It’s said that technology has caused the magic of our daily lives to be taken away, in trade for efficiency. And true, the progress of technology and “innovation” has served mankind well, allowing us to flourish in way’s our predecessors would’ve deemed unimaginable.
It’s hard to think then, that there’s any space for something to be left desired. In some places, we’re at a point where we innovate for the sake of innovating, hoping to phase out current technology with something even more outlandish. We shun anything that appears outdated and old fashioned (Unless you’re a hipster)
Nearly everyone carries a smartphone these days. Every month there’s something new, and we’re made to believe that the current piece of expensive glass in our hands is now obsolete. This mindset for some, has led to people failing to appreciate the simplicity and honesty of things around them.
This brings me on to the topic of watches, and how does a 16 year old boy in East London end up becoming a watch collector and enthusiast?
A few years ago, I watched the film “The Internship” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. It wasn’t a revolutionary film by any accounts, but it did bring up a point that my younger self had overlooked. The characters played by the pair, were watch salesmen, who had been downsized due to the apparent ‘obsolescence’ of watches thanks to the precedence of the aforementioned smartphone. Back then I thought it was a scenario that made perfect sense. Simply put: “something that relatively few people cared about was merely being replaced with something more ‘useful’”. I’m pretty sure most of the audience thought the same thing. Though now I wince at the thought.
A couple of years ago, I took part in a presentation competition run by Rothschild Bank. For taking part, I was awarded with a private label watch with the Rothschild crest and big “Swiss Made” lettering on the box. It was pretty exciting for me; having won something like that, all I was wearing at the time was a Casio G-Shock which I was pretty proud of.
Being a tinkerer and super inquisitive, I took the watch apart the moment I got home, researching everything I could. I found out the watch itself wasn’t particularly special. It was a Quartz piece that had a snap-on caseback. But I was still grateful for the piece, which I still wear to this day (And is the only Quartz analogue watch I own)
I remember meeting up with an older friend of mine, talking to him about the presentation. I mentioned taking apart the watch, to which he smiled, showing me the bottom of his own watch. I didn’t know anything about watches at the time, and immediately said “Is that a Sekonda?”
It turns out it wasn’t. It turns out it was a Patek Philippe ref.34941J, a grand complications piece that was one of the most sought after perpetual calendars in the horological world.
I was captivated by it. I knew enough that there were no electrical circuits in the piece, yet began wondering what kind of mechanical mastery was behind operating all those intricate dials in such as small thing. Furthermore, I was told it took a whole year to make, which hungered my inquisitive mind, and sheer love for engineering, wanting to find answers to my questions.
I spent that entire evening researching whatever I could about watches, from Wikipedia, YouTube and online blogs. Each time I learnt something new, my mind jumped on to the next relevant thing, craving for more information. I met up with the same friend a few weeks later, the intention of the meeting being to talk about academics. Instead, I surprised him by regurgitating an onslaught of information about Patek Philippe, AudemarsPiguet, Vacheron Constantin and more. During our random horological conversations, price was never mentioned. It was only about the watches themselves, not currency.
Over my short years, I’ve learnt that it’s proper etiquette to never talk about such a thing unless talking about potential purchases, and that it’s a sign of a true horologist to care solely for the timepiece.
One of the key features of mechanical timepieces that drew me into horology was the ingenuity behind them. Every mechanical timepiece today, no matter where it’s from, is based on a set of principles that were developed over 300 years ago. I learned that a watchmaker wasn’t just a mere title, but rather an embodiment of precision craftsmanship and artistry. I’ve always drawn to this idea that all engineering is, is to simply be able to think in a clever way, by utilizing “ingenuity”. And from that logic, I’ve always deemed the principles of watchmaking “ingenious”, and as a result always combined my passion for engineering with my love for horology.
I know that for every Seiko or Rolex I see on a wrist, it’s a product of years of training and skill honing, and countless hours of work. So when it comes to choosing between buying the latest “Samsung galaxy S12” or a well preserved Seiko 6139 chronograph, my saved money will go towards the Seiko without a question; knowing I’ve chosen to own a piece of history and art, and that it will appreciate in value as I grow older and mature.Perhaps even pass it on to another fellow horologist?