Friday, February 3, 2017

The Perfect Watch

My Seiko 5 is pretty darn close to perfect. This is my Seiko 5:

There are many others like it, but this one is mine. (I'm going to keep on telling this joke until somebody gets it.) (I might not even stop then.)

Those of you who saw the earlier photo of my Seiko 5 on this blog, posted about a month ago when I first got the watch, may sense that something has changed. Here is that earlier photo:

Your keen instincts are correct. Something has changed: the nylon strap has been removed.

There's nothing wrong with the wrist strap. It is a good strap, sturdy and beautiful. Unfortunately, it is just barely too small for me to use: it took a great deal of effort for me to fasten the strap around my wrist using the last hole, and when I finally did, it was much too tight. And so I removed it, thinking at first that I would replace it.

But now I don't know whether I will. I prefer pocket watches to wristwatches, and with or without its sturdy, beautiful nylon strap, my Seiko 5 fits comfortable into a variety of my pockets. I haven't actually searched very energetically for a replacement strap. One advantage of not having a strap is that it makes it a little easier to look at the back of the watch. And the back of the watch looks like this:

Pretty cool, huh? I know!

Now, some of you maying be saying: Sure, Steve, yr Seiko 5 is awesome, clearly. But of all the watches in the world, how can you say that it is close to perfect, when we know that you know a little bit about some pretty fancy watches -- Rolexes and Patek Philippes and Audemars Piguets and what not?

Well, one big advantage which my Seiko 5 has over those fancy items is that I have never held a Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet in my hand, and I've only held a Rolex once, because a nice saleslady in a watch shop let me hold it for a moment -- but I didn't hold it long enough for it to make a strong impression. I can hold my Seiko 5 whenever I want to. I held it just now, between typing "[...]strong impression." and "I can[...]" This lends it an immediacy which those other watches, at present, do not have for me. My Seiko 5 makes me very happy. (Can ya tell?)

Nevertheless, I can imagine a watch which would be even more perfect.

Perfect for me. The perfect one for you would be different, and the perfect one for another person would be different again, because we people are all unique.

My perfect watch would be a pocket watch. I said before on this blog that watch manufacturers couldn't make a pocket watch too big and heavy for me. Well, I keep learning more about watches all the time, and I'm pretty sure that they have made some which are too big for me. There's the Patek Philippe Calibre 89, for example, presented to the watch-porn public in 1989. 89 mm wide, 41 mm thick -- roughly the size of a hockey puck -- and well over 2 pounds. It's value has been estimated at around $6 million, but that may be just an abstract estimate, because only 4 were made -- 1 each in yellow gold, rose gold, white gold and platinum -- and it may well be that none of them is actually for sale at any price.

If I ever get to the position where I can afford to spend $6 million on a watch, and it turns out that a Patek Philippe Calibre 89 is for sale, and I get to hold it in my hands, it may turn out that I don't find it too big at all, but just perfect. But trying to imagine it now, it really seems like it would be too big for me to carry around. I don't know if anyone could comfortably carry a pocket watch that big.

Then there's the Audemars Piguet 25701, a large pocket watch, currently made, not an antique, made in various shades of gold. I might find it to be actually too big and heavy as well, I don't know, I'd have to actually hold one to have an idea about that. And as they seem to cost closer to $1 million than $500,000, it may be a while before I have to decide if it's for me.

The absolute perfect watch for me might actually be a rather modestly-sized pocket watch. But I would want as much of it as possible to be made of platinum. Do you seek to know me? Then you must know that I like gold and am daffy about platinum, and that with both metals, heaviness is a lot of the appeal. Platinum is heavier than gold. It's the heaviest material -- or, to be more precise: alloys of platinum are the heaviest materials out of which a watch can be made. Anything heavier would either be brittle or radioactive.

So, my perfect pocket watch might be not remarkably wide, and not remarkably thick, but it would be remarkably heavy because it would be mostly platinum-alloy. And a remarkably heavy platinum chain to go with it would also be perfect.

