A heavy snowstorm and icy conditions has put Texas in another lockdown. The road outside my house is impassible. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has instituted rolling blackouts. My housing development will run out of propane today (Monday) and thus heat, with no chance of a refill until Wednesday at the earliest. What does this have to do with watch choice? . . .
Those of us who enjoy watches are obsessed with time. Why wouldn’t we be? It’s the one resource we use without any chance of a refill. How we use our limited time determines our fate, and the fate of those who depend on us. Our watches are an attempt to control time. To own it. It’s an ultimately fruitless pursuit, but one which we can’t afford to ignore.
Negative events – and the prospect of negative events – make us more aware of our mortality. COVID-19, extreme weather, illness, accidents, death – they all remind us that the clock is ticking. They change the meaning of time.
Sitting here, knowing that my heat is about to disappear and the power suddenly cease (shutting down this computer at any moment), I’m far more cognizant of time passing than normal. My watch is more important, and I view it differently.
Before the storm, my watch was a work of functional art to be admired, analyzed and reviewed. Now it’s a silent rebuke, reminding me that I only have so much time before I must start the fire, protect my dog and hope I have enough heat until the truck arrives.
I’ve spent some of my time wondering what our watch choice reveals about our relationship to time. Here’s my best guess.
People who wear a minimalist timepiece are especially time obsessed. We’re always glancing at our watch. That’s why we value at-a-glance-ability surtout.
A desire to be efficient? Certainly. A subconscious recognition that we’re in a constant race against time (i.e. the Grim Reaper)? That too.
Watch enthusiasts who add a day-date complication to an otherwise minimalist timepiece are even more concerned about the passage of time.
Attuned to daily, weekly and monthly routines, schedules and plans, they see time management as both a short and a long-term goal. They want to know where they are in the grand scheme of things. Their watch choice keeps them focused on what lies ahead. They know that time waits for no one.
People who wear a watch with a second time zone divide into two groups (with overlap): those who travel and those with friends and/or family in a different time zone. You could say that a GMT watch is a purely practical matter, especially for time-zone hopping business folk.
But it’s also true that GMT watch wearers are tuned into the fact that time is relative. That other people are experiencing time differently. This understanding provides a small measure of liberation from the in-your-face tyranny of time.
Traditional Chronographs/Vintage Watches
Most people who wear a traditional chronograph never use the stopwatch. The events that once justified the complication – motor racing, track and field, scuba, exercise – are now measured by more robust, accurate and efficient digital timers.
People who wear a trad chrono join vintage watch wearers in their desire to connect with the past – to assure themselves that their life is part of a larger story. They take comfort in the continuity of the human experience, whether it’s achievement (timed by a chrono) or style (expressed by an older design) or family tradition.
Most people who wear a dive watch never dive. If they do, they wear a dive computer. The obvious reason to wear a dive watch: they’re rugged timepieces that evoke the thrill of underwater exploration.
They reveal the wearer’s desire to live an active, adventurous life (whether they do or not). To find and savor those human interactions and events that put them “in the zone,” so they can stand outside of time and experience the sheer joy of being alive
Tourbillon/Minute Repeater Watches
People whose watch choice turns to the tourbillon and other expensive complications (e.g. minute repeaters) aren’t all about bragging rights. They revel in the childlike wonder of seeing/hearing a mechanical object that’s both complex and playful.
They know the tourbillon serves no practical purpose (especially when compared to a quartz movement). Like the dive watch, wearing a watch with the spinny thing or bells reflects a desire to escape the humdrum grind of passing time. To make fun of it.
I Admit . . .
that the cold and worry could be making me a little loopy. I welcome your corrections or additions. Suffice it to say, we all face the same challenge of managing our time to maximize our sense of purpose. To survive. The watch is our friend, our enemy, our advisor and our legacy. SWATCH and smartwatch aside.