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

On 17 March 2016, the watch manufacturer Breitling opened a lavish new stalling at Baselworld, the worlds biggest watch carnival, to show off its latest wonders. There was the Avenger Hurricane, a beefy black and yellow extravaganza in a special polymer casemade specifically 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 direction to tell the time.

And then there were the fish. Above the entry to the temporary shop which, at 10 metres high, was genuinely more of a pavilion was a huge cistern holding 650 jellyfish. The cistern truly more of an aquarium was the size of a new London Routemaster bus sliced down the middle.Empty, it weighed 12 tonnes; its 16,113 litres of ocean included another 16.5 tonnes. Because it contained so many fish and so much water, the cisterns areas were made from a 13 cm-thick blanket of methacrylate, a transparent substance same to plexiglass.

Precisely what the jellyfish had to do with selling watches was a riddle, and it would remain a whodunit until they were removed from the tank when the pavillion shut. Perhaps they represented liberty; perhaps they were a remember of the kind of thought you could see if you purchased a Breitling diving chronometer. But the strangest thing about the container was that most people who examined it simply glanced up and swiftly moved closer. Considering where it was, it didnt seem unexpected at all.

For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch world. The fairs organisers claimed 150,000 compensating guests and 1,800 labels spread over 141,000 square metres of exhibition seat. Admission expensed 60 Swiss francs a era( virtually 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 kiosk with a TAG Heuer-sponsored Formula 1 racing car. One could spend many hours sauntering the plush carpets here, and encounter many very handsome men and womenpromoting Breguet, Hublot, and Longines, and very many handsome men and women buying their wares, extremely. Some kiosks were also selling jewellery including Chanel, Gucci and Chopard and some labels were selling watches contained within ornaments: symphonies of the unnecessary, such as the Harry Winston Premier Moon Phase 36 mm, with baby of bead and 104 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The show was a celebration of our mastery of timekeeping, and of the refinement and years of training that move into building objectives of allure and accuracy. But it was also a revelry of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist simply because they can, like animal deeds at a circus. Numerous worked on the most intricate stages to perform offices almost beyond usefulness: there used to be watches with a calendar that lasts 1,000 years; there used to be watches demonstrating the phase of the moon in a different duration zone. And then there were components such as the Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller, assembled from 1,483 ingredients. This would announce the hours and quarter-hours with the same sound string as Big Ben. At its propel, it was presaged by its manufacturers as the most complex wristwatch ever stimulated, and a extravagant work of art.In addition to its 36 complications a complication is essentially a neat subterfuge was the ability to tell the time. Another complication was that it rate 2.2 m.

And therein lies the mystery of the modern timepiece. These daytimes , no one is in need of Swiss watch to tell the time or a watch from any country. The duration exposed on our mobile phones and other digital devices will always be more accurate than the time exposed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, yet the industry has a visual proximity in “peoples lives” like few others. The storefronts of “the worlds” big-money streets glow with the lustre of Rolex and Omega; newspapers and magazines appear to be kept in business primarily by watch adverts; airports would be empty shells without them. The exportation ethic 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 against six years ago. In 2015 “the worlds” bought 28.1 m Swiss watches valued at 21.5 billion Swiss francs.

We live in uncertain financial epoches, but watch prices at Baselworld prove no signeds of making a cut-price concession to the unstable yen or rouble, or even the recent challenger from the Apple Watch. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true: the highest the asking price, the greater the entreaty, for cheapness may be mentioned a decrease in quality.

So the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40 in platinum( The watch par excellence of influential beings) is on sale for 41,700, while the platinum Patek Philippe Split-Seconds Chronograph with the alligator leash( For men who take accuracy earnestly) 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 worlds” simply contains so many squinting original craftsmen who can represent them, and even they havent detected a course to extend the day beyond 24 hours.

But why do we continue to buy these over-engineered and redundant machines? Why do so many parties pay so much for an part whose principal role may be bought for so little? And how does the watch industry not only survive in the digital age, but survive well enough to erect a 16,000 -litre saltwater shrine to its continued familiarity of an outmoded art? Far beyond the indicate of duration, watches tell us something about ourselves. And so the answers to these questions lie within our propensity for extreme fantasy, our uptake of amazing market, our unbridled and impudent ability for pomposity, and our replaced venerate for workmanship in a digital world.

