Americans in general don’t get super excited about watches. With our phones providing us exact time, most just don’t see the need for a single purpose piece of jewelry. And a few do see them as fantastic jewelry, proof they have made it.
Well, for a few of us, including myself, a watch is much more than jewelry. It’s engineering. It’s enduring. It’s mechanical. Powered by the tightening of a spring, by hand or by the swinging of a pendulum caused by body movement. And yes, they tell time. Some are water resistant at 4000 ft of water. They range from single hand 12 hour views to multiple “complications”. Some have c0-axial escapements that eliminates friction increasing accuracy and decreasing wear. Some very high end watches have a tourbillon which ensures the watch runs perfectly no matter the angle it’s positioned which again increases accuracy and reduces wear.
The inner wheels and gears turn around jewel bearings made of synthetic sapphire and ruby. The main spring turns a a balance wheel that oscillates back and forth to deliver power to the gears, consistently, that turn the hands, the date functions and more, near perfectly, over a long period of time, years in fact. All while being swung around by a human, dropped, sometimes not used for days with no power in the mainspring. Yet, they last.
Expensive watch movements may sit in cases made of stainless steel, titanium, ceramic, gold, silver with straps of all of those metals or with straps made from hides that repel water and last.
Most of these fantastic devices are build in Germany and Switzerland and are not assembled by robots. They are created by watchmakers by hand yet can still be bought by almost anybody.
My favorite watch? I bought it just over 10 years ago. It’s a Nomos Tangente. Nomos is a company located in the prestigious watch making capital of Germany called Glasshütte. However, mine is more than the advertised one found in high end watch shops or on the Nomos web site. In 2003, Nomos partnered with one of Germany’s most prestigious jewelry store chains as it celebrated its 125 years in business at its 25 stores with 125 special Nomos Tangente watches engraved uniquely for each store. Two friends of mine in Germany knew of my interest in special timepieces and let me know about this. So I decided to buy one. I chose the Wempe closest to my base of operation at the time. In Manheim. My Nomos has a sapphire crystal back allowing you to see the mechanicals with the Manheim city emblem engraved on the back of the movement. A great watch, unique, with a story. It’s hand wound (not an automatic), simple in design and doesn’t say “I’m here”. I really enjoy watching it operate with a magnifying glass. This is fantastic engineering and design.
Read a bit more about the Wempe Jubilee edition of the Nomos Tangente.