The Long Read: In an increasingly digital macrocosm, beings are still willing to spend huge amounts on analogue timepieces. The inquiry 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 recent wonders. There was the Avenger Hurricane, a brawny pitch-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 magnitude of 2,000 metres( 3,850 ). And there were at least 60 other pieces, each out-glistening the other in an attempt to demonstrate a brand-new and costly road to tell the time.

And then there were the fish. Above the acces to the temporary browse which, at 10 metres high, was really more of a pavilion was a big container supporting 650 jellyfish. The container certainly 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 slopes were made from a 13 cm-thick mantle of methacrylate, a transparent information similar to plexiglass.

Precisely what the jellyfish had to do with selling watches was a whodunit, and it would remain a riddle until they were removed from the container when the pavillion closed. Perhaps they represented impunity; perhaps they were a remember of the sort of happening you could see if you purchased a Breitling diving chronometer. But the strangest event about the cistern was that most people who find it precisely gazed up and swiftly moved closer. Considering where it was, it didnt seem extraordinary at all.

For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch world. The fairs organisers claimed 150,000 compensating visitors and 1,800 labels spread over 141,000 sq. metres of exhibit cavity. Admission expenditure 60 Swiss francs a daylight( 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 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, too. Some booths were also selling jewellery including Chanel, Gucci and Chopard and some labels were selling watches covered in jewels: symphonies of the unnecessary, such as the Harry Winston Premier Moon Phase 36 mm, with mother of bead and 104 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The show was a occasion of our mastery of timekeeping, and of the elaboration and years of training that get into representing objectives of attractivenes and accuracy. But it was also a observance of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist simply because they can, like animal acts at a circus. Numerous worked on “the worlds largest” intricate heights to act operates almost beyond usefulness: there used to be watches with a docket that lasts 1,000 times; there were watches establishing the phase of the moon in another experience zone. And then there were parts such as the Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller, made from 1,483 components. This would announce the hours and quarter-hours with the same gong sequence as Big Ben. At its opening, it was portended by its makes as the more complex wristwatch ever made, and a grandiose work of art.In addition to its 36 complications a complication is basically a neat subterfuge was the ability to tell the time. Another complication is because it rate 2.2 m.

And therein lies the mystery of the modern timepiece. These dates , no one requires a Swiss watch to tell the time or a watch from any country. The occasion exposed on our mobile phones and other digital inventions will always be more accurate than the time exposed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, hitherto the industry has a visual proximity in our 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 predominantly by watch adverts; airfields would be empty shells without them. The export quality of the Swiss watch trade fell by 3.3% last year, due primarily to a downfall in demand from the eastern 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 uncertain financial ages, but watch costs at Baselworld picture no signals of making a cut-price concession to the unstable yen or rouble, or even the most recent rival from the Apple Watch. Surely, the opposite seems to be true: the higher the asking price, the greater the plea, for cheapness may suggest a decrease 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 leash( For men who take accuracy seriously) 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” merely contains so many squinting lord craftsmen who can prepare them, and even they havent received a lane to extend the day beyond 24 hours.

But why do we continue to buy these over-engineered and redundant machines? Why do so many beings pay so much better for the purposes of 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 make a 16,000 -litre saltwater shrine to its continued supremacy of an obsolete art? Far beyond the reveal of occasion, watches tell us something about ourselves. And so the answers to these questions lie within our inclination for extreme fiction, our consumption of stupefying marketing, our unbridled and impudent ability for fanfare, and our restored reverence for artistry in a digital world.

And perhaps there is something else clicking away at us a be thought that the speeding up of our daily lives may soon testify devastating. When watchmaking began, we had no theory of packed calendars and unbreakable deadlines, much less of quality period or me period. Our epoches were not ruled by the clock. These daylights, having wreaked 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, stretching from the relatively modest Calatrava and Aquanaut simulates( beginning at around 5,000) to the incongruous Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300 in grey amber, fatty as a fist, which expenditure in the boundaries of 1.7 m.

One enters the shop through a double-door airlock, guarantee that no one goes in who may not appreciate delicate creativity, and no one buds who has not settled their detail. The showroom at 400 square metres, the largest single-brand watch outlet in the UK was not sufficiently large to host its own opening defendant in December 2014. The event was held in a glass pavilion in the courtyard of Somerset House, embellished for the night in a mode that would not have gazed out of place in the heyday of Versailles, albeit a Versailles lit by LED illuminations on fake cherry trees.

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

In all three accumulations an imminent acquire is become more pleasurable, and most likely, following the arrival of champagne. The London outlet has a lower-ground domain resembling a library, and a glint, gently well-lighted celestial area where prospective customers may inspect 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 experienced a track in calligraphy to enable the careful inking of client receipts and guarantees.

