Watch Makers, Like Watch Lovers, Are Totally Crazy

Our delusion as watch lovers is crazy, but perhaps the watch industry itself is even more guilty of living with obvious insanity.


By Ariel Adams

To many people the definition of “crazy” is knowing that you are doing something irrational and continuing to do it. In our modern times the expansive size of the mechanical watch industry, along with our passion for obsolete items of beauty and craftsmanship is utterly without compelling rationale. No one needs a mechanical wrist watch to inform them of any information that is not almost immediately better served through modern technology. We delude ourselves into the fantasy notion that we are perhaps living in the past, and that the promise of a reliable mechanical timepiece is somehow the solution to our daily need to stay remain on time.

Our delusion as watch lovers is crazy, but perhaps the watch industry itself is even more guilty of living with obvious insanity. Production volumes and prices of timepieces are at levels barely comprehendible in modern capitalist markets where these items of art and collectability are produced as though they are still necessary commodities. How frequently does a consumer decide to purchase a new wrist watch because without it he or she would be unable to know the current moment in the day? Rather, are watches not sold as celebratory items and to satisfy the addictions of those passionate about their craft?

The Swiss watch industry, with its engrained penchant for manufacturing precision and efficiency, is oftentimes blissfully unaware that the world has long since stopped needing it. As a counter to the obvious progression of consumer and technological culture the watch industry has turned to the evils of fashion to peddle their goods – with remarkable success thanks to the power of how image and status measure into any self-respecting consumer’s sense of self-worth. The deal with the image-conscious devil has given a new life to the watch industry as a luxury items whose continued existence and support of traditional artistic communities and craftsman is hinged on marketing the notion that time is precious, and so are the traditional items that were designed to indicate it.

A nostalgia for vintage watches has erupted in part because watch connoisseurs look fondly at a time when watches were sold as watches, and art was more democratic. Today’s watch industry is inextricably linked to the notion that time is luxury and that luxury should be exclusive. In this context exclusivity is not actual rarity but pricing. Costs for watches have exploded as the Swiss watch industry has nurtured the notion that its goods are only for the rich, more rich, and ultra-rich. If you are fortunate you may be lucky enough to fall into one of these classes.

Continued participation in such a system is crazy. We know it is irrational and yet the effort of many intelligent and hardworking men and women furthers the life of the eternally undying watch industry that is fueled by sale of something quite rare and unexpected – art that men actually want. Watches are the ultimate trap for men of education and an eye for detail. While women of course are gracious customers of timepieces, the world’s most impressive and complicated timepieces are designed for the wrists of men. Otherwise sensible and even thrifty men who have achieved the requisite amount of disposable income can be ensnared by the allure of beautiful and interesting mechanical timepiece. Rationality falls to the side as we are captivated by the siren’s call of history, mechanical technology, and hand-craftsmanship. We have no rationale reason for loving timepieces other than the fact that are a beauty unlike anything else we have at our disposal. Alas, inspect the body of most watch loving men and no doubt the most precious and expensive item on his entire person will be his timepieces.