On Companionship & Soul in Watches
July 3, 1998
I have been following the quartz vs. mechanicals debate and also previously related posts along these lines.
I feel that we are getting a little closer to describe that indefinable endearment that mechanicals bring to the majority at TZ. We’ve had descriptions of “soul” and “companionship” the latter by Walt O; and I find that these 2 terms are perhaps the closest to the way we feel.
Then I began to think of why this is so. Why do we feel this way about mechs when there is less of this with the quartz? We have never successfully been able to put a finger on this intangible feeling we get. I came upon a possible answer – let me know whether you agree.
We find a special feeling within ourselves when we are made to feel that we are needed for the special things that we can do. This occurs with dependants such as children and pets (and you can name a dozen other examples). They respond to your attention, and this interaction of care and its rewarding outcome is a positive behavioural feedback that creates an intimate bonding of interdependence. Their little quaint idiosyncrasies endear them all the more. Love is that way, but in a stronger, more extreme sense.
We tend to forget and take for granted things that are independent of our attentions and can function without our input, regardless of us. This is why there are few who say that toasters have soul or provide companionship. Those few (in Singapore at least) are invariably seeing my wife, who is a psychiatrist.
It also explains why we fall out of love in a relationship, when something else occupies our protracted attentions, and the positive feedback dwindles.
DEFINING COMPANIONSHIP AND SOUL
There is nothing more personal to us than our Time; how we spend it, enjoy its passing moments, especially how we measure it and look upon its face in a watch. Our Life is a measure of passing Time it surrounds us in its Past, Present and the Future.
And so it is with watches. We can translate the very thinking and reasoning with the way we feel with our love for watches mechanical, and quartz.
Quartz watches are independent and will function without our attention. If we left it in a drawer for a year, it will still run. It will still be accurate we can take it for granted, and it does not need us. By nature, they are cool and aloof and so are our reactions, they fail to touch our hearts in the deepest sense.
Mechanicals, on the other hand depend on us for their very survival, we give it Life and sustenance. The automatic takes its power from our very motions and is a symbiotic organism on our wrists. It feels alive on your wrists. Without the movement of our own bodies, there would not be the energy stored in its barrel for its heart to beat it would die of lack of attention. It is we who feed it and care for it.
These timepieces give back to us that visual splendour of a beautiful work of art. Its very beating heart laid bear by the window into its soul, allows us to gaze upon it in wonderment at the intricacies of its moving micro-organs. The graceful sweep of the seconds hand enthrals the best of us. The rapid beat of the tick-a-tick-a quickens our own pulse. And aahh, the quiet whirr of the rotor as we swing our arms What do you call this, but pleasure of the highest order, from its existence on your wrist? What better feedback can we ask for? This and the comforting feeling that they will be by our sides faithful companions sharing our lives and experiences being there with us for a long time to come. Something that we cannot say for sure with the quartz. Once their life is up, they will fall by the wayside.
It is the same with a winding watch our careful, gentle, loving ministrations in our ritual winding coaxes it to life. It is our own special time that we spend with it every day. And oooh that feel of a Patek winding experience deliciously smooth and creamy, coming together with that fine pitched ratcheted sound tactile ECSTASY!
And you wonder why you can’t explain your love!
Perhaps as an extension, a real test of this hypothesis would be if you observe the empirical results of behaviour when this is applied to the autoquartz or kinetic models. These are hybrids, and some people have found that they can identify a little of that mech-love and companionship they feel for the true mechs. Do you know why now? And it is not the lack of a battery per say as well capacitors are really an electrical energy storage medium and strictly speaking, a battery is a type of capacitor.
If you then extrapolate, you will find that other technologies that give very little involvement and interaction with its owner will fail in this test of affection and companionship. Solar watches will fall into this category.
WHAT OF THE FUTURE?
Perhaps this is a good indicator of where watchmakers should go for the future direction of what they intend to make. Please make mechanical wonders that engage us, seduce us and regale us in their own subtle ways giving back a modicum for what we give of ourselves. Give us a timepiece that NEEDS us. To do otherwise would result in a soulless automaton. Our hearts will remain untouched.
What do YOU think? Would value your views in agreement or otherwise.