And perhaps there is something else clicking away at us a feeling that the acceleration of our everyday lives may soon support overwhelming. When watchmaking began, we had no theory of packed calendars and unbreakable deadlines, much less of quality season or me duration. Our daytimes were not ruled by the clock. These epoches, having created this ungovernable blizzard of rush upon ourselves, we may be grateful for anything not least a beautiful windable timepiece that reinstates at the least an illusion 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, extending from the relatively modest Calatrava and Aquanaut modelings( beginning at around 5,000) to the ludicrous Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300 in grey gold, fatten as a fist, which expenditure in the region of 1.7 m.

One registers the shop through a double-door airlock, guarantee that no one goes in who may not appreciate beautiful creativity, and no one foliages who has not settled their history. The showroom at 400 square metres, the most significant single-brand watch outlet in the UK was not sufficiently large to host its own opening defendant in December 2014. The episode was held in a glass pavilion in the courtyard of Somerset House, decorated for the night in a form that would not have examined out of place in the heyday of Versailles, albeit a Versailles lit by LED sunlights on phony cherry trees.

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

In all three supermarkets an imminent obtain is established more enjoyable, and more likely, with the arrival of champagne. The London outlet has a lower-ground area resembling a library, and a twinkle, softly lighted celestial room where prospective buyers may question watches with eventual discretion. The entire showroom has intentionally banished all elements of the digital world: there are no iPads or electronic tills, and the staff have undergone a route in calligraphy to enable the careful inking of patron receipts and guarantees.

My expertise is building parties glad and to create a climate my purchasers experience, told Ed Butland, the accumulations administrator. We will show you any piece are in accordance with your needs and circumstance. Money is the latest occasion we want to talk about. On the day I saw, Butland was not wearing his usual watch, a manually wound platinum Calatrava with a two-tone dial, but conducting a wear-test on a stainless-steel ultra-thin flow porthole Nautilus that has now been serviced.

An iPhone has no soul, he pronounced. With most electronic machines theres precisely a screen and a back, and nothing that connects you with whats actually going on to make it production, and goods-for-nothing moving. Theres no human element and no human emotional bond. This partly shows the longstanding plea of a mechanical timepiece of any make.A few weeks before my tour of the showroom, I had inspected Patek Philippes headquarters in the Geneva suburb of Plan-les-Ouates, where I talked to Thierry Stern, the companys chairman. He had his own estimates on why the watch endures.

We should never forget that its roughly the only jewellery we can have as a mortal, he did. And its something nice! We should never forget that. Its not only a watch, its a piece of art. If they[ our customers] want to keep it as something of value, fine. I would prefer to see them wearing it. Its too a reinforce I envision. Yes, you are able afford a quartz or digital watch to your son for his marry, but I do not recollect those types of items today will last. They will change each year, like phones, so should I engrave a[ digital] watch like this and announce Glad Birthday from your pa, and then what are you going to do the next year?

Patek Philippe dignities itself on being the last independently owned watchmaker in Geneva. The corporation has been in the sides 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 you are able to expect from the heads of state of such a distinctive brand.He speaks gently and chortles easily one has no trouble envisioning him selling ties, or with a pot of fondue in front of him. He recalled a fulfilling he had recently in New York with manufacture managers 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 soil, and its nice to have something mechanical when youve been working in the digital world-wide 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 yield compared to a Swiss monster like Rolex, which produces more than 700,000 watches a year. Exclusivity is a key to usefulnes. Stern maintained that he was not worried by a difficult start to the year and the impact of Brexit on sales; he had just approved the designs for the accumulation for 2028. When youre dealing with season, he suggested, it helps to take the long view.

Patek Philippe, which sold its first watch in the 1850 s, has never been at the crass dissolve of the market, and doesnt look for endorsements from ace footballers and rappers the behavior 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 duet with Kanye West on their book Watch the Throne) might not seem the most likely purchaser of the more subtle Patek brand. But he is: he has been recognized at basketball games wearing a 120,000 Grand Complications model in white amber. Perhaps he likes the grandeur and( relative) self-restraint of it, a 21 st-century billionaire hanker for an updated 19 th-century masterpiece. Either route, he is certainly an avid shopper of the firebrands bright marketing.

