What is it about watches that draw people into them? Part mechanical feat, part jewelry, it seems difficult to pin down what exactly does a watch mean to someone, as ownership of a watch is deeply personal. If we were to talk at length about what makes a watch interesting, the answers could range from its history, artistry, design, and countless other aspects, but what compels us to be attached to watches seems to be deeper than that.
In an age when the world is very much interconnected and the accurate time can be found in our phones, our connection with watches gets more anachronistic with each passing year-but is it really that way? From a technical standpoint, mechanical watches are a marvel. Long before Seiko caused the "quartz crisis" or the advent of digital watches, the pursuit of timetelling was already undertaken by manual-winding and automatic watches. Whether through the simple gesture of winding a watch crown or with the daily motion of our hands, it's fascinating that the aforementioned movements are able to keep track of the time for decades-or even centuries-without needing an external power source.
At its heart, watchmaking is a romantic pursuit. It's a craft that disregards the fact that everyone has a phone which we all use heavily throughout the day. In his piece for Hodinkee, Thom Bettridge-editor-in-chief of Highsnobiety-said that "Watches yearn for a world that doesn't exist. [...] Watches pretend you actually need a Patek 3940 to tell you that it's a leap year, or that you might one day require a Speedmaster to time that emergency space landing." While the sentiment has its truth, there's something admirable about watchmaking. In its perpetual (pun intended) endeavor to create movements with greater and greater accuracy, or technologies to withstand extreme depth, the craft to create such objects can only be driven by passion.
For some, it's a way to celebrate milestones in life, for others, a watch may provide a connection to a loved one who imparted said watch. As I wrote this with a vintage automatic on my wrist-itself older by 22 years than me-I glanced around the office to spot others with this same, weird fondness, all to understand a bit better about it.
For CXO Media's editor-in-chief Iyas Lawrence, the interest in mechanical watches first developed when he saw a watch with an exhibition caseback. The inner mechanism that can be seen from the outside and the fact that the watch is powered by one's hand motions are what hooked his interest further. Of all the watches in his collection, one holds a special place; a watch he inherited from his father. "I only wear [that watch] on special occasions, like a graduation or other important moments," he said. "[Automatic watches are] almost like a living thing, they only function when they're in motion. It drives us to wear them all the time," he concluded.
The habit to wear watches came earlier for unit production manager Muhammad Fahmi. He started wearing watches because some of his elementary school friends wear them, but he only realized its functionality after he was in high school. Since cell phones weren't used as heavily back then, and his extracurricular activities were outdoor, he relied on his watch to tell the time. Recently, his watch broke and Fahmi expressed that he's interested in getting a new one-possibly mechanical this time, due to its durability. "It feels off not having a watch on my wrist, it's a habit by now. Watches also make you look more presentable and grown-up, so it's a big part of my appearance," said Fahmi.
Appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into making watches is part of what draws producer Audy Azwar to them. As a daily driver, he wears an automatic diver from Orient. He is particularly drawn to watchmakers from Japan, since brands like Seiko are what democratized watches for the masses. Further, he appreciates how Japanese watch brands are at the forefront of innovations today, while still being an underdog compared to its Swiss counterparts. "Nowadays, watches are undeniably also a part of fashion-it's the easiest accessory for men to wear. As for me, watches fit and enhance my daily style," stated Audy. He also echoed Fahmi's sentiments that wearing a watch exudes a certain aura of being more put together.
Perhaps, we hold on to watches for the same reasons we cherish other sentimental remnants of times past. Aside from the object's practical functions, the idea it represents is what connects us to it. As can be seen through a watch's hands, it's apparent that time only moves forward-our fascination with the object, however, can stay frozen in time.