And how to win in a watch-related argument, when your opponent refuses to see things through basic common sense.
Regular involvement into horology-related conversations sooner or later gets you to an argument as old as time itself: what’s the most important part of a watch? As pointless as it is, such abstract topic can still ruffle some feathers, especially if the people involved are already of strong faith. Lucky me, I wasn’t. Frankly speaking, I rarely see watch parts in the wild, only full blown watches. But when one of my friends stated that in mechanical watchmaking movement matters the most, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.
You see, I find this concept not only a bit snobby – show any basic knowledge of watch mechanics at the table and people not in the know would surely crown you as an expert – but completely false. Not that movement obsessed guys and girls are trying too hard to impress others, they are likely lying to themselves. My point is simple: if mechanics are above all, then why all those legendary watchmakers of the past were producing more of less traditional timepieces? Why the most expensive auction pieces aren’t just ticking loads of wheels and cogs? Because a proper watch needs a dial!
There’s no single element that literally makes the watch, but if we look at a dial as a combination of several essential elements at once, we’ll see why it actually dominates. There’s no coincidence it’s often called a ‘face’, despite a lot of enthusiasts cringing about the word. This is what gives a character and a mood to any piece. Everything important is gathered here, and just like person’s face it’s a unique alignment of parts that makes a timepiece look pretty or peculiar, clean or busy, cool or flat. And let’s not forget, this is the part of your watch where you look the most, at least several times a day, when you need to know the time.
Let’s start with the hands. Besides the obvious time-telling duties, they can tell a lot about the watch itself. With the very first look everyone instantly knows whether it’s a stealthy three-hander on a wrist or a complication-packed monster, suggesting the owner has spend a fortune to buy it. The can be of any particular style, however if even a moment, you’ll find them too short or too long, have no doubts, in time this feeling would definitely drive you crazy. But one can’t imagine the perfect hands without choosing the perfect matching scale for the job. Roman or Arabic numerals can drastically alternate the overall vibe, even more so the hour markers, be it in a form of elegant thin lines, heavily lumed circles or even minimalistic dots. All of the above can also be printed or inlayed, and sometimes even incorporate the movement elements into the design. The variety is immense and just by shuffling this elements you get the starting point for hundreds of different models.
Arguably the largest single element of watch real estate, the dial also can dominate the looks simply by using some colors. Choose the conservative path of black or white and get a lucky ticket to an elegant go-everywhere game. Go for some eye-catchy tone, and your wrist is guaranteed to grab tons of attention. And again, no matter how nice your watch is, if a date font doesn’t quite fit into the circle of hour numerals or a date window slightly misses the overall color harmony, the frustration would never go away. Each time you’d strap the watch to a wrist, you'll start seeing only these minor flaws, slowly diving into eternal regret and self hatred.
Without even mentioning such classical eye candies as guilloche and enameling, I hope my point is obvious. After all, those majestically looking skeletons, revealing their mechanics in full also have something like a dial – the scales and indications are simply using the movement geometry. The same can be said about any high jewelry watches – those looking for an extra ice shouldn’t be satisfied with just gem-set cases. Cover the dials too! Anyway, returning to my rant with a mechanical-obsessed friend. I actually won the argument, and not by using any the upper-mentioned examples. Again, common sense and basic logic are merely a memory for a man with strong views. My wining ace was actually quoting one of WatchJ interviews with independent watchmaker Andreas Strehler. Known among other things for his stunningly engineered in-house movements, he gave us a question annihilating any imaginable snobbery. ‘I’ll make you a really ugly watch with best complications in the world and a price of half a million dollars. We put it side by side with, say, an Omega costing from 5 to 10 thousands. Which one you’ll choose to put on your wrist?’
Jul. 26, 2020