Patek has loped 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 merely look after it for the next generation. The route are complying with epitomes of frameworks in various stages of self-satisfaction: a father seated at a piano with his son, a baby tittering with her daughter over lifes little luxuries. The photograph, taken by Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, Mary Ellen Mark and other creators whose production hangs in museums, are available to budge a sense of responsibility and family indebtednes, of empire and heritage. They may plead primarily to someone with new money aspiring to be someone with old money. Buy an expensive watch, they seem to be speaking, and you will belong.

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

Tim Delaney, the president of Leagas Delaney, the English publicizing busines responsible for the Generations campaign, told him that the adverts arose out of a desire to reflect Patek Philippes own feel of longevity and belonging the facts of the case that, unlike most watch firebrands, which are owned by large corporations, the company is independent.

I asked him why his expedition had lasted so long. I think its a universal insight, he reads. Its not pushy the suppose doesnt run down, it doesnt become less intelligent the more you see it. The photographs are an attempt to show humanity and tendernes. Truth Its idealised. Everyone knows its advertise. You have a strong sense that its a natural bond between the two parties, the papa and the son, father and daughter, so its palatable, but its not a photograph of a guy with his real son. I expected Delaney whether there were any other watch expeditions he admired, and he fantasized for less than a second before he read No.


In the last century we have suffered the violate of the sound barrier, the fabrication 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 warned the dominance of the Swiss watchmaking manufacture. Exportations flew even during the second world war with the rest of Europe in turmoil, the temporal reliability of neutral Switzerland assumed even greater meaning. For speciman, the International Watch Company a leading manufacturer based on the banks of the Rhine, in the north Swiss city of Schaffhausen sold its Large-scale Captains Watch to both the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Both sides were grateful for its massive dial, its vast glove-operable crown and its protection against abrupt lowerings in air pressure as they tried to shoot each other out of the sky.

In 2014, the Swiss exported 29 m watches. This was alone 1.7% of all watches bought globally, but 58% of their price. This creates a cord of questions. Why Switzerland in the first place? How did this unassuming, landlocked country be coming home with reign the industry? And how did it employer the art of billing tens of thousands for an object that often kept time 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 large necklaces emerged around 1510 in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. A small-time swap are set out in Geneva a few decades later, thanks mainly to artisans utilized as goldsmiths; filigree and enamel duty, and suffer with intricate plate tools, enabled craftsmen to return their attention to miniature mechanics. There were 176 goldsmiths are present in Geneva in the 16 th century, and their emergent watchmaking skills 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 accuracy and grace. But this is because that reputation rose primarily in the 20 th century. Prior to this, firms such as Breguet, Cartier and Lip in Paris, and numerous small firmsbased in Glasshtte, in the German government of Saxony, all induced prized specimen.( These parts still render fine watches, they are only struggle to compete with the cachet of being stirred 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 premier craftsmen included appoints 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 reputations are now all but forgotten, owing to the habitual British rehearsal of forgetting the concerns in which it once guided the world.

But the Swiss exactly deterred on extending, occasionally buying up its most important conglomerates elsewhere in Europe, and modelling craft the organizations and certification targets that increased the industrys reputation for tone and franknes. In the 19 th century, the Swiss became captains of the increasingly flat mechanisms that permitted traditional pocket watches to evolve into wristwatches; a watch wear as a bangle was particularly useful when journeying on horseback.

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

Today, the particular excellences that make a watch Swiss are the subject of strict legal definition, and are as closely governed as champagne or parmesan cheese( the specific characteristics on watches is always Swiss built or only Swiss rather than Obliged in Switzerland, a institution dating back to 1890 ). To prepare, a watch must meet certain strict criteria( or, according to the Fdration de lIndustrie Horlogre Suisse FH, where this grouping originates, a watch must adhere to The new requirements stipulated by Swissness ). To classify as Swiss Made, a watch must a) have a Swiss flow( that is, the basic mechanism comprised of cogs and outpourings that move the watch ticking) b) have this movement incorporated in a case that is attained within Switzerland and c) be checked and certified in Switzerland.

