A watch can seem as an complicated accessory, but it is so much more.
It is kind of ironic, if you think about it, that the watch has become the modern man’s most timeless accessory. Tell me, when was the last time you closed that beautiful leather or metal strap to keep track of time? Our answer would probably be never. Yet time remains the most scarce resource in present day.
As we get older, time begins to slowly slip away. We meet new people, we get more responsibilities and our independence tempts us to explore new things. All of a sudden, we constantly need to be at two places at once and our self-critical nature demands us to be 100% present in every aspect of our lives.
In a world where the talk of time has turned into a discussion on efficiency, optimization and lean management, we decided to dedicate this piece to the concept of time as a phenomenon and how our historical fascination with time has influenced the almost sentimental value that a classic watch has become for the modern man.
The style of a British clockmaