The Long Read: In an increasingly digital nature, people are still willing to spend huge amounts on analogue timepieces. The query is, why?

On 17 March 2016, the watch manufacturer Breitling opened a lavish new stop at Baselworld, the worlds biggest watch exhibition, to show off its latest marvels. There was the Avenger Hurricane, a beefy pitch-black and yellowish extravaganza in a special polymer casemade specific to survive all extremes of superhuman adventure( 6,500 ). There was the Superocean Chronograph M2 000 Blacksteel, with full functionality at a degree of 2,000 metres( 3,850 ). And there were at least 60 other components, each out-glistening the other in an attempt to demonstrate a brand-new and costly behavior to tell the time.

And then there were fishing operations. Above the entry to the temporary store which, at 10 metres high, was actually more of a pavilion was a big cistern regarding 650 jellyfish. The cistern actually more of an aquarium was the size of a brand-new London Routemaster bus sliced down the middle.Empty, it weighed 12 tonnes; its 16,113 litres of liquid lent another 16.5 tonnes. Because it contained so many fish and so much liquid, the cisterns sides were made from a 13 cm-thick coating of methacrylate, a transparent substance same to plexiglass.

Precisely what the jellyfish had to do with selling watches was a whodunit, and it would remain a whodunit until they were removed from the tank when the pavillion closed. Perhaps they represented impunity; perhaps they were a remember of the kind of thought you could see if you purchased a Breitling diving chronometer. But the strangest act about the tank was that most people who determined it exactly glanced up and rapidly moved on. Considering where it was, it didnt seem unusual at all.

For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch cosmo. The fairs organisers claimed 150,000 tourists and 1,800 firebrands spread over 141,000 sq. metres of exhibition space. Admission expenditure 60 Swiss francs a day( nearly 50 ), for which one could have bought a neat Timex. Near the Breitling pavilion was an obelisk for Omega, and a palace for Rolex. TAG Heuer adorned its booth with a TAG Heuer-sponsored Formula 1 racing car. One could spend many hours strolling the plush carpets here, and encounter many very handsome men and womenpromoting Breguet, Hublot, and Longines, and so many handsome men and women buying their wares, extremely. Some kiosks is likewise selling jewellery including Chanel, Gucci and Chopard and some firebrands were selling watches contained within jewels: concerts of the unnecessary, such as the Harry Winston Premier Moon Phase 36 mm, with father of bone and 104 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The show was a celebration of our familiarity of timekeeping, and of the elaboration and years of training that get into constituting objectives of elegance and accuracy. But it was also a occasion of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist simply as they can, like animal acts at a circus. Many worked on the most intricate degrees to act performs almost beyond usefulness: there used to be watches with a calendar that lasts 1,000 times; there were watches demo the phase of the moon in a different hour zone. And then there were components such as the Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller, made from 1,483 constituents. This would announce the hours and quarter-hours with the same gong sequence as Big Ben. At its launch, it was heralded by its creators as the more complex wristwatch ever reached, and a lofty work of art.In addition to its 36 complications a complication is essentially a neat ploy was the ability to tell the time. Another complication was that it payment 2.2 m.

And therein lies the riddle of the modern timepiece. These periods , no one requires a Swiss watch to tell the time or a watch from different countries. The period exposed on our mobile phones and other digital devices will always be more accurate than the time displayed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, hitherto the industry has a visual presence in our lives like few others. The storefronts of “the worlds” big-money boulevards brighten with the lustre of Rolex and Omega; newspapers and publications appear to be kept in business predominantly by watch adverts; airfields would be empty shells without them. The export appreciate of the Swiss watch trade fell by 3.3% last year, due primarily to a downfall in demand from the east Asia. But it is up 62.9% compared with six years ago. In 2015 the world bought 28.1 m Swiss watches valued at 21.5 billion Swiss francs.

We live in doubtful economic eras, but watch costs at Baselworld present no signals of making a cut-price concession to the unstable yen or rouble, or even the recent competition from the Apple Watch. Surely, the opposite seems to be true: the highest the asking price, the greater the plead, for cheapness may be mentioned a reduction in quality.

So the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40 in platinum( The watch par excellence of influential parties) is on sale for 41,700, while the platinum Patek Philippe Split-Seconds Chronograph with the alligator strap( For men who take accuracy gravely) is 162,970. For some collectors, this would be considered entry-level: the most complicated limited-edition watches sell for 1m or more. These watches have a waiting list, as the world simply contains so many squinting lord craftsmen who can become them, and even they havent obtained a road to extend the day beyond 24 hours.

But why do we continue to buy these over-engineered and redundant machines? Why do so many people offer so much for the purposes of an component whose principal operate may be bought for so little? And how does the watch industry not only survive in the digital age, but survive well enough to make a 16,000 -litre saltwater shrine to its continued mastery of an outmoded prowes? Far beyond the say of day, watches tell us something about ourselves. And so the answers to these questions lie within our propensity for extreme fiction, our uptake of dazzling sell, our unbridled and flagrant ability for affectation, and our revitalized reverence for workmanship in a digital world.

And perhaps there is something else clicking away at us a feeling that the speeding up of our everyday lives may soon support overwhelming. When watchmaking embarked, we had no conception of jam-packed calendars and unbreakable deadlines, much less of quality experience or me age. Our epoches were not ruled by the clock. These daylights, having fetched this ungovernable hurricane of rush upon ourselves, we may be grateful for anything not least a beautiful windable timepiece that reinstates at the least an apparition of control.


The Patek Philippe showroom at 18 New Bond Street has been done up in a sophisticated palette of sycamore, brass and alabaster. Here we may find the revered Swiss companys entire current Patek collection, stretching from the relatively modest Calatrava and Aquanaut frameworks( beginning at around 5,000) to the outlandish Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300 in white amber, fatty as a fist, which expenses in the boundaries of 1.7 m.

One registers the store through a double-door airlock, guarantee that no one gets in who may not appreciate elegant geniu, and no one foliages who has not settled their accounting. The showroom at 400 square metres, the largest single-brand watch outlet in the UK was not sufficiently large to host its own opening party in December 2014. The contest was held in a glass pavilion in the courtyard of Somerset House, decorated for the darknes in a mode that would not have ogled out of place in the heyday of Versailles, albeit a Versailles lit by LED daylights on bogus cherry trees.

The London salon is the most modern of Pateks three flagship supermarkets, but they all share a same retail psychology. The others, in Paris and at the companys home in Geneva, enclose the clientele in an indistinguishable citrus aroma, and in all three, the piped music is as suave and alluring as 1950 s Monaco. There are a few subtle changes, the companys PR chief tells me. In London you get cookies with your coffee, whereas in Geneva you get chocolates.

In all three accumulations an imminent obtain is obliged more pleasant, and more likely, with the arrival of champagne. The London outlet has a lower-ground expanse resembling a library, and a twinkle, gently illuminated planetary room where prospective purchasers may cross-examine watches with eventual discretion. The entire showroom has purposely expelled all elements of the digital macrocosm: “there wasnt” iPads or electronic tills, and the staff have undergone a direction in calligraphy to enable the careful inking of purchaser receipts and guarantees.

My expertise is reaching parties joyous and to create a climate my clients experience, said Ed Butland, the stores director. We will show you any part suited to your needs and event. Money is the last stuff we want to talk about. On the working day I visited, Butland was not wearing his usual watch, a manually wound platinum Calatrava with a two-tone dial, but deporting a wear-test on a stainless-steel ultra-thin change porthole Nautilus that has now been serviced.

An iPhone has no soul, he replied. With most electronic devices theres only a screen and a back, and nothing that connects you with whats actually going on to make it cultivate, and goods-for-nothing moving. Theres no human element and no human emotional contact. This partly clarifies the longstanding petition of a mechanical timepiece of any make.A few weeks before my tour of the showroom, I had seen Patek Philippes headquarters in the Geneva suburb of Plan-les-Ouates, where I talked to Thierry Stern, the companys president. He had his own considers on why the watch endures.

We should never forget that its nearly the only jewellery we are in a position have as a gentleman, he replied. And its something neat! We should never forget that. Its not only a watch, its a piece of art. If they[ our patrons] want to keep it as something of value, fine. I would prefer to see them wearing it. Its likewise a honor I repute. Yes, you are able throw a quartz or digital watch to your son for his bridal, but I do not anticipate those types of items today will last. They will change each year, like phones, so should I engrave a[ digital] watch like this and suggest Happy Birthday from your papa, and then what are you going to do the next year?