All was going well until the 1970 s, when something hit the hand-made mechanical watch craft like a mallet. As the decade developed it seemed that the Swiss has not been able to, after all, be telling the worlds experience for ever. In September 1975, The Horological Journal a well regarded busines publication founded in 1858 announced an important milestone in its own history of horology. On its deal was a picture of a Timex, a watch that passed on quartz. It contained a tiny segment of crystal that resonated at a high and fixed frequency when powered by a artillery. This steady signal was then transmitted to an oscillator, an electronic route that regulated the paraphernaliums that switched the watch hands. The old-time mechanism of winding and capability storage in a coiled spring was rejected at a stroke.

The quartz movement 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 toll has hitherto taken it beyond the general consumer, but now, through mass production at Timex and its primary American competitor Bulova, the electronic watch represented a change of ideology a piece of disorderly technology long before the phrase dwelt. It was solid state, with no ticking, and the brand-new watch acclaimed the sunrise of mass tech-based consumerism. Split-second timing, once the exclusive land of physicists and technicians, was now available to all, and there was no better mark of the seismic transformation from the mechanical to the electronic macrocosm. Time itself was now twinkling at us everywhere. No theatre visit was complete without half-hourly beeping from watches in the audience, frightens were now racing us to every appointment.

The Swiss reacted to the digital interruption with a mix of refusal and mild hysterium. Between 1970 and 1983, the Swiss share of the watch grocery fell from 50% to 15%, and the industry molted more than half its personnel. As one of Tom Stoppards attributes set it in his 1982 gambling The Real Thing, It searched all over for the 15 -jewel movement. Guy passed through the marketplace wailing the cog is dead! But the days of the Japanese digital watch were numbered. In the early 1980 s, with doom on the horizon, the Swiss crusade back with a brand-new doctrine of their own, and something plastic, less costly and powered by quartz and battery: the Swatch.

The Swatch from its call onwards administered quality, young people and fun into Swiss watches( God knows, the fusty industry needed it ). The watches were sold in the companys own patronizes and advertised on MTV, while masters and film directors, including Keith Haring and Akira Kurosawa, designed limited copies and formed watches hip and advantageous again for a new generation. With the terror over, the Swiss could once more is focused on numbering their bank account. 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 empire with such garish organizations. Swatch even owns Breguet, the company that claims to have obliged the first wristwatch in 1810.


Earlier this year, in an interview with the New York Times, Brad Pitt echoed his time on the adjust of the second world war movie Fury. Pitt, who is a label ambassador for TAG Heuer, remembered that Logan Lerman, the youngest actor in the cast, was given a watch to keep track of various activities during the films rehearsals. One period he came to me and said the watch has stopped, and I read, Youve just got to wind it. He came back literally 15 minutes later and did, Wait, how do you gale it?

For those born into the digital age, the prospect of making a watch start may seem as distant and implausible as crank-starting a auto or changing the ribbon on a typewriter. But this is exactly this process the end of a stunt of endlessly intricate human engineering that petitions to the watch connoisseur. It too explains why a fine watch expenditures so much.

Making anything really small by hand tends to be extremely expensive. In the watch manufacture, the precision of the minuscule areas is one reason for the largest expense( even the tiniest pin rates eight Swiss francs, precisely because it is such a tiny bolt ). But the major contributory factors are human and old-fashioned the wisdom, 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) “theres” 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 personas within a 16.1 mm-thick occurrence. This is the one with the 1.7 m price tag, and I handled one for a brief instant when I saw the Geneva headquarters( how period moves when youre experiencing something you know will soon be taken away from you ). The watch did actually detect expensive. It had a dual-face, a supremacy device running at 25,200 semi-oscillations per hour, a everlasting docket, a strikework isolator exhibition, a moon phase, and a Grande and Petite Sonnerie( internal chimes and scares with minuscule hammers impressing polished gongs when activated by a side lever to make 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 numerous at vehicle manufacturers workbench, you still had to wind the damn beautiful occasion by hand.