Next, we come to the movement. It would, of course, be mechanical and not quartz: that is, the watch would be powered by a spring, and not by a battery. Why, and why of course? I don't know how to explain it to you. Maybe someone else could explain it to you. Maybe not. Whether there are actual reasons for it or not, I am one of a whole group of people who are fascinated by mechanical watches, and not interested in quartz watches very much at all.

Watches with mechanical movements, that is: watches powered by springs and not by batteries, fall into 2 categories: automatic and hand-wound. Most mechanical wristwatches made today, from the least expensive to the most expensive, are automatics: you don't have to wind them if you wear them on your wrist all day. The normal movement of your wrist will wind the spring.

But I'm obsessive-compulsive, and obsessive-compulsives will always worry about whether their automatic watches are going to run down even though we know it's irrational to worry about it.

Some automatic watches can be hand-wound. Not the Seiko 5. And I also don't wear my Seiko 5 on my wrist. So there's a certain amount of waving my watch back and forth to keep it wound.

Being obsessive-compulsive, I not only worry that my watch will wind down and stop because I haven't waved it back and forth enough. I also worry that maybe I wave it back and forth much too much, and that the excessive shaking is putting excess wear and tear on my beloved innocent little Seiko 5! (Yes, I just referred to my watch as if it were a living thing, like a pet which can experience enjoyment and suffering. I'm aware that this is not an entirely rational attitude. I'm fine with that. I am who I am.)

Maybe I will learn much more about what is good and bad for a watch such as mine, and maybe I will learn ways to know how tight or loose my watches mainspring is, and what effects may or may not come from always being wound up too tight (insert psychiatric joke here) and so forth.

I am not aware of the existence of any automatic pocket watches. All the ones I know about are either battery-driven, or mechanical hand-wind.

But an obsessive-compulsive person can still experience mental anguish with a manually-wound watch: What if you forgot to wind it today?

There's an answer to that anguish, called the power-reserve indicator. This is a feature on the face of some hand-wound watches (I've never seen one on an automatic) which shows how much time is left until the watch winds down and stops.

What a wonderful feature! I wonder whether it was invented with people in mind who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it definitely is suffering. For whatever reason it was invented, it's as if it was made to order, or made to disorder, for us.

Mechanical watches made today generally will run from 40 to 60 hours or more from fully-wound to stopped. Another way to say that is: they have a power reserve of from 40 to 60 or more hours. One wristwatch I know of has a power reserve of 7 days, another of 31 days and one can run for 50 days between windings, the longest power reserve I've ever heard of.

[PS, 5 February 2017: I just found out about another long-distance runner: the Calibre 947 movement by Jaeger-LeCoultre --

-- has a power reserve of 15 days.]

On my perfect, modestly-sized, platinum pocket watch, I think a power reserve of several days or more would be nice. But it would definitely have to have a power-reserve indicator in order to be perfect.

There are a lot of other things which new fancy mechanical watches often have: stopwatches, second hour hands for the 2nd time zone of your choice, alarms, etc, etc. A new Rolex or Omega may well have many complication which I don't even understand, and I'd have to read the owner's manual and hope that then I'd understand what all that stuff on the watch is. Any function other than just an hour hand, a minute hand and a second hand is called a complication. A power reserve indicator is a complication. I'm not sure whether the indicators of the day of the week and of the day of the month on my Seiko 5 are called a complication or 2 complications.

Other than the power reserve indicator, which I definitely want, I'm really not that crazy about complications. Do I like having the day of the week and of the month on my Seiko 5? Yeah, sure. Would I really miss them if they were gone or if they stopped working? I'm not sure I'd miss them much at all.

However, it's certainly conceivable that as time goes on and I learn more about complications, they will have more appeal for me.

The implication of this, of course, is that the perfect watch for me, or for any person, will change as that person changes.

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