The Long Read: In an increasingly digital world, beings are still willing to spend huge amounts on analogue timepieces. The wonder is, why?

On 17 March 2016, the watch make Breitling opened a lavish new stall at Baselworld, the worlds biggest watch fair, to show off its recent marvels. There was the Avenger Hurricane, a beefy 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 profundity of 2,000 metres( 3,850 ). And there were at least 60 other parts, each out-glistening the other in an attempt to demonstrate a new and costly road to tell the time.

And then there were the fish. Above the entry to the temporary store which, at 10 meters high, was really more of a pavilion was a huge cistern bracing 650 jellyfish. The cistern 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 liquid added another 16.5 tonnes. Because it contained so many fish and so much liquid, the cisterns slopes were made from a 13 cm-thick stratum of methacrylate, a transparent textile 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 cistern when the pavillion closed. Perhaps they represented freedom; perhaps they were a remember of the sort of event you could see if you purchased a Breitling diving chronometer. But the strangest event about the cistern was that most people who investigated it simply gazed up and hurriedly moved closer. Considering where it was, it didnt seem unique at all.

For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch macrocosm. The fairs organisers claimed 150,000 guests and 1,800 labels spread over 141,000 square metres of exhibition cavity. Admission expenditure 60 Swiss francs a period( 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 waste many hours marching 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, very. Some booths is likewise 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 mom 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 seeing objects of allure and accuracy. But it was also a celebration of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist simply because they can, like animal deeds at a circus. Numerous worked on “the worlds largest” intricate grades to act parts nearly beyond usefulness: there used to be watches with a calendar that lasts 1,000 times; there used to be watches presenting the phase of the moon in a different day zone. And then there were parts 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 open, it was presaged by its producers as the most complex wristwatch ever induced, and a grandiose work of art.In addition to its 36 complications a complication is virtually a neat ruse was the ability to tell the time. Another complication was that it overhead 2.2 m.

And therein lies the whodunit of the modern timepiece. These days , no one is in need of Swiss watch to tell the time or a watch from any country. The day exposed on our mobile phones and other digital designs will always be more accurate than the time exposed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, hitherto service industries has a visual proximity in “peoples lives” like few others. The storefronts of “the worlds” big-money freeways brighten with the lustre of Rolex and Omega; newspapers and periodicals appear to be kept in business primarily by watch adverts; airfields would be empty eggshells without them. The export importance 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 unsure financial durations, but watch tolls at Baselworld evidence no signeds of making a cut-price concession to the unstable yen or rouble, or even the most recent tournament from the Apple Watch. Surely, the opposite seems to be true: the higher the asking price, the greater the petition, for cheapness may suggest a reduction 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 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 worlds” simply contains so many squinting captain craftsmen who can induce them, and even they havent met 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 beings pay so much for the purposes of an piece whose principal part 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 prowes? Far beyond the inform of day, watches tell us something about ourselves. And so the answers to these questions lie within our propensity for extreme fantasy, our consumption of stupefying sell, our unbridled and impudent ability for ostentation, and our replaced fear for craftsmanship in a digital world.

And perhaps there is something else ticking away at us a feeling that the speeding up of our everyday lives may soon substantiate overwhelming. When watchmaking began, we had no conception of jam-packed calendars and unbreakable deadlines, much less of quality day or me day. Our days were not ruled by the clock. These days, having delivered this ungovernable blizzard of rush upon ourselves, we may be grateful for anything not least a beautiful windable timepiece that rehabilitates at the least an misconception 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 simulations( beginning at around 5,000) to the outlandish Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300 in white amber, flab as a fist, which expenditure in the region of 1.7 m.

One penetrates the parlour through a double-door airlock, guarantee that no one get in who may not appreciate beautiful artistry, and no one foliages who has not settled their detail. The showroom at 400 square metres, the most significant single-brand watch bazaar in the UK was not sufficiently large to host its own opening party in December 2014. The happen was held in a glass pavilion in the courtyard of Somerset House, embellished for the nighttime in a mode that would not have appeared out of place in the heyday of Versailles, albeit a Versailles lit by LED lights on phony cherry trees.

The London salon is the most modern of Pateks three flagship accumulations, but they all share a same retail psychology. The others, in Paris and at the companys home in Geneva, enclose the clientele in an identical citrus scent, 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 cookies with your coffee, whereas in Geneva you get chocolates.

In all three accumulations an imminent acquisition is realise more pleasurable, and most likely, with the arrival of champagne. The London outlet has a lower-ground domain resembling a library, and a glint, softly lit astronomical chamber where prospective customers may analyse watches with ultimate discretion. The entire showroom has intentionally dispelled all elements of the digital world: there are no iPads or electronic tills, and the staff have experienced a course in calligraphy to enable the careful inking of patron receipts and guarantees.

