Thursday, February 16, 2006
So why mechanical watches?
After all, quartz watches are generally more accurate, have become dirt cheap - Walmart sells 'em for only a couple of bucks, hardly more than the batteries cost - and you can get them almost anywhere. Broken? Throw it away. Stop working right? Throw it away. Scratched up and battered? Throw it away.
Mechanical watches are something completely different.
There is no logical reason to buy a mechanical watch. There is nothing that a quartz can't do better.
But a quartz watch is like the Terminator: relentless, heartless, inexhaustible, and doesn't need people. Put in the right battery and it'll keep on ticking until doomsday. OK, let's hope you need a battery the size of the empire state building, but you get the idea.
A mechanical watch shouldn't be anthromorphised into some sort of living thing: it isn't.
But a mechanical watch needs people: it will stop working if the owner doesn't take care of it. Now. I'm a father, I know all about that sort of stuff.
But what makes a mechanical watch different from a quartz is that mechanical watches are perhaps the ultimate in mechanical engineering, with extremely high levels of precision and intricate design. The fundamentals of horology, the science of time keeping equipment, aren't all that difficult: you've got a power source that is released in a controlled manner, thus measuring time. In the basic watch, without any complications, there are no wasted parts, no unnecessary stuff going on: the mechanical watch is a highly evolved time-measuring device.
The key is in the details.
I'll be posting links here in the next couple of days regarding how watches really work.
So why a mechanical watch, once again?
While I said that a watch isn't a living thing, in some ways it's about as close as you are going to find for a purely mechanical device. The balance of a modern watch - and it took a long time to get to that - oscillates around a central point, almost absent-mindedly ticking the beats away as it swings first one way and then the other. This is the heart, so to speak, of the watch: if your balance isn't running smoothly, then everything else in the watch, even if perfectly ok, isn't going to help you keep time worth a darn.