Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mechanical Pocket Watches

Mechanical pocket watches -- ones which are wound by hand, as opposed to being battery- or light-powered or something else -- are still manufactured today. They may (or may not) be hard to find in your local jewelry store, but in this case as in many others of items rare or offbeat, Amazonrides in to the rescue. At last count they offer 382 different models of mechanical pocket watches, that's not all watches, but pocket watches, and not even all pocket watches, but just mechanical pocket watches. Just the ones which are wound up manually. And also no antiques. Antique pocket watches may be the bulk of the pocket-watch market overall, but these are 382 models of new ones.

In case you're wondering -- yes, I've noticed that some people think that pocket watches are geeky, and not at all in a good way. That doesn't really bother me. Put it this way: it seems that a lot of guys wear pork-pie hats. (I don't recall ever having seen a women wear a pork-pie hat.) I think pork-pie hats look stupid. (And frankly, the very thought of a woman wearing one seems much worse still than men wearing them, the very thought appalls me.) But I don't think there's any reason for pork-pie-hat-wearers to be bothered by my opinion of their headwear. If you're worried about people laughing at what you wear, you and I are traveling through life on completely different trains, it's just as simple as that.

There seem to be many more very inexpensive mechanical pocket watches available at Amazon than there were a few months ago. (I'm talking under $30.) Maybe they're much more plentiful in brick-and-mortar jewelry stores than the last time I looked, too. I don't know whether more are actually being made now, or whether the change at Amazon only happened at Amazon: whether they just suddenly scoured that market niche a little harder. I've seen some signs of worry of an impending disruption of the mechanical-watch market by means of a great dumping of inexpensive Chinese mechanical movements. Perhaps this has come to pass and all these under-$30 wind-up pocket watches on Amazon are a sign of it.

Maybe pocket watches have actually come back, fashion-wise, and some of those who recently pointed and laughed at them wear them now. Who knows? (Not me, that's who.)

There still seems to be one very distinct difference between new pocket watches and new wristwatches: while wristwatches often cost six figures or more, pocket watches seem to top out at two or three thousand dollars. I can't find a (new) solid gold pocket watch for sale anywhere. If pocket watches were really and truly back, fashion-wise, wouldn't there be gold and platinum pocket watches being made, as there were decades ago? (Again: I don't know. I don't even know whether my not being able to find such new high-end pocket watches really means that they're not being made.)

I find it somewhat hard to evaluate the reliability of the information I've found about watches, all watches, which I've found on the Internet and in books, because almost all of it is written by manufacturers or dealers, and I don't know how much of what they say is just plain advertising for their own wares. Not just with stuff written recently, either. There's an interesting little book, barely 60 pages long including the Dedication and Preface, The Watch: Its Construction, Its Merits And Defects, How To Choose It, And How To Use It,published by Henry F Piaget in 1860. You're thinking, Ah, Piaget, one of the famous Swiss watchmakers. Nope. This Piaget was an American watchmaker. The famous Swiss Piaget company wasn't founded until 14 years after Henry published his little book. But there were plenty of other Swiss watch manufacturers in 1860. To hear Henry tell it, the best watches in his day were made in the US and England, and Switzerland was flooding the world watch market with items which were flashy and inexpensive and not particularly good. Was that really the case, or is Henry's book just advertising and did he slag the Swiss only because they were his biggest competitors? Or was Henry exaggerating the case just slightly? Perhaps not meaning to be dishonest at all, but an enthusiastic salesman and a little carried away? (Once again: I have no idea.)

For the sake of whatever, let's take Henry F Piaget, and the people warning about a dire invasion of crappy cheap Chinese watches today, at their word. In that case, in 150 years the Swiss went from dumpers of mass-produced junk to the world's leader in the making of fine luxury watches. Maybe in 2160 China will be the acknowledged home of the best crafters of handmade beautiful expensive watches, and -- oh, let's say, Germany will be in the process of transforming the watch market by flooding it with cheap junk.

Or maybe by 2160 almost no one will wear a watch anymore. Or maybe most people won't even know what a watch is. Already today mobile communication devices have replaced watches to a great degree. Will there still be 24 hours in a day in 2160? How many people will even call it 2160? There's no "Duh-duh-DUHHH" here, the thought of such changes doesn't alarm me, I'm just wondering.

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