Monday, November 13, 2017

No Second Hands

Until quite recently, I assumed that watches made in the 20th or 21st centuries all had second hands, or other ways of displaying seconds such as digitally, with the exception of that one weird thing which has 1 hour hand on a 24-hour dial, which never appealed to me (and still doesn't), what with its genuine Swiss-Made quartz movement and all. I'm a mechanical watch guy. The one possible exception to mechanical I could imagine owning would be a Casio G-Shock.

But then I noticed that a lot of the really expensive mechanical watches I'd been avidly looking at pictures of have no second hands. I first noticed this with the Panerai brand, whose prices appear to start well up into 4 figures and end way, way up in 5 figures, if not higher. I had looked at pictures of lots and lots of new Panerais before I noticed that either all or almost all of them have either a small seconds hand at 9 o'clock,

or, in many, many cases, no second hand at all:

See the words "8 DAYS" above the 6 there? That means the watch, like many Panerais, has an 8-day power reserve: wind it up all the way, then stick in in a drawer and go on a week-long vacation, and it'll still be running when you get back. What surprises me even more than the lack of a second-hand, on an 8-day watch, is the lack of a power reserve indicator. 8 days is a way-above-average power reserve. I'd definitely want a power reserve indicator on an 8-day watch. Some 8-day Panerais have them, some don't.

Anyway, back to second hands: I soon found out that Panerai was by no means unusual in making very expensive watches, watches with gold or platinum cases in some cases, with no second hands. I've investigated online discussions about the topic of the second hand. Not everyone is shocked like me about all the expensive watches with no second hands. Some say that the face of a dress watch with no second hand is "elegant" or "uncluttered." Same say: why do you need a second hand?

I don't need a second hand. I don't NEED a watch, but I WANT one. A pocket watch with a sweep second hand and a huge power reserve and a power reserve indicator and a platinum case and a thick platinum chain.

Then I thought of all of those extremely-expensive watches with tourbillons. The tourbillon is an extremely-expensive, extremely-complicated feature in some watch movements. The tourbillon was invented around 1795. In 1795, it helped a watch to be more accurate and precise. Today, much simpler movements are as accurate and precise, or more so, than the now unnecessarily-complicated tourbillon movement. Nobody at all, today, NEEDS a watch with a tourbillon movement, but some people WANT them so much that they will pay six or seven figures for such a watch. And such watches, naturally, often do not have second hands. Indeed, it's often hard to see the hour and minute hands. But seeing those hands is not really the point. They're kind of just getting in the way of looking at the tourbillon through the watch's transparent case.

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