What Is The Point Of A Wristwatch? – My Love Of The Wristwatch.

A love story or a plea for the wristwatch?

Sometimes, when I take a moment out of my day, I find it bizarre that I work in an industry that is increasingly seen as unnecessary.  Digital technology is rapidly displacing everything analog, and the smartwatch is ubiquitous. When challenged that no one needs a wristwatch anymore, I reply, in a somewhat unsettled manner, that my wristwatch is not specifically to tell the time any longer. It is my talisman on my wrist, an accessory, an object of fascination. But this is all far from the truth. 

An Everlasting Wearable and Collectible Curiosity

The wristwatch is one of the oldest products that continue to hold the same fascination for us today as when they were first invented.  They are the most multifaceted cultural asset—the most versatile art object, an everlasting wearable and collectible object that has never lost its importance. 

The clock dates back millennia in the history of time measurement. It combines enchanting functions with the art of micromechanics and masterly craftsmanship in a way that leaves us enchanted. This fascination for the centuries-old mechanical watch only grows with more understanding and then the greater its attraction becomes. This journey of discovery leads us into the world of design, architecture, and trends that influence our lives and lifestyles.

The phenomenon of time has always fascinated us, humans. We can consider the time from three distinct aspects. The first is the physics and philosophy of time as a physical phenomenon.  Second is the psychology of time, our sense of time passing.  Finally, time, defined and measured through mathematics and technology, is used to regulate our lives.

Do we still need wristwatches today? Of course, we do!

Time was already being measured with sundials from about 3000 BC.  Later water, fire, and hourglasses were used as the instruments of measure. However, the invention of a mechanical means to measure time, with its wheels and an escapement mechanism that converted the rotational energy into oscillations, was a tremendous advance. 

15th century astronomical clock seen in Bern Switzerland
A Beautiful Example Of An Astronomical Clock in Bern, Switzerland, The Home Of SNGLRTY

In antiquity, day and night had already been divided into twelve periods, but these vary in length depending on the season. Now it was possible to divide time into hour-long periods that were always the same length.

In the broader sense, the first pocket watches, or portable watches, dating back to as early as the 15th century. These portable timekeepers were made possible by the invention of the mainspring.  The mainspring allowed the gravity-driven pendulum of the clock to be replaced by the drive and balance wheel in a watch. The greatest benefit of this was to shrink the time-keeping machine to a manageable size.

As early as the first half of the 17th century, small watches existed on finger rings and sword pommels, and it has been suggested that wristwatches may have also existed at this time. 

Women Invented The Wristwatch

Movements continued to shrink over time, which allowed watches to shrink without the loss of precision. In the latter half of the 19th century, the jeweled wristwatch had established itself as a new watch genre. Around 1890, it became fashionable to wear a lady’s pocket watch on a chain or strap as a jewelry piece on the wrist.

An Early example of a wristwatch, designed as jewelry for ladies
The First Wristwatches Were Created As Jewelry For Women. As Usual, Men Picked Up On THis Trend Only Later (and After A War!)

This fashion was initially considered “feminine.” Gentlemen, therefore, continued to use a pocket watch attached to the waistcoat via a watch chain. Towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the wristwatch was no longer worn as a decorative watch but increasingly a professional instrument. 

The Military Were Early Adopters.

A wristwatch design for German Naval officers
This Wristwatch With A Protective Grille Was Created For The German Navy.

At this time, the wristwatch became widely adopted by the military. These watches were distinguished by their sturdy protective cases. Sometimes a protective grille was installed to protect the glass or a savonnette (a hinged cover).  These watches tended to have large luminous numerals, especially those used by soldiers. Once adopted by the armed forces, it was only a matter of time until the wristwatch became popular in civilian life.

During the First World War, officers discovered that their pocket watches were impractical under combat conditions, especially in winter. This gave further impetus to the adoption of the wristwatch and was soon ubiquitous in the military.  By 1918, the end of the First World War, the wristwatch was the standard time-keeping instrument for the military. Pilots, too, faced with sparse instrumentation on their planes at the time, soon adopted the wristwatch as they depended on fast and accurate timekeeping to fly. 

Watches Become Inseparable From Lifestyle.