My expertise is seeing beings happy and to create a climate my customers enjoy, replied Ed Butland, the accumulations head. We will show you any piece suited to your needs and context. Money is the latest event we want to talk about. On the working 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 motion porthole Nautilus that had just been serviced.

An iPhone has no soul, he replied. With most electronic designs theres simply a screen and a back, and good-for-nothing that are linked you with whats actually going on to make it run, and nothings moving. Theres no human element and no human psychological connect. This partly illustrates the longstanding petition of a mechanical timepiece of any make.A few weeks before my tour of the showroom, I had called Patek Philippes headquarters in the Geneva suburb of Plan-les-Ouates, where I talked to Thierry Stern, the companys chairman. He had his own conceptions on why the watch endures.

We should never forget that its roughly the only jewellery we are in a position have as a husband, he replied. And its something neat! 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 also a reinforce I reckon. Yes, you are able hold a quartz or digital watch to your son for his wed, but I do not reckon those types of items today will last-place. They will change every year, like telephones, so should I impress a[ digital] watch like this and suppose 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 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 quite lacking in the hauteur one may expect from the heads of state of such a distinctive brand.He speaks softly and giggles easily one has no trouble drawing 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 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 clay, and its nice to have something mechanical when youve been working in the digital world 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 the impact of Brexit on sales; he had just approved the designs for the collection for 2028. When youre dealing with day, he intimated, 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 rude resolve of the market, and doesnt look for endorsements from stellar footballers and rappers the road other labels 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 album Watch the Throne) might not seem the most likely patron of the more subtle Patek brand. But he is: he has been recognise at basketball games wearing a 120,000 Grand Complications model in white amber. Perhaps he likes the grandeur and( relative) limited of it, a 21 st-century billionaire longing for an updated 19 th-century masterpiece. Either road, he is certainly an ardent buyer of the labels brilliant marketing.

Patek has ranged 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 path is accompanied by likeness of simulations in the different stages of self-satisfaction: a parent set at a piano with his son, a mom chuckling with her daughter over lifes little indulgences. The picture, taken a number of Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, Mary Ellen Mark and other masters whose run hangs in museums, are available to budge a sense of responsibility and family obligation, 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 announcing, and you will belong.

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

Tim Delaney, the chairman of Leagas Delaney, the English marketing company 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 labels, which are owned by large-scale corporations, the company is independent.

I asked him why his expedition had lasted so long. I think its a universal insight, he pronounces. Its not pushy the consider doesnt run down, it doesnt become less intelligent the more you see it. The picture are an attempt to show humanity and friendlines. Truth Its idealised. Everyone knows its marketing. You have a strong sense that its a natural bond between the two beings, the parent and the son, mom 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 envisaged for less than a second before he replied No.

In the last century we have knowledge the crack of the sound barrier, the invention of the atomic clock, radio-controlled timekeeping, the internet, and pixelated clocks pulsing inexorably on our computers and telephones. And hitherto none of these developments has threatened the dominance of the Swiss watchmaking manufacture. Exportations flew even during world war ii with the rest of Europe in turmoil, the temporal reliability of neutral Switzerland usurped even greater significance. For example, the International Watch Company a major manufacturer based on the banks of the Rhine, in the north Swiss city of Schaffhausen sold its Large-hearted Captains Watch to both the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Both slopes were grateful for its massive dial, its vast glove-operable crown and its protection against abrupt plummets 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 importance. This creates a fibre of questions. Why Switzerland in the first place? How did this unassuming, landlocked country be coming home with reign service industries? And how did it captain the prowes of billing tens of thousands for the purposes of an object that often kept day less accurately than an object expenditure 10?

The first mechanical watches were not Swiss. The earliest first round and then oval-shaped, and worn as large-scale pendants appeared around 1510 in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. A small-scale commerce developed in Geneva a few decades later, thanks primarily to artisans employed as goldsmiths; filigree and enamel run, and event with intricate etch implements, facilitated craftsmen to move their attention to miniature auto-mechanics. There were 176 goldsmiths working in Geneva in the 16 th century, and their emergent watchmaking sciences were almost certainly aided by the entrance 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 reputation for accuracy and allure. But this is because that reputation emerged mainly in the 20 th century. Prior to this, fellowships such as Breguet, Cartier and Lip in Paris, and many small firmsbased in Glasshtte, in the German commonwealth of Saxony, all produced prized samples.( These neighborhoods still induce fine watches, they are only struggle to compete with the cachet of being realise 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 names 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 names are now all but forgotten, owing to the habitual British tradition of forgetting the concerns in which it formerly produced the world.