Patek Philippe prides itself on being the last independently owned watchmaker in Geneva. The company has been in the handwritings of the Stern family since 1932. Thierry Stern, who is 46, took over from “his fathers” Philippe six years ago. He is gently unassuming and comfortably portly, and quite lacking in the hauteur one may expect from the heads of state of such a distinctive brand.He express gently and laughs easily one has no trouble painting him selling ties, or with a flowerpot of fondue in front of him. He recalled a encountering he had recently in New York with industry presidents from Silicon Valley, and he was surprised to see how many of them wore Patek. When he asked them why, he told me, They all said the same: It brings us down to world, and its nice to have something mechanical when youve been working in the digital macrocosm for so long.

In the last six years Stern has increased annual production from about 40,000 watches to 60,000, which is still a minuscule output compared to a Swiss whale like Rolex, which produces more than 700,000 watches a year. Exclusivity is a key to desirability. Stern maintained that he was not worried by a difficult start to the year and potential impacts of Brexit on sales; he had just approved the designs for the collect for 2028. When youre dealing with age, he recommended, it helps to take the long view.

Patek Philippe, which sold its first watch in the 1850 s, has never been at the rude death of the market, and doesnt look for endorsements from sun footballers and rappers the practice other brands do. Jay Z, for example, “whos had” rapped about owning a Hublot and the big-face Rolex( I got two of those! he boasts in a duo with Kanye West on their book Watch the Throne) might not seem the most likely customer of the more subtle Patek brand. But he is: “hes been” discerned at basketball games wearing a 120,000 Grand Complications model in grey amber. Perhaps he likes the elegance and( relative) self-control of it, a 21 st-century billionaire hankering for an updated 19 th-century masterpiece. Either behavior, he is certainly an avid buyer of the brands brilliant marketing.

Patek has flowed practically the same advert for the last 20 times, and it contains a tagline that is both enduringly effective and highly annoying: You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You simply look after it for the next generation. The row is accompanied by portraits of representations in the different stages of self-satisfaction: a leader seated at a forte-piano with his son, a father tittering with her daughter over lifes little indulgences. The photographs, taken by Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, Mary Ellen Mark and other artists whose wreak hangs in museums, are available to stir a sense of responsibility and family obligation, of empire and heritage. They may appeal primarily to someone with new money aspiring to be someone with old money. Buy an expensive watch, they seem to be mentioning, and you will belong.

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The Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller. Photograph: www.thewatchquote.com/ mesIMG/ imgStd/ 28276

Tim Delaney, the chairman of Leagas Delaney, the English marketing fellowship responsible for the Generations campaign, told me that the adverts arose out of a desire to reflect Patek Philippes own feel of longevity and belonging the fact that, unlike most watch brands, which are owned by large corporations, the company is independent.

I asked him why his campaign had lasted so long. I think its a universal penetration, he articulates. Its not pushy the conclude doesnt run down, it doesnt become less intelligent the more you see it. The picture are an attempt to show humanity and warmth. Truth Its idealised. Everyone knows its promote. You have a strong sense that its a natural attachment between the two parties, the parent and the son, baby and daughter, so its palatable, but its not a photograph of a guy with his real son. I asked Delaney whether there were any other watch expeditions he admired, and he contemplated for less than two seconds before he mentioned No.


In the last century we have experienced the smash of the sound barrier, the invention of the atomic clock, radio-controlled timekeeping, the internet, and pixelated clocks pulsating inexorably on our information technology and phones. And yet none of these developments has peril the predominance of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Exports rose even during world war ii with the rest of Europe in turmoil, the temporal reliability of neutral Switzerland premised even greater implication. For sample, the International Watch Company a major manufacturer based on the banks of the Rhine, in the northern Swiss city of Schaffhausen sold its Big Aviators Watch to both the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Both areas were grateful for its massive dial, its huge glove-operable crown and its protection against sudden descents in air pressure as they tried to shoot each other out of the sky.

In 2014, the Swiss exported 29 m watches. This was only 1.7% of all watches bought globally, but 58% of their appraise. This raises a fibre of questions. Why Switzerland in the first place? How did this unassuming, landlocked country come to dominate the industry? And how did it master the skill of accusing tens of thousands for an object that often kept occasion less accurately than an object costing 10?

