I need.
The assertion is that the watch date function is mere decoration. And that they ruin symmetry, which seems to be a conflicting stance. But watches themselves are largely ornamental jewelry, so this is irrelevant.
There are reports of schoolchildren wearing analog fashion watches that they don’t know how to read and people sporting nonfunctioning watches long term. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
“The date window ties us to horology’s evolution,” RF wrote, “its noble past” we are told. Indeed!
Despite the Flintstone gag about wrist sundials, horology’s roots are in the the Antikythera mechanism and other astronomical clocks, more concerned with the date than the hour. Agrarian society rose with the sun to work the fields, but sailors needed to know the date for navigation, priests to keep track of holy days.
I say function over fashion, and I am not alone. The window-hater himself admits that “people buy watches with date windows” and latest reports are that it is the most popular complication. The people have spoken.
Aesthetics are important. The Rolex date wart is aptly named. Neat trick that it once was, the fisheye blob is an affront to symmetry and its purpose in the giant watch face era is very questionable.
How to deal with this necessary stylistic evil gets an answer of conflicting extremes. Be visually unobtrusive, tucked away with chameleon-like camouflaging. On the other hand, wear it with honor, large and prominent. Is that not the real reason people tolerate the Rollie wart? It is a telltale hallmark of brand identity.
The A. Lange & Söhne models with their giant individually framed date characters certainly master this. I may think they look like a desk calendar or a flip clock, but I’m not in their market.
It should be law that the date wheel color matches the dial unless this counters an index disguise. The same goes for window frames: omit unless part of an incognito scheme. Certainly don’t place a date window opposite an exaggerated hour marker. No truncating of dial numerals either. Complete or delete, no vestigial remnants.
Date windows floating in negative space should be a lesser sin. However it is BAD because it suggests big watch/little movement syndrome. It is worse yet when the window is poorly scaled. Pro tip: make the date character(s) at least as large as the lettering in the branding. Functions lacking legibility are not functional.
I’d prattle on about why Seiko colors Saturday blue and Sunday red, or the issue of date displays changing at inaccurate times, but these are topics for another day. Another date.
Just be glad watches no longer need flipping to see the date!
In short, date windows are useful and not necessarily an aesthetic affront. The world would be a worse place without them. Well, I would be in my world.