My expertise is reaching parties joyous and to create an environment my customers experience, responded Ed Butland, the accumulates chairman. We will show you any part suited to your needs and environment. Money is the latest concept we want to talk about. On the day I called, Butland was not wearing his usual watch, a manually wound platinum Calatrava with a two-tone dial, but imparting a wear-test on a stainless-steel ultra-thin push porthole Nautilus that had just been serviced.

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

We should never forget that its roughly the only jewellery we can have as a gentleman, he remarked. And its something neat! We should never forget that. Its is not simply a watch, its a piece of art. If they[ our purchasers] want to keep it as something of value, fine. I would prefer to see them wearing it. Its also a honor I recollect. Yes, you could grant a quartz or digital watch to your son for his bridal, but I do not conceive those types of items today will last-place. They will change each year, like telephones, so should I etch a[ digital] watch like this and answer Joyous Birthday from your daddy, 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 corporation has been in the mitts 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 fairly lacking in the hauteur one may expect from the heads of state of such a distinctive brand.He address gently and chortles easily one has no trouble portrait him selling ties, or with a toilet of fondue in front of him. He recalled a congregating he had recently in New York with industry rulers 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 accompanies us down to earth, 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 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 potential impacts of Brexit on sales; he had just approved the designs for the collecting for 2028. When youre dealing here experience, he showed, it makes it possible to take the long view.

Patek Philippe, which sold its first watch in the 1850 s, has never been at the vulgar death of the market, and doesnt look for endorsements from stellar footballers and rappers the room other firebrands 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” recognized at basketball games wearing a 120,000 Grand Complications model in white amber. Perhaps he likes the gentility and( relative) imprisonment of it, a 21 st-century billionaire yearn for an updated 19 th-century masterpiece. Either lane, he is certainly an ardent buyer of the firebrands bright marketing.

Patek has guided 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 images of examples in the different stages of self-satisfaction: a father-god sat at a piano with his son, a mom chortling with her daughter over lifes little luxuries. The photo, taken by Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, Mary Ellen Mark and other artists whose wreak hangs in museums, are available to conjure a sense of responsibility and family obligation, of empire and heritage. They may plea primarily to someone with new money aspiring to be someone with old money. Buy an expensive watch, they seem to be suggesting, and you will belong.

The Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller. Picture: mesIMG/ imgStd/ 28276

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

I asked him why his campaign had lasted so long. I think its a universal penetration, he remarks. Its not pushy the thought doesnt running around, it doesnt become less intelligent the more you see it. The photographs are an attempt to show human beings and warmth. Truth Its idealised. Everyone knows its advertise. You have a strong sense that its a natural bail between the two people, the father-god and the son, father and daughter, so its appetizing, but its not a photograph of a person with his real son. I questioned Delaney whether there were any other watch expeditions he admired, and he conceived for less than a second before he enunciated No.

In the last century we have knew the violate of the sound barrier, the invention of the atomic clock, radio-controlled timekeeping, the internet, and pixelated clocks pulsing inexorably on our information technology and telephones. And yet none of these developments has peril the dominance of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Exports flew even during world war ii with the rest of Europe in turmoil, the temporal reliability of neutral Switzerland assumed even greater meaning. For illustration, the International Watch Company a major manufacturer based on the banks of the Rhine, in the northern Swiss city of Schaffhausen sold its Big-hearted Pilots Watch to both the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Both backs were grateful for its massive dial, its huge glove-operable treetop and its protection against abrupt declines in air pressure as they tried to shoot one another 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 evaluate. This parent a fibre of questions. Why Switzerland in the first place? How did this unassuming, landlocked country be coming home with dominate service industries? And how did it employer the artistry of accusing tens of thousands for the purposes of an object that often kept hour less accurately than an object expenditure 10?

The firstly mechanical watches were not Swiss. The earliest first round and then oval-shaped, and worn as large-scale necklaces seemed around 1510 in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. A small swap developed in Geneva a few decades later, thanks mainly to artisans applied as goldsmiths; filigree and enamel job, and suffer with intricate engraving tools, permitted craftsmen to shift their attention to miniature auto-mechanics. There were 176 goldsmiths working in Geneva in the 16 th century, and their emergent watchmaking knowledge were almost certainly aided by the reaching 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 beauty. But this is because that reputation emerged mainly in the 20 th century. Prior to this, business such as Breguet, Cartier and Lip in Paris, and numerous small firmsbased in Glasshtte, in the German district of Saxony, all produced prized samples.( These neighborhoods still make 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 regional centres for clock and watchmaking in the 17 th and 18 th centuries, the roster of experts 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 allowed the calculation of longitude at sea, the appoints are now all but forgotten, owing to the habitual British rule of forgetting its deep concern in which it formerly preceded the world.

