ageist editors | july 12, 2018
Maybe it’s that I am just back from Switzerland, where every corner seems to show a high-end watch ad, but I am wondering: Why is it that people even buy a mechanical watch today? People have phones in their pockets which are far more accurate and useful. If one were to wear a watch purely for function, perhaps it would be more along the lines of something that monitored heart rate or indicated your altitude.
For anyone not into watch mania, there is a vivid culture around mechanical time pieces, an entire community of horologists that hang out at places like Hodinkee. In this crowd, there is a fetishization of mechanical watches, especially vintage ones- the ones keep less regular time, cost more and require considerable care.
I have three theories on this. The first is that a watch, especially a nice one, is essentially a piece of jewelry. It may not even tell time, never be wound, just hang there as an intensely complex mechanical bracelet. Men and women seem to both subscribe to this, although it seems the men who are the real hunters and collectors out there in watch world.
The second reason is related to AGEIST. Passing time is a measure of age. My feeling is that there is a relationship between observing the fine clicks of a mechanical watch and a desire to slow aging. That is, if we observe it enough, and keep track of it, we can keep it from slipping through our hands. Perhaps the more expensive and the more desirable the time-keeping tool, the better we can control time.
The third is that a mechanical watch is a marvel of engineering, and a good one is an absolute delight to touch, wear and interact with. They are truly amazing devices, to be enjoyed in a tactile way that digital devices never will be. We are creatures equipped with many senses- the grand failure of digital devices is they tend to only engage us in one or two of them. I will note my delight noticing a small mechanical clock in the dashboard of the new Mercedes 500S. Why would they do this? Simply because it feels more human.