I am fascinated with wristwatches. I love the look of some but more deeply, I admire the art form of the watchmaker. A watch that runs on electricity or depends upon vibrating quartz is useless in its perfection, the cubic zirconium of time.
A mechanical watch is a testament to the imperfect man pursuing the flawless. The precision of time is the lynchpin to everything else that we measure and quantify. The measurement of time is the attempt to capture an interval, the duration of a kind of space without mass between events, a pressureless force, an invisible calculus graphing the length, width and height of life itself.
By celebrating man’s achievements in advancing as close as one can towards the state of creating something truly free of defect, the only timepiece worthy of the wearing has to be mechanical in design.
Paradoxically, the cheapest quartz watch is much more accurate than the finest mechanical watches costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The monetary value of a simple quartz watch is practically zero. These watches are given away as promotional items and hundreds of examples exist all over the internet at sale prices of under $5, barely the retail price of the battery. At a casual glance, many of these cheap watches are practically identical to their high quality, ultra-expensive mechanical counterparts.
So, if you can procure the perfect watch for pennies and it is indistinguishable from the same fine heirloom example of a mechanical watch that needs more care, is less accurate while costing as much as a new car, why does the heirloom watch even exist?
There is no real need to have a watch at all. The function of time and it’s telling are all around us all of the time. One is more likely to be within sight of a timepiece than not. Our cell phones provide the precise time, all courtesy of syncopation with the atomic clock for precision almost impossible to imagine. Our computer screens provide the time, wall clocks are everywhere, radio and TV are constantly announcing the time and our vehicles all synchronize precisely with everyone and everything else. So why wear a watch at all?
Investing in a high quality watch is recognizing and appreciating the achievement of the device itself. We acknowledge the lack of precision; even celebrate it, because we understand our own shortcomings. Where the perfection of timekeeping costs almost nothing, the efforts of the imperfect man striving for the near divinity of perfection in its pursuit, is a mechanism worth so much more because we celebrate ourselves as humans; flawed, imperfect, yet made in the image of God himself and duty-bound to strive towards that standard, knowing we will fall well short, but are made better in the process.
Money means nothing without expectation. The meaningless of money is based upon the ample supply of it. Time is the only equally shared commodity regardless of ones station in life. Rich or poor, we agree on the measurement of time and we all have the availability of that time at our disposal in equal measure, however; what we decide to do with that time, how we allocate our activities and how jealously we guard our stewardship of it, is all up to us individually. The poor sell their time by the hour. The wise invest for the greatest return in the shortest amount of time, understanding that efficiency honors the fleeting and irreplaceable nature of time.
Watching the second hand on a watch face reminds us of the moment in time. The ticking of a watch mechanism animates the sound of life being lived; reminding us rhythmically of its continual and unwavering passing. The rigid staccato of a quartz watch, marching like an enemy soldier to a hideously regimented pace is the antithesis of the smooth, analog motion the fine watch provides in a soothing and fluid design created to lower anxiety and make beautiful the functionality itself.
The counterfeit Rolex sold on the street is as unlikely to be on the wrist of the rich man as is the genuine article on the poor one and strangely enough for the same reasons; neither celebrates the value. The poor man can’t tell the difference and the rich man trades his money for the imperfect yet infinitely more elegant effort that honors time, achievement, the humility of mankind and the omnipotence of God Almighty.
Over 250 years ago, Ben Franklin said, “Time is money.” The literal manifestation of this adage rests on the wrists of those who truly understand not only the nature of time and money, but the nature of man and God as well.
©Robert T. Kingsley