But the Swiss only maintained on moving, sometimes buying up its most important conglomerates elsewhere in Europe, and modelling craft the organizations and certification targets that increased the industrys reputation for character and franknes. In the 19 th century, the Swiss became lords of the increasingly flat mechanisms that allowed conventional pocket watches to evolve into wristwatches; a watch worn as a bracelet was particularly useful when going on horseback.

The Swiss also made full usage of new innovations, enthusiastically superseding the old-time technique of gale a watch by key in favour of the modern stem-and-crown device. In the early 20 th century, they mixed the new American-originated system of conveyor-belt mechanisation with the most significant methods of local hand-crafting.

Today, the particular tones that make a watch Swiss are the subject of strict legal explanation, and are as closely regulated as champagne or parmesan cheese( the specific characteristics on watches is always Swiss saw or precisely Swiss rather than Constituted in Switzerland, a tradition dating back to 1890 ). To prepare, a watch are required to comply with certain strict criteria( or, in agreement with the Fdration de lIndustrie Horlogre Suisse FH, where this clas originates, a watch must adhere to The reporting requirement stipulated by Swissness ). To categorize as Swiss Made, a watch must a) have a Swiss change( that is, the basic mechanism consisting of cogs and outpourings that realise the watch ticking) b) have such movements incorporated in a case that is moved within Switzerland and c) be checked and certified in Switzerland.

All was going well until the 1970 s, when something smacked 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 epoch for ever. In September 1975, The Horological Journal a well regarded sell publishing founded in 1858 announced an important milestone in its own history of horology. On its cover was a picture of a Timex, a watch that extended on quartz. It contained a tiny segment of crystal that reverberated at a high and attached frequency when powered by a battery. This steady signal was then transmitted to an oscillator, an electronic route that regulated the gears that transformed the watch hands. The old-fashioned mechanism of gale and capability storage in a coiled springtime was dismissed at a stroke.

The quartz change 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 price had previously taken it beyond the general consumer, but now, through mass production at Timex and its prime American challenger Bulova, the electronic watch represented a change of ideology a piece of disruptive technology long before the word existed. It was solid state, with no ticking, and the brand-new watch presaged the sunup of mass tech-based consumerism. Split-second timing, formerly the exclusive domain of physicists and technicians, was now available to all, and there was no better symbol of the seismic alter from the mechanical to the electronic world. Time itself was now twinkling at us everywhere. No theatre visit was complete without half-hourly beeping from watches in the audience, horrifies were now hastening us to every appointment.

The Swiss reacted to the digital disturbance with a mix of self-denial and mild terror. Between 1970 and 1983, the Swiss share of the watch grocery fell from 50% to 15%, and service industries shed more than half its workforce. As one of Tom Stoppards personas introduced it in his 1982 performance The Real Thing, It gazed all over for the 15 -jewel movement. Men ranged through the marketplace wailing 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 push back with a brand-new doctrine of their own, and something plastic, cheaper and powered by quartz and battery: the Swatch.

The Swatch from its appoint onwards introduced colour, young people and recreation into Swiss watches( God knows, the fusty manufacture requires it ). The watches were sold in the companys own shops and advertised on MTV, while creators and film directors, including Keith Haring and Akira Kurosawa, designed limited editions and acquired watches hip and desirable again for a new generation. With the anxiety over, the Swiss could once more is focused 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 firm, consisting of firebrands including Longines, Blancpain and Rado that once would have shuddered at the believed to be being owned by an empire with such garish foundations. Swatch even owns Breguet, the company that claims to have stimulated the first wristwatch in 1810.

Earlier this year, in an interview with the New York Times, Brad Pitt echoed his time on the mount of world war two movie Fury. Pitt, who is a brand diplomat for TAG Heuer, is recalled that Logan Lerman, a very young performer in the throw, was given a watch to keep track of various activities during the films recitals. One daylight he came to me and said the watch has ceased to, and I articulated, 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, the prospect of making a watch start may seem as distant and implausible as crank-starting a car or changing the ribbon on a typewriter. But this is exactly this process the end of a stunt of infinitely intricate human engineering that requests to the watch connoisseur. It also explains why a fine watch expenses so much.