The firstly mechanical watches were not Swiss. The earliest first round and then oval-shaped, and worn as big pendants appeared around 1510 in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. A small commerce developed in Geneva a few decades later, thanks predominantly to artisans employed as goldsmiths; filigree and enamel production, and ordeal with intricate print implements, permitted craftsmen to change their attention to miniature machinists. There were 176 goldsmiths working in Geneva in the 16 th century, and their emergent watchmaking abilities were almost certainly aided by the advent of Huguenot refugees from France.

None of this quite is one reason why it was Switzerland, rather than Germany or France, that gained the pre-eminent honour for precision and grace. But this is because that reputation rose primarily in the 20 th century. Prior to this, companies such as Breguet, Cartier and Lip in Paris, and many small firmsbased in Glasshtte, in the German country of Saxony, all developed prized specimen.( These regions still grow fine watches, they just struggle to compete with the cachet of being established in Switzerland .)

In England, which could justifiably claim to be the innovative centre of clock and watchmaking in the 17 th and 18 th centuries, the roster of experts of premier craftsmen included epithets still celebrated at the Greenwich Royal Observatory and the British Museum: Thomas Mudge, John Harrison and Thomas Tompion. With the exception of Harrison, whose clocks facilitated the the purpose of calculating longitude at sea, the refers are now all but forgotten, owing to the habitual British tradition of neglecting its deep concern in which it once resulted the world.

But the Swiss simply continued on going, occasionally buying up its most important conglomerates elsewhere in Europe, and modelling transaction bodies and certification targets that increased the industrys honour for caliber and honest. In the 19 th century, the Swiss became rulers of the increasingly flat devices that facilitated conventional pocket watches to evolve into wristwatches; a watch worn as a bracelet was particularly useful when riding on horseback.

The Swiss also made full use of new innovations, enthusiastically changing the old-fashioned method of winding a watch by key in favour of the modern stem-and-crown mechanism. In the early 20 th century, they mixed the new American-originated system of conveyor-belt mechanisation with the most significant the methodology of neighbourhood hand-crafting.

Today, the specific tones that make a watch Swiss are the subject of strict legal definition, and are as closely regulated as champagne or parmesan cheese( the specific characteristics on watches is always Swiss stirred or merely Swiss rather than Become in Switzerland, a habit dating back to 1890 ). To qualify, a watch are required to comply with particular strict criteria( or, in agreement with the Fdration de lIndustrie Horlogre Suisse FH, where this classification originates, a watch must adhere to The reporting requirement stipulated by Swissness ). To classify as Swiss Made, a watch must a) have a Swiss shift( that is, the basic device consisting of cogs and springs that form the watch click) b) have this movement incorporated in a case that is built within Switzerland and c) be checked and certified in Switzerland.

All was going well until the 1970 s, when something touched the hand-made mechanical watch transaction like a mallet. As the decade developed it seemed that the Swiss would not, after all, be telling the worlds meter for ever. In September 1975, The Horological Journal a well regarded busines pamphlet founded in 1858 announced a milestone in the history of horology. On its covering was a picture of a Timex, a watch that guided on quartz. It contained a minuscule bit of crystal that reverberated at a high and established frequency when powered by a artillery. This steady signal was then transmitted to an oscillator, an electronic tour that governed the gears that grew the watch hands. The old-time device of gale and influence storage in a coiled outpouring was dismissed at a stroke.

The quartz motion had been around since the 1920 s, but its miniaturisation had only been achieved in prototype by Seiko and Casio in Japan in the late 1960 s. Its rate has hitherto taken it beyond the general consumer, but now, through mass production at Timex and its primary American rival Bulova, the electronic watch represented a change of logic a piece of disorderly technology long before the phrase existed. It was solid state, with no ticking, and the new watch portended the dawn of mass tech-based consumerism. Split-second timing, formerly the exclusive province of physicists and technicians, was now available to all, and there was no better badge of the seismic alteration from the mechanical to the electronic nature. Time itself was now flashing at us everywhere. No theatre visit was complete without half-hourly beeping from watches in the gathering, scares were now rushing us to every appointment.

The Swiss reacted to the digital disturbance with a mix of self-denial and mild hysterium. Between 1970 and 1983, the Swiss share of the watch grocery fell from 50% to 15%, and service industries molted more than half its workforce. As one of Tom Stoppards reputations gave it in his 1982 play The Real Thing, It appeared all over for the 15 -jewel movement. Boy extended through the market shouting the cog is dead! But the working day of the Japanese digital watch were numbered. In the early 1980 s, with destiny on the horizon, the Swiss struggle back with a brand-new logic of their own, and something plastic, less costly and powered by quartz and artillery: the Swatch.

