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Category: six small words

Six Small Words: Amusing

Amusing /əˈmjuːzɪŋCausing laughter or providing entertainment

Watches aren’t meant to be amusing: watches are serious items to be collected, locked away; an investment. They certainly shouldn’t make you smile. Well, not unless you’re able to buy cheap and sell high; this isn’t a hobby, after all, this is a business. Gordon Gekko (for example) had a really cool watch, a Cartier if I remember correctly, and we *all* know about the residuals on those.

Or maybe watches are just status symbols; items of conspicuous wealth; wrist real estate for oligarchs. A secret handshake for the meta-Masons? Perhaps. I’ve always believed that most watches are to be worn, experienced, enjoyed.

Six Small Words: Useful

Use·ful /ˈyoosfəl/ Adj. Able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways

Most watches have but a single purpose: to tell the time. When a watchmaker adds functions to a watch, these are generally known as complications, and may include such useful features as a chronograph, date, moonphase, alarm or second time zone. Of course, time also has another use – navigation. As any seasoned traveller will understand, local time “changes” as we move east- or westwards from our point of origin. For every 15 degrees of longitude we travel, we lose or gain an hour, hence the modern world is divided into Time Zones.

Harrison’s H4 Pocket Watch (C) National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Ministry of Defence Art Collection

Six Small Words: Aesthetic

Aesthetic  /esˈTHetik/: Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.

There was, if I remember correctly**, a slightly disparaging statement that Dr George Daniels made about 19th and 20th Century Swiss movements in his book Watchmaking. His premise was that English “gentlemen” – the wearers of fine timepieces at that time – appreciated timekeeping over beauty. English movements were designed to keep good time and therefore there was, perhaps, no need to cover up their (technical) shortcomings with superfluous finissage.

However, finissage has now become synonymous with luxury or certainly with haute horology; the quality of the finish on a watch is almost directly proportional to the price (although this often seems to be on a log scale). A friend and watchmaker told me that, while discussing finishing on a recent visit to Switzerland, he heard of parts being beveled and polished by hand; they could only be considered suitable for inclusion in the watch if they were no visible defects under a 20x loupe. In effect, the watchmaker was asking for flawless work and one assumes that the price will be inline with the cost of flawless diamonds, i.e. astronomical.

Six Small Words: Technical

Technical (/ˈteknikəl/) Adj. of or relating to a particular subject, art, or craft, or its techniques.

I was on a well-known UK watch forum the other day; a relatively new member had posted a brief description of his first attempt at regulation (i.e. attempting to improve the timing of his watch). He revealed his surprise at seeing the watch’s movement for the first time, and in particular, at how small it was. Of course, the majority of watch-wearers will never remove the caseback from their watch, nor attempt a spot of regulation, so the opportunity to see the inner workings of a mechanical watch are generally limited, unless your watch has a display back.

Display backs allow the watch to be viewed through a sapphire crystal “window”. One is usually able to see the balance wheel – “the beating heart” of the mechanical watch, as well as bridges, rotors or barrels. One imagines that, of the small minority of watch-owners with a display back, even fewer will be aware of the history of the balance wheel, not the increasing technical advances being made by, for example, the Heritage Watch Manufactury or Greubel-Forsey.

Six Small Words: Intellectual

Saunier

Intellectual (/ˌintlˈekCHo͞oəl/) Adj. Of or relating to the intellect: “intellectual stimulation”; an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus

I was talking recently to a watchmaker about timing, or rather about the different terminal ends applied to balance springs. The question had arisen as a result of a brief discussion of the multiple patents belonging to the Heritage Watch Manufactory. He immediately recited an equation that described the spring, using its length, height, thickness, mass. I nodded. Smiled. And realised that the maths was almost completely beyond me, although the basic principles remained within my grasp. Probably. Given watches are such a passion, it seemed odd that I’d not really delved into the study of watchmaking itself – true horology. I must admit to feeling more than a little inadequate.