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

But this is nothing in comparison with the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, which holds 1,366 divisions within a 16.1 mm-thick event. This is the one with the 1.7 m price tag, and I handled one for a brief hour when I inspected the Geneva headquarters( how hour operates when youre enjoying something you are familiar with will soon be taken away from you ). The watch did actually detect expensive. It had a dual-face, a dominance device loping at 25,200 semi-oscillations per hour, a eternal calendar, a strikework isolator parade, a moon phase, and a Grande and Petite Sonnerie( internal chimes and consternations with minuscule hammers striking shiny bells when activated by a back lever to give 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 artwork. But the thing I liked most about it was that after nine years on the drawing board, and as many at vehicle manufacturers workbench, you still had to wind the damn beautiful event by hand.

The greatest think of all is that this watch has a mechanical move, much of it accommodated from pocket watches created in the 17 th century. The precision tooling and some of the fitting may be to be undertaken by machine now, but the design and final forum the tiny clamps, outpourings, dishes, rotates and pearls, the loads on the edge of the balance wheel, the ratchets that intercede the power supply, the interconnected barrels that create an intensity reservation, and the pallet fork attached to the escapement wheel that causes the ticking din are to be undertaken by intelligence and hand.

A master watchmaker at IWC Schaffhausen named Christian Bresser once told him that making a watch attained him seem omnipotent. Its the worst happen to add, but its the God complex, or the Frankenstein complex. You have the white-hot overcoat, and youre making life.

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

Creating life from pinions and pivots and tiny bolts may be the easy-going portion. One then has to sell the thing. With so many watch corporations creating merely slight discrepancies of the same commodity, how should the well-heeled customer make a option in thiscrowded sell? Should we rely, as we increasingly do in our contemporary world, on steering from fames?

At Baselworld in 2015 I squeezed my channel into a opening of a brand-new watch at a pavilion designed for Hublot. A flashy beginner on the situation, 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 contributing boasting happenings, and its most recent firebrand envoy 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 generally wear a watch at all while achieving their greatest stunts 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 luminary endorsements, but it did once boast that its clients included Queen Victoria.

When Mourinho appeared at Baselworld in 2015 he was still director of Chelsea. He was wearing a grey raincoat over gray cashmere, and he accepted his watch with light 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 transportation ). His watch was “ve called the” King Power Special One, nearly 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 suit, all the mechanics uncovered on the dial line-up, blue-blooded alligator fasten, a skeleton dial, a supremacy reserve of 72 hours, an copy of 100 and a price in the boundaries of 32,000. The promotional blurb claimed that the item most like Mourinho himself: The watch is provocative the robust exterior obscures the genius below. It was both startling and gruesome at the same time.

But the most remarkable happen about the Hublot King Power was not that it looked like an armoured container, but that it did not deter very accurate era. When the favourite American magazine WatchTime imparted research on an earlier pattern, it found it gained between 1.6 to 4.3 seconds a day. Additional epoch: yet another thing for Mourinho to feud with the referee.

But accurate timekeeping has long ago ceased to be the quality. And this, with deep irony, is another reason why the world watch manufacture survives. Once you can afford to invest 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 achievement, and too of intent.( It is also one of the easiest ways to export fund from one country to another .) Something glittery on your wrist says something about your earning supremacy and your preference, much as an expensive car can do; it is not always an attractive peculiarity. Its a hallucination, of course, but the fatter and more complicated and expensive the watch, the more the wearer may presuppose limit of the universe, the still centre of a spinning wheel.

Baselworld 2017 has already announced itself as a fairground for the appreciations. Next March, the see will peculiarity an expanding array of smart watches, pieces that intimate the leading brands are not ready to accept another debacle comparable to the quartz crisis. Many corporations initially rejected the potential impact of the Apple Watch and similar designs that act as a synced companion to the mobile phone, but they have been forced to reconsider; when Apple began offering a watch in a amber instance for several thousand pounds more than the standard representation, and Herms embarked acquiring 1,550 fastens for it, the luxury market began to feel a little uneasy.

So Breitling will be offering its Exospace B5 5, allowed to be chronograph to be involved in 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 commemorates a completely new period 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 etched out our lives in hours and times, its accuracy dependent on our capacity to determine it in motion and jazz it, may now keep us connected with the rest of the earth, via GPS and overnight wireless accusing. Yet the striking occasion is not the rise of texts and emails on the wrists that was always going to come at some point but how robust the conventional and mechanical wristwatch has proven itself alongside the new technologies. Alongside the absurd complications of the fattest new timepiece develops something we are evidently keen to hang on to a faith that charm and refinement are ends in themselves, and that the workbench of the skilled operator is still adored more than the production line. A beautiful clicking timepiece causes us something back ferrying us, perhaps, to an imagined time when time was still our friend.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time, by Simon Garfield, is published by Canongate at 16.99. To guild a emulate for 13.93, go to or call 0330 333 6846.

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