The greatest amazement of all is that this watch has a mechanical action, much of it adapted from pocket watches created in the 17 th century. The precision tooling and some of the fitted is a possibility to be undertaken by machine now, but the specific characteristics and final assemble the minuscule screws, springs, plates, wheels and jewels, the heaviness on the edge of the balance wheel, the ratchets that mediate the power supply, the interconnected casks that create an energy stockpile, and the pallet forking attached to the escapement pedal that causes the ticking racket are to be undertaken by mentality and hand.

A master watchmaker at IWC Schaffhausen identified Christian Bresser formerly told me that making a watch formed him seem omnipotent. Its the worst situation to enunciate, but its the God complex, or the Frankenstein complex. You have the grey overcoat, and youre making life.

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

Creating life from pinions and fulcrums and tiny fuckings may be the easy-going segment. One then has to sell the thing. With so many watch business creating simply slight fluctuations of the same produce, how should the well-heeled purchaser make a select in thiscrowded grocery? Should we rely, as we increasingly do in our modern world, on counseling from personalities?

At Baselworld in 2015 I pinched my style into a open of a brand-new watch at a pavilion designed for Hublot. A flashy newcomer on the vistum, Hublot was set up by an Italian in 1980, based itself in Nyon, a town in south-western Switzerland, and was owned by the French indulgence goods corporation LVMH. Hublot prides itself on its timekeeping for conducting sporting affairs, and its recent label representative was Jos Mourinho, administrator of Manchester United and a keen watch collector.

Brand representatives are a key element of watch salesmanship, and the fact that they do not often 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 endorsements, but it did formerly boast that its patrons included Queen Victoria.

When Mourinho appeared at Baselworld in 2015 he was still manager of Chelsea. He was wearing a gray-haired raincoat over gray cashmere, and he consented his watch with light-headed applause and a short addres about how he has been part of the Hublot family for a long time as a follower, but now it had all been made official( ie he had received his bank move ). His watch was “ve called the” King Power Special One, almost the size of a hockey puck, 18 -carat king amber with off-color carbon, a self-winding Unico manufacture Flyback Chronograph with 300 components, an immense 48 mm case, all the auto-mechanics disclosed on the dial slope, blue alligator fasten, a skeleton dial, a strength fund of 72 hours, an copy of 100 and a price in the boundaries 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 startling and horrible at the same time.

But the most remarkable event about the Hublot King Power was not that it was like an armored cistern, but that it did not deter very accurate day. When the favourite American magazine WatchTime deported tests on an earlier simulation, it met it gained between 1.6 to 4.3 seconds a epoch. Extra day: yet another thing for Mourinho to dispute with the referee.

But accurate timekeeping has long ago ceased to be the stage. And this, with deep paradox, is another reason why the world-wide watch industry survives. Formerly you can afford to expend even entry-level prices 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 giving superpower and your flavor, much as an expensive vehicle can do; it is not always an attractive characteristic. Its a deception, of course, but the fatter and more complicated and costly the watch, the more the wearer may expect power of the universe, the still centre of a spinning wheel.

Baselworld 2017 has already announced itself as a fairground for the feels. Next March, the demonstrate will boast an expanding array of smart watches, items that intimate the leading labels are not prepared to digest another debacle comparable to the quartz crisis. Many companionships initially dismissed the potential impact of the Apple Watch and similar machines that act as a synced companion to the mobile phone, but “theyve been” forced to reconsider; when Apple began offering a watch in a gold action for several thousand pounds more than the standard modeling, and Herms began obligating 1,550 belts for it, the indulgence market began to feel a bit 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, promising audio stream over WiFi and all manner of fitness tracking. It claims it marks a completely new era the worlds firstly wrist-worn computer.

But the watch has always been a computer; the difference now is what it computes. A dial that once etched out our lives in hours and hours, its accuracy is dependant on our capabilities to adjust it in motion and jazz it, may now keep working connected with the rest of the earth, via GPS and overnight wireless billing. Yet the remarkable thing is not the emergence of text and emails on the wrists that was always going to come at some quality but how robust the traditional 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 impression that knockout and elaboration are ends in themselves, and that the workbench of the skilled operator is still idolized more than the production line. A beautiful clicking timepiece grants us something back transporting us, perhaps, to an imagined day when time was still our friend.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Preoccupied With Time, by Simon Garfield, issued by Canongate at 16.99. To order a reproduce for 13.93, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or announce 0330 333 6846.

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