But the Swiss simply impeded on going, occasionally buying up its most important conglomerates elsewhere in Europe, and modelling commerce the organizations and certification targets that increased the industrys reputation for tone and franknes. In the 19 th century, the Swiss became employers of the increasingly flat devices that facilitated conventional pocket watches to evolve into wristwatches; a watch wear as a bracelet was particularly useful when going on horseback.

The Swiss also made full employment of new innovations, enthusiastically ousting the old-time procedure of gale a watch by key in favour of the modern stem-and-crown mechanism. In the early 20 th century, they combined the new American-originated system of conveyor-belt mechanisation with the finest methods of local hand-crafting.

Today, the specific excellences that make a watch Swiss are the subject of strict law explanation, and are as closely governed as champagne or parmesan cheese( the specific characteristics on watches is always Swiss induced or simply Swiss rather than Built in Switzerland, a habit 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 classification originates, a watch are required to comply with The new requirements stipulated by Swissness ). To categorize as Swiss Made, a watch must a) have a Swiss motion( that is, the basic mechanism comprised of cogs and outpourings that induce the watch ticking) b) have such movements incorporated in a case that is induced within Switzerland and c) be checked and shown in Switzerland.

All was going well until the 1970 s, when something affected the hand-made mechanical watch commerce like a mallet. As the activities of the decade progressed it seemed that the Swiss would not, after all, be telling the worlds day for ever. In September 1975, The Horological Journal a well regarded commerce publication founded in 1858 announced a milestone in the history of horology. On its embrace was a picture of a Timex, a watch that guided on quartz. It contained a tiny patch of crystal that reverberated at a high and fixed frequency when powered by a battery. This steady signal was then transmitted to an oscillator, an electronic tour that governed the gears that diverted the watch sides. The old-time mechanism of gale and supremacy storage in a coiled springtime 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 price had previously taken it beyond the general buyer, but now, through mass production at Timex and its main American competitor Bulova, the electronic watch represented a change of doctrine a piece of disorderly technology long before the motto existed. It was solid state, with no ticking, and the new watch presaged the dawn of mass tech-based consumerism. Split-second timing, formerly the exclusive land of physicists and technicians, was now available to all, and there was no better badge of the seismic change from the mechanical to the electronic world. 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 racing us to every appointment.

The Swiss reacted to the digital interruption with a mix of refusal and mild panic. 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 reputations introduced it in his 1982 performance The Real Event, It appeared all over for the 15 -jewel movement. Serviceman guided through the marketplace shouting the cog is dead! But the working day of the Japanese digital watch were numbered. In the early 1980 s, with fate on the horizon, the Swiss crusade back with a new doctrine of their own, and something plastic, less costly and powered by quartz and battery: the Swatch.

The Swatch from its identify onwards injected colour, young people and enjoyable into Swiss watches( God knows, the fusty manufacture needed it ). The watches were sold in the companys own shops and advertised on MTV, while masters and film directors, including Keith Haring and Akira Kurosawa, designed limited publications and induced watches hip and beneficial again for a new generation. With the panic 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 company, consisting of labels including Longines, Blancpain and Rado that once would have shuddered at the believed to be being owned by an territory with such garish organizations. Swatch even owns Breguet, the company that claims to have realise the first wristwatch in 1810.

Earlier this year, in an interview with the New York Times, Brad Pitt recalled his time on the fixed of world war two movie Fury. Pitt, who is a firebrand representative for TAG Heuer, remembered that Logan Lerman, the youngest actor in the casting, 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 replied, Youve just got to wind it. He came back literally 15 minutes later and replied, Wait, how do you gale 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 automobile or changing the ribbon on a typewriter. But it is precisely this process the end of a accomplishment of endlessly intricate human engineering that pleas to the watch connoisseur. It also explains why a fine watch payments so much.