The Swatch from its name onwards introduced colouring, young people and recreation into Swiss watches( God knows, the fusty industry needed it ). The watches were sold in the companys own stores and advertised on MTV, while masters and film directors, including Keith Haring and Akira Kurosawa, designed limited copies and constituted watches hip and beneficial again for a new generation. With the anxiety over, the Swiss could once more concentrate on numbering their bank accounts. In 2014, gross sales of the Swatch watch amounted to more than 9bn Swiss francs. Today, the Swatch Group is the worlds largest watchmaking busines, consisting of brands including Longines, Blancpain and Rado that once would have shuddered at the thought of being owned by an territory with such garish footings. Swatch even owns Breguet, the company that claims to have reached the first wristwatch in 1810.


Earlier this year, in an interview with the New York Times, Brad Pitt recalled his time on the start of world war two movie Fury. Pitt, who is a label representative for TAG Heuer, is recalled that Logan Lerman, the youngest actor in the shed, was given a watch to keep track of various activities during the films rehearsals. One day he came to me and said the watch has ceased to, and I enunciated, Youve just got to wind it. He came back literally 15 minutes later and responded, Wait, how do you wind it?

For those born into the digital age, future prospects of making a watch start may seem as distant and implausible as crank-starting a auto or changing the ribbon on a typewriter. But it is precisely the following procedure the end of a accomplishment of infinitely intricate human engineering that pleas to the watch connoisseur. It also explains why a fine watch overheads so much.

Making anything really small by hand tends to be extremely expensive. In the watch industry, the precision of the tiny roles is one reasonablenes for the great payment( even the tiniest screwing expenditures eight Swiss francs, precise because it is such a tiny screw ). But the major contributory factors are human and old-fashioned the profundity, handed down through centuries, required to make something beautiful and functional from an otherwise inanimate assemblage of metal and stones. In each of the impressive Grande Complication watches made by the International Watch Company( IWC) there are 659 sides 453 more than there are bones in the human body.

But this is nothing compared with the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, which holds 1,366 duties within a 16.1 mm-thick occasion. This is the one with the 1.7 m price tag, and I managed one for a brief minute when I called the Geneva headquarters( how duration pilots when youre enjoying something you are familiar with will soon be taken away from you ). The watch did actually seem expensive. It had a dual-face, a supremacy mechanism loping at 25,200 semi-oscillations per hour, a unending calendar, a strikework isolator exhibition, a moon chapter, and a Grande and Petite Sonnerie( internal chimes and consternations with tiny mallets striking shiny bells when activated by a side lever to let the wearer know the time in the dark ).

It was as heavy as any wrist would bear, and was without question a masterpiece of horological skill. But the thing I liked most about it was that after nine years on the drawing board, and as many at the manufacturers workbench, you still had to wind the damn beautiful happen by hand.

The greatest amaze of all is that this watch has a mechanical shift, often of it adapted from pocket watches created in the 17 th century. The precision tooling and some of the fitting is a possibility done by machine now, but the specific characteristics and final assembly the minuscule fuckings, springs, sheets, rotates and jewels, the weights on the edge of the balance wheel, the ratchets that mediate the power supply, the interconnected casks that create an energy fund, and the pallet crotch is connected to the escapement rotate that causes the ticking seem are done by mentality and hand.

A master watchmaker at IWC Schaffhausen appointed Christian Bresser once told me that making a watch reached him detect omnipotent. Its the most difficult happening to add, but its the God complex, or the Frankenstein complex. You have the white-hot overcoat, and youre forming life.

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The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime. Image: Jean-Daniel Meyer/ Patek Philippe/ JD Meyer

Creating life from pinions and rotates and minuscule pins may be the easy-going role. One then has to sell the thing. With so many watch companionships making only slight changes of the same produce, how should the well-heeled buyer make a selection in thiscrowded market? Should we rely, as we increasingly do in our modern world, on advice from fames?

