Previously we shared that a gentleman is always well dressed. And nothing completes a well-tailored attire better than a wristwatch. One simply doesn’t leave home with bare wrists. Whether suited and booted, or casually elegant, one’s outfit isn’t complete with bare wrists. Whilst many take to fashionable bracelets, a true gentleman doesn’t simply adorn decorative pieces for the sake of being fashionable. Hence, nothing beats a truly functional piece like a proper wristwatch when it comes to wrist adornment.
A Brief History Of The Wristwatch
The gentleman’s wristwatch dawned with the demands in the trenches of Western Front during The Great War (WW1). Prior to that, only ladies wore wristwatches. Or more accurately, wrist jewellery adorned with precious stones, metals, and sometimes, a working timepiece too. It was more jewellery than a functional timepiece. But on the battlefronts, accurate time telling was crucial to coordinate between the frontline troops and the artillery support. Pocket watches, which were popular until then, proved inconvenient when one’s hands were already armed with a rifle at ready. As a makeshift solution, the officers made leather pouches to hold their pocket watches, and attached them to their wrists.
Troops returning from the war continued wearing wristwatches in their civilian lives, instead of hanging them from their pockets. And before long, the men’s wristwatches started getting more popular than pocket watches.
Rise Of The Wristwatch Culture
Early 20th century saw the rapid advancement the world of horology. Many famous watchmakers made a name for themselves in the emerging market. New discoveries and technologies quickly adapted into the art of watchmaking. The big names in the horology world quickly established by the middle of the 20th century. Many of these brands have survived until today.
Few well-dressed men leave home with bare wrists. One’s simply not “complete” without an elegant timepiece on his wrist. Regardless whether a clean look of an elegant dress watch, or a robust sport watch with a multitude of complications.
Mechanical Wristwatch Movements Reign Supreme
Up until then, spring-powered mechanical movement reigned supreme. Advancements in horology meant shrinking of the gears, springs and levers, making newer movements even smaller than their predecessors. In essence, we’re now moving into the artistic world of micro-engineering. Not unlike the world of computers today, where devices are shrinking in physical size. Subsequent generations of mechanical movements are better engineered, contain more complications, yet smaller than their predecessors.
Three Ages Of Extinction Of The Mechanical Wristwatch
Like all established technology, newer advancements in technology will, in time, replace its predecessor. In the case of the mechanical wristwatch, there were three distinct phases of “extinction”.
(1) Superior Quartz Accuracy
Seiko ushered in the quartz age in 1969 with the introduction of the Seiko Astron. The world’s first commercially-sold wristwatch driven by a quartz movement. Considered by many to be the “most accurate” wristwatch to date. No prestigious Swiss brands from any reputable watchmakers could even dream of matching it. As the early 1970s came rolling by, more and more watchmakers started offering battery-powered, quartz-driven wristwatches too. Hey, if you can’t beat them, join them…
Mechanical movements come in a varying degree of accuracies when it comes to keeping time. Generally speaking, the more intricate the movement (read – more expensive), the more accurate the keeping of time will be. Unfortunately, even the most accurate mechanical movements (read – the most expensive) can’t even compete with a cheap quartz movement. Mechanical movements don’t even come close to the extremely accurate, and yet abundantly cheap, quartz movements.
The availability of affordable generic quartz movements in the market marked a paradigm shift in the world of watchmaking. Anybody can design their own wristwatch case, slap on a cheap, generic quartz movement, and market their own branded wristwatches. It’s no surprise that many companies with no horological background jumped on the bandwagon. Even fashion labels started offering cheap quartz wristwatches after that.
Everybody soon predicted the inevitable death of the mechanical wristwatch after that.
(2) Rise Of The Digital Watch Face
With the availability of the cheap generic quartz movement came even more radical changes. It’s no longer trendy to tell the time by the position of the hands sweeping across the radial watch face. People wanted to know the time up to the individual second. And deciding which side the minute hand was leaning towards was no longer “accurate” enough. The late 1970s introduced a new trend – the digital watch face.
Suddenly, the analogue watch face, with the hour markers printed on the dial, seemed “outdated”. Hence, the “modern” digital display is the way of the future, as the classic analogue watch face fell out of favour. It’s easier to add new complications to a digital watch face without cluttering the already busy-looking analogue watch face. Plus, with the abundance of the cheap, generic quartz movements, digital wristwatches, too were getting cheap… Real cheap…
Everybody predicted the imminent death of the mechanical wristwatch…. again…
(3) Wearing A Computer On Your Wrist
“Smartwatches” are not exactly new. They actually date back to the early 1970s. Highly specialised, and probably very expensive, most models aren’t even available commercially. I’d hazard a guess that they were more technology demonstrators than being functional timepieces. It wasn’t until 2015, when Apple made it trendy with the introduction of the Apple Watch. Advancement in computer hardware miniaturisation made what was then physically (and financially) impossible now possible, and relatively affordable too. They even managed to shrink the computer down to the size of a wristwatch. Hence, you’re essentially wearing a computer on your wrist.
You now have tremendous computing power on your wrist. Not to mention also the accuracy of syncing the time to the atomic clock via GPS satellites. Even wristwatches with the extremely accurate quartz movements pale in comparison. Is there even a reason to even consider anything other than smartwatches?
If the mechanical wristwatch still hasn’t died, it definitely will soon. I mean, is the horological micro-engineering still even relevant today?… Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes…
The Mechanical Wristwatch Is Still Very Much Alive Today
The original purpose of the wristwatch was to track and tell the passage of time. But today, it has evolved beyond merely telling the time. It has now, more than ever, become an accessory to complete the well-dressed gentleman. It’s an indication of the relationship between the gentleman with time. And a subtle, simple looking dress watch is the best complement to his business suit. And that’s a clear indication of a person who respects punctuality, for both himself and his host.
Obituaries announcing the death of the mechanical wristwatches were plentiful in the past. So much so that I really wonder if it really died at all. Up until today, it has already survived three ages of extinction. And it’s likely to face many more ages of extinction in the decades to come. So if you fancy yourself a gentleman, and respect punctuality, then complete your look with a mechanical wristwatch.
“I Can’t Afford A Reputable Mechanical Wristwatch…”
We hear the same excuse all the time, that reputable mechanical wristwatches cost an arm and a leg. There’s no doubt that there ARE specialty watchmakers whose offerings do indeed cost as much as an average car. But do shop around. You might actually find some moderately priced modern mechanical wristwatches around. Of course, you don’t necessarily need one from a horological big name. There actually are many smaller independent watchmakers, or even large companies offering affordable mechanical wristwatch models.
At the end of the day, it’s not so much the absolute accuracy in time keeping anymore. You have your smartphone for that. It’s more about the gentleman’s relationship with time. And if you enjoy mesmerising at the advanced micro-engineering of the mechanical movement, that’s a bonus too.
Fancy Yourself A Horology Connoisseur?
If you consider yourself a gentleman and horology connoisseur, don’t forget to complete your look with a timeless mechanical wristwatch. It’s definitely worth the investment. Every newly launched modern smartwatches will be obsolete within a few years. By the launch of the subsequent model, your current smartwatch will halve in usefulness and value. But your mechanical wristwatch will continue to serve you well, and satisfy you for many more decades to come.
If you’re interested to build your brand identity as a gentleman, do get in touch with Solarex Imaging. In the meantime, leave your thoughts in the poll below. And if you have any other opinions to convey, feel free to leave a comment below.