The connection of the wristwatch with lifestyle as a jewelry accessory and status symbol is not an invention of the late 20th century. This has been a defining part of a timekeeping product concept practically from the very beginning of time. No wonder, then, that jewelry companies such as Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston, and later fashion houses such as Bulgari, and especially Chanel, committed to the watch sector. They compensated for the initial lack of tradition with innovation, novel concepts, and designs. 

Lifestyle elements can be defined by the price and functions geared to specific sports or customer groups.  In addition, the style of the watch, its design, its shapes, and its colors can define its position in the hierarchy. 

From Functions To Complications.

Initially, when new functions are introduced, the value of the watch with the new functions is defined by the value of the new function. I am thinking of chronograph watches and diving watches with strong luminous numerals, pilot watches, watches with a second timezone, anti-magnetic watches, the list goes on. Initially, the minute repeater was exclusively focused on its functional advancement too.

Nowadays, special instruments (not watches) are available for every watch complication and more. Smartphone applications cover all of the possible display and measurement functions. Therefore, the value of the watch is not defined by its function but by its complexity, innovation, and construction. The watch industry focuses on two distinct aspects of the watch.  The first is the technical aspects such as the micro-mechanical development, the materials, and production craft. The second aspect is the artistic design, the shape, and the integrated inventiveness that further distinguishes a watch.

From Complications To Masterpieces.

In Haut-Horlogerie, we speak of complications and not functions. A complication is an additional function of a mechanical movement beyond the display of hour, minute, and second. Each complication, as mentioned above, increases the price and (in the past) the functional value of a watch. Classic complications include the date display, big date, jumping date, retrograde displays, moon phase display, moon age display, full calendar with day, date and month display, an annual calendar, four-year calendar, and the perpetual calendar. The chronometer regulation, stop-seconds, chronograph, rattrapante, alarm, repetition (minute repetition, hour repetition, etc.), the world time, and, last but not least, the tourbillon.

If many elaborate complications are built into a wristwatch or pocket watch, the watch is referred to as a “Grande Complication” or complicated watch.

The Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 is one of the most complicated wristwatches globally, if not the most complicated. It features 36 complications, 23 indications over 18 hands, and 5 discs.  It has 1,483 components, 99 jewels, 91 wheels (!), 7 pushers, and 4 correctors to make all this work.  It took five years of planning and, allegedly, a whole year of assembly to achieve this.

From Masterpieces To Futuristic, Micro-Mechanical Time Machines

Today, innovation and mechanical creativity can no longer be defined by complications alone. If this were the case, we would have to expand the term complication greatly. The industry’s innovative power has not diminished with time. Independent master watchmakers, new brands, and new movement manufacturers are more active than ever. These new players have brought new life and inspiration to some of the traditional brands. This is evidenced by how dynamic the watch market is today.

These modern innovations, however, are more focused on how time is displayed. Some stretch for the most esoteric time displays. Watches and their time displays have evolved into a visionary 3D dimensionality.  Some of these are verging on futuristic machines, philosophical entities, and imaginative engines. What has remained is the search for complexity, the challenge to solve and realize an impossible representation of time micro mechanically. 

The Time Machine by MB & F
The Time Machine By MB&F is A Wonderful Example of The Creative Re-imagination Of A Wristwatch

Brands like MB & F, URWERK, HYT, CYRUS, and of course, RESSENCE epitomize this search. Pioneers amongst established brands such as ULYSSE NARDIN with the FREAK or HUBLOT with the fusion of materials also represent this drive for innovation.

For example, the TYPE 3 from RESSENCE has 5 separate analog displays integrated into a non-existent dial and rotates together 360° in one hour. The whole time display visually sticks directly to the underside of the crystal. 35.7 ml of oil fills the upper half of the face and improves the legibility from all viewing angles. 

The Engine Continues To Evolve

There are no boundaries to creativity.  There is an innovative spirit combined with a competitive desire driving the journey of discovery.  All we need to do is wait, and the next unexpected iteration of representing time will appear.

My fascination is with the craftsmanship and the micromechanical realization of classic complications and outstanding time presentations. But also, there have been many improvements to the movements behind the displays in the last 15 – 20 years. The catalyst for these advances can be traced to the announcement by ETA that they would no longer supply ebauches and movements to the market in general. 

