Our vision of watchmaking

The following lines only implicate me. You can agree and disagree, I leave you the comments area to express your opinion. Now that it has been said, let’s go right to the subject.

I will try here to bring you to a reflection on watchmaking. I want it to be punchy to give you the opportunity to analyze that industry.

Baudouin van Es
Baudouin van Es, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tourbillon Watch

The three levels of interest in watchmaking

I’m talking about levels because what compose them speaks, or not, to us. Let me explain.

When you look a piece of watchmaking, three elements can arouse our interest. First, there is the mechanism, then the time display and finally the story told by the watch.

Personally, the story told by a piece and its dial talks more easily to me than its mechanism. Probably the reason why I particularly like into the creations of independents watchmakers.

horlogerie mécanique

The mechanism, a false quest for precision

We all agree to say that watches aren’t necessary anymore. I’m not even wearing one as I’m writing these few lines. You are more likely to check the time on your smartphone instead of your watch. And yet, we keep buying and wearing some.

A watch can be two distinctive things as it can be two things at the same time.

  • It’s a tool to measure time. Its precision is what will guide its continued improvement. A mechanical movement being less precise than a quartz or an atomic one, it will have to be left behind. What must interest and occupy engineers, is the search for the miniaturization of an atomic clock to mutate it into a wristwatch.

  • It’s a fashion accessory. In that view, the precision quest is put aside to let the appearance be the attractive point. Diamonds, baguettes, engine-turning, stippling, and mirror polish are now on stage. Mostly devoid of purpose useful to the functioning, it contributes to the expression of a personality and mastery of an expertise.

Now that we have thought about it, when we look at the watch market in general, we see that there is no more innovation. The technical development generates the appearance of new materials, but there is no innovation to evolve what the watch is.

If technology is evolving each year creating new products with even more new functionalities, watchmaking is, on the other hand, stagnating.

But does it have to evolve?

La lecture de l'heure

Reading the time

The dial is the tip of the iceberg which allow our eyes to read the information. I think it can only be focused on that function. It must give us the opportunity to escape from to daily routine for a moment. Imbued with poetry, it must capture the eye to make us travel.

But where to?

Inside the story that links you to this very watch. Stop reading this and look into the dial of your watch to begin a journey into your past.

The story of the models

Key watchmaking players usually offer reeditions of existing models that made their reputation. If we could bring back to life Breguet, Audemars, Vacheron, Piguet, Constantin or Wilsdorf and they saw what was being done in their Maisons, do you think they’d be pleased?

All these famous brands are recognizable by their style. But do their new watches pay tribute to their creator by concentrating inside it their masters’ souls? What would these men do today? To that question I don’t have an answer, but I share with you my thoughts. The 20th Century has been the time for big novelties. How about the 21st Century?

Now that I have shared with you the initiation to that reflection and my many questions, I invite you to share your opinion and thoughts about it, and who knows, it might make it go deeper!