At Baselworld in 2015 I mashed my practice into a launching of a new watch at a pavilion designed for Hublot. A flashy newcomer on the stage, Hublot was set up by an Italian in 1980, based itself in Nyon, a city in south-western Switzerland, and was owned by the French indulgence goods corporation LVMH. Hublot prides itself on its timekeeping for leading boasting happenings, and its most recent label representative was Jos Mourinho, administrator of Manchester United and a keen watch collector.

Brand diplomats are a key element of watch salesmanship, and the fact that they do not typically wear a watch at all while achieving their greatest achievements is not a important consideration. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have signed for Audemars Piguet and Jacob& Co. Alongside Mourinho, Hublot also has Usain Bolt. Breitling has John Travolta and David Beckham, Montblanc Hugh Jackman, Rolex Roger Federer, IWC Ewan McGregor, and Longines Kate Winslet. Patek Philippe has shied away from celebrity blurbs, but it did once boast that its purchasers included Queen Victoria.

When Mourinho appeared at Baselworld in 2015 he was still manager of Chelsea. He was wearing a grey-headed raincoat over grey cashmere, and he consented his watch with light-footed applause and a short communication about how he has been part of the Hublot family for a long time as a fan, but now it had all been made official( ie he had received his bank movement ). His watch was “ve called the” King Power Special One, almost the size of a hockey puck, 18 -carat king gold with blue carbon, a self-winding Unico manufacture Flyback Chronograph with 300 ingredients, an immense 48 mm occurrence, all the machinists uncovered on the dial area, blue-blooded alligator fasten, a skeleton dial, a strength reservation of 72 hours, an edition of 100 and a price in the region of 32,000. The promotional blurb claimed that its consideration of this agenda item most like Mourinho himself: The watch is provocative the robust exterior secretes the genius below. It was both stunning and terrifying at the same time.

But the most remarkable occasion about the Hublot King Power was not that it looked like an armored container, but that it did not preserve very accurate occasion. When the popular American magazine WatchTime deported measures on an earlier representation, it noticed it gained between 1.6 to 4.3 seconds a epoch. Extra duration: yet another thing for Mourinho to dispute with the referee.

But accurate timekeeping has long ago ceased to be the moment. And this, with deep absurdity, is another reason why the global watch industry subsists. Formerly you can afford to invest even entry-level costs for a Patek Philippe or a Hublot, your watch has begun to represent status and one-upmanship. A watch is a statement of accomplishment, and likewise of intent.( It is also one of the easiest ways to export money from one country to the next .) Something glittery on your wrist says something about your earning power and your penchant, much as an expensive vehicle can do; it is not always an attractive characteristic. Its a illusion, of course, but the fatter and more complicated and costly the watch, the more the wearer may presuppose power of the universe, the still centre of a spinning wheel.

Baselworld 2017 have so far been announced itself as a fairground for the senses. Next March, the establish will feature an expanding display of smart watches, items that show the leading firebrands are not prepared to stand another debacle comparable to the quartz crisis. Numerous firms initially rejected the potential impact of the Apple Watch and similar devices that act as a synced companion to the mobile phone, but “theyve been” forced to reconsider; when Apple inaugurated offering a watch in a golden lawsuit for several thousand pounds more than high standards representation, and Herms embarked shaping 1,550 buckles for it, the indulgence grocery began to feel a little uneasy.

So Breitling will be offering its Exospace B5 5, allowed to be chronograph to engage with any smartphone. And TAG Heuer will have its Connected Smart Watch, predicting audio streaming over WiFi and all manner of fitness tracking. It claims it differentiates a completely new age the worlds first wrist-worn computer.

But the watch has always been a computer; certain differences now is what it estimates. A dial that once inscribed out our lives in hours and minutes, its accuracy dependent on our capacity to define it in motion and gale it, may now keep working connected with the rest of the earth, via GPS and overnight wireless billing. Yet the impressive event is not the arrival of text and emails on the wrists that was always going to come at some quality but how robust the conventional and mechanical wristwatch has proven itself alongside the new technologies. Alongside the absurd complications of the fattest brand-new timepiece reaches something we are evidently keen to hang on to a ideology that grace and refinement are ends in themselves, and that the workbench of the skilled technologist is still revered more than the production line. A beautiful ticking timepiece pays us something back moving us, perhaps, to an imagined occasion when time was still our friend.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time, by Simon Garfield, issued by Canongate at 16.99. To guild a photocopy for 13.93, going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.

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