The HORAGE K2 micro-rotor movement
The Horage K2 Micro-Rotor Movement is an Excellent Example of the Innovation And Competition That Has Emerged Over The Last Decade In All Aspects Of Watchmaking in Switzerland

New materials have been deployed in the movements such as silicon, plus improved engineering and manufacturing techniques have made movements more accurate and more reliable. As an example, the power reserve of automatic movements has increased more than fivefold in this period. This development momentum continues today, and I look forward with anticipation to the annual watch presentations of the future.

 

The exterior of the watch has not stood still from a technical perspective. Seeking a distinctive edge in the market, the watch case has become the sum of complexity and high-tech materials. Open, hollowed-out lugs, concave, sharply cut corners, container constructions held in place with all-round brackets are evidence of an extremely high level of creativity and manufacturing skill. 

Time and Life

Even with a purely scientific view of history, it is hard not to drift into the stories and anecdotes of the journey. How did our present division of time come about? What other forms of time-division exist? How did the early seafarers orient themselves before the development of the compass and the clock? Who experienced, calculated, and represented what, when, where, and how?

Time has always moved us and led to thousands of quotes and teachings. Dealing with time inevitably brings us to the big questions of life—the meaning of life, our priorities, infinity, and yes, of death too.

The watch with its representation of time can become a trigger, an incentive to think about time. To question priorities and to set them anew. And perhaps also motivate us to take a different perspective on what has happened and to #seetimedifferently.

 

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Swiss Made

SNGLRTY was only possible because of all the watch innovators that went before us and the accumulation of their skills and knowledge in Switzerland. We celebrate their achievements by being proud that each of our watches is “Made In Switzerland” so you can be confident that it is engineered and assembled with longevity in mind.

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We are so confident that you will enjoy Seeing Time Differently every single watch comes with our Money Back Guarantee so you can buy with confidence. If you have any concerns after your purchase, just let us know within 30 days of delivery and we will refund your money. After all, Daniel and Steve want everyone to enjoy wearing SNGLRTY on their wrist.

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2 Year International Warranty

Where ever you are, if there is a problem with your watch (and we seriously doubt there will be), we will make sure it is put right so you can buy your SNGLRTY watch without any worries, wherever you live.

Hour Numerals Color

I like to think the color of the hour numerals creates the personality of your SNGLRTY watch. We have the basics, black and white, but if you would like to have your watch glow in the dark we offer a range of colors in Swiss Super-LumiNova. We always use Grade X1 for the best luminous effect but the daytime colors do impact the ultimate performance of the Super-LumiNova. If you want the brightest possible luminous effect choose Swiss Super-Luminova White, and if you want more please contact us.

Color Of The Hour Ring

The hour ring is the largest surface area on the SNGLRTY watch face so sets the tone for the rest of your design.

Date Display

Each of our watches can be configured with a date display, or without. Due to the mechanics this is the first decision you need to make in your journey to create your SNGLRTY watch.

Comparison Ohi2 vs. Ohi4

The OHI movements, or One Hand Indication, are unique to SNGLRTY. During the development phase of the watches Daniel and Steve used this moniker before naming it SNGLRTY. There are two distinctive movements to choose from, OHI-2 and OHI-4.

The OHI-4 movement is built on the Decorated and Fully Adjusted SW-300 tractor movement from Sellita. On top of the tractor movement the SNGLRTY complication plate is assembled and incorporates the “reverse minute gearbox” that is available exclusively from SNGLRTY. Depending on your selection, the complication plate will also relocate the date wheel from the top of the tractor movement to the top of the complication plate. Relocating it in this manner increases the size of the date disc and moves it closer to the top of the watch face improving its readability considerably.
The OHI-2 movement is the same as the OHI-4 movement except that it is built on a standard execution Sellita SW-200 movement.

Finally, depending on the movement you select the watch case will have a different profile as the OHI-4 movement is thinner than the OHI-2 movement. The key differences are that the case for the OHI-4 movement has a double domed crystal and a flat caseback. The OHI-2 case has a flat crystal and a curved caseback. All the details are in the product page.