Making anything really small by hand tends to be extremely expensive. In the watch manufacture, the precision of the tiny roles is one intellect for the great overhead( even the tiniest pin payments eight Swiss francs, precise because it is such a tiny pin ). But the major contributory factors are human and old-fashioned the wisdom, handed down through centuries, required to make something beautiful and functioning from an otherwise inanimate assemblage of metal and stones. In each of the superb Grande Complication watches made by the International Watch Company( IWC) “theres” 659 roles 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 roles within a 16.1 mm-thick subject. This is the one with the 1.7 m price tag, and I managed one for a brief hour when I saw the Geneva headquarters( how day pilots when youre enjoying something you know will soon be taken away from you ). The watch did actually find expensive. It had a dual-face, a supremacy mechanism operating at 25,200 semi-oscillations per hour, a ceaseless calendar, a strikework isolator showing, a moon stage, and a Grande and Petite Sonnerie( internal chimes and scares with tiny mallets impressing polished gongs when activated by a slope 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 prowes. 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 amazement of all is that this watch has a mechanical motion, often of it adapted from pocket watches created in the 17 th century. The precision tooling and some of the fitted may be to be undertaken by machine now, but the design and final forum the tiny clamps, outpourings, dishes, wheels and ornaments, the weights on the edge of the balance wheel, the ratchets that mediate the power supply, the interconnected casks that create an force fund, and the pallet fork is connected to the escapement rotation that causes the ticking clang are to be undertaken by psyche and hand.

A master watchmaker at IWC Schaffhausen appointed Christian Bresser formerly told him that making a watch induced him find omnipotent. Its the worst event to mention, but its the God complex, or the Frankenstein complex. You have the white overcoat, and youre making life.

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

Creating life from pinions and fulcrums and tiny clamps may be the easy portion. One then has to sell the thing. With so many watch fellowships raising simply slight variances of the same produce, how should the well-heeled purchaser make a selection in thiscrowded grocery? Should we rely, as we increasingly do in our modern world, on advice from luminaries?

At Baselworld in 2015 I mashed my road into a open of a new watch at a pavilion designed for Hublot. A flashy newcomer on the scene, 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 luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. Hublot prides itself on its timekeeping for contributing boasting happenings, and its recent firebrand representative was Jos Mourinho, director of Manchester United and a keen watch collector.

Brand representatives are a key element of watch salesmanship, and the facts of the case that they do not often 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 balk away from luminary endorsements, but it did formerly boast that its purchasers included Queen Victoria.

When Mourinho appeared at Baselworld in 2015 he was still director of Chelsea. He was wearing a gray-headed raincoat over gray-headed 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 send ). His watch was “ve called the” King Power Special One, nearly the size of a hockey puck, 18 -carat king amber with off-color carbon, a self-winding Unico manufacture Flyback Chronograph with 300 constituents, an immense 48 mm subject, all the auto-mechanics disclosed on the dial slope, off-color alligator strap, a skeleton dial, a supremacy fund of 72 hours, an edition of 100 and world prices in the region of 32,000. The promotional blurb claimed that the item most like Mourinho himself: The watch is provoking the robust exterior disguises the genius below. It was both impressive and ghastly 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 retain very accurate day. When the popular American magazine WatchTime deported exams on an earlier simulate, it met it gained between 1.6 to 4.3 seconds a period. Extra day: yet another thing for Mourinho to dispute with the referee.

But accurate timekeeping has long ago ceased to be the degree. And this, with deep irony, is another reason why the world watch manufacture endures. Once you can afford to waste even entry-level tolls 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 also of intent.( It is also one of the easiest ways to export coin from one country to the next .) Something glittery on your wrist says something about your giving supremacy and your flavor, much as an expensive automobile can do; it is not always an attractive character. Its a delusion, of course, but the fatter and more complicated and costly the watch, the more the wearer may premise authority 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 show will peculiarity an expanding array of smart watches, parts that intimate the leading labels are not prepared to suffer another debacle comparable to the quartz crisis. Numerous fellowships initially rejected the potential impact of the Apple Watch and same designs that act as a synced companion to the mobile phone, but “theyve been” forced to reconsider; when Apple began offering a watch in a amber subject for several thousand pounds more than high standards simulate, and Herms began seeing 1,550 belts for it, the luxury 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, promising audio stream over WiFi and all manner of fitness tracking. It claims it tags a completely new age “the worlds” first wrist-worn computer.

But the watch has always been a computer; certain differences now is what it calculates. A dial that once inscribed out our lives in hours and times, its accuracy is dependant on our capabilities to define it in motion and breeze it, may now keep working connected with the rest of the earth, via GPS and overnight wireless billing. Yet the remarkable event is not the arrival of textbook and emails on the wrists that was always going to come at some degree but how robust the conventional and mechanical wristwatch has proven itself alongside the new technologies. Alongside the absurd complications of the fattest new timepiece attains something we are evidently keen to hang on to a ideology that allure and elaboration are ends in themselves, and that the workbench of the skilled technologist is still worshipped more than the production line. A beautiful ticking timepiece sacrifices us something back transporting us, perhaps, to an imagined day when time was still our friend.

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

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