What's in a Watch?

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It’s an odd and unexplainable thing. I get asked it by people once they find out about it. Why watches? What makes watches so damn interesting? Sure, we live in a world where people in my coveted 18 to 49 age bracket say things like “I just check the time on my phone” and “That should have Bluetooth” and “Instagram is totally a verb” (I’m almost completely vexed by people just a few years my junior, really). But at the same time, as people retreat into their digital pocket watch equivalents, something as mundane as a wristwatch gives me a lot of pleasure.

There’s a certain amount of simplicity that is welcome in a world where cars are connected to Twitter. A watch does only one or two things, usually. It tells time. It looks good. Sometimes it has a couple of other functions, like telling the date, doubling as a stopwatch, and measuring elapsed time via the bezel, but really, those are just ancillary functions. Sure, there are digital watches that can do much more, and I like those too. I have such a soft spot for analog/digital “anadigi” watches, that combine the beauty of an analog watch with a digital watch’s functions and for Suunto “wrist instruments”, which to me are like cooler, more interesting versions of the very popular Casio G-Shock line (as well as more comfortable than the resin strapped Gs, which is perhaps the main reason I kept my Suunto and offloaded my G, despite the fact that Gs are often more capable).

An anadigi, the Breitling B-1

Very few things in the world still only do one thing. People certainly don’t. Considering how we live tweet things as we watch them, how people have to devise competitions with harsh punishments when out at dinner with friends so they don’t look at their phones, and how we find new and cruel ways to work from home once the workday ends--after all, why just spend time with your family when you can also respond to emails? Phones don’t do one thing. Phones play music, play videos, allow you to watch live TV, connect to the internet, give you up to the second feeds of your friends’ lives, take pictures, and allow you to instantly share them in sepia tone (or not) with everyone who follows you. It’s not that it’s a bad thing that we have so many conveniences; waiting in the supermarket checkout line has never been a more pleasant experience now that I can surf the net while the person in front of me writes a check or counts out exact change. But it’s refreshing to have something that you just put on your wrist and don’t have to fiddle with until I need to know what time it is. Of course, I don’t find myself only looking at my watch to see the time, but also just admiring its beauty, which is another thing that really feels nice about watches.

They’re good to look at. Little pieces of mechanical art that you can strap to your arm. Like a beautiful car or a beautiful building, a piece of engineering and architecture married to art in the form of metal and glass in a way that will only be noticed by a few. And some like that. I know I do--at times, anyway; there are times I like a good, flashy watch. I do like that my Seiko Marinemaster 300m flies under the radar and is only appreciated by a select group. It doesn’t make me a target when I’m out walking around the city (unlike a shiny Breitling, for example, or the thieves’ bullseye, a Rolex). But I’ll go into more depth on the joys of owning an MM300 in a later post.

Seiko's superb Marinemaster 300m

I love cars. I really do. They were my first love, along with Penny from Inspector Gadget, when I was too young to realize that cartoons weren’t real (she was smart, driven, innovative, dedicated, and understanding...we should all be so lucky). Watches are also often tied to cars. The Omega Speedmaster, for example, which is now most famous for going to the moon, certainly isn't called the "Spacemaster" or "Moonmaster"; it's named for speed, namely speed from cars racing. When I try to explain watches to other car guys, I simply say that they’re just cars that you wear and that tell time. Some people get it. Some don’t.

The Omega Speedmaster alongside a Breitling B-1

I’ve written this whole thing, and I’m no closer to explaining why watches have such an appeal to me.

So why watches? I could end by saying “why not?”, but that feels too easy, and frankly, a bit cliche. It can’t quite be answered, not by me, anyway. Stay tuned, more neurotic musings to come.


  1. Chicolabronse's Avatar
    Good job Raza, I really enjoyed reading that, Going with your question on "why watches" i find it hard to pinpoint "why", but i think some part of it leads back to my great uncle who was an engineer for Rolls-Royce aerospace, I would say his love of mechanical things (including his watches) must have rubbed of on me. Taking out a watch, winding it then strapping that little mechanical heart to your wrist i suppose takes me back to my younger happy carefree days spent with good old uncle Matt!! The other part is that they are just damm awesome to look at, I mean how many times do we look at our watches daily but still don't know what time it is!!
    Updated Aug 14, 2015 at 09:26 AM by Chicolabronse
  2. whatmeworry's Avatar
    A very well written and thought out piece, really enjoyed it
  3. OTGabe's Avatar
    Fantastic stuff, Raza! Can't wait until you venture into the whole idea of a mechanical 'soul' inside a watch.
  4. Raza's Avatar
    Thanks for the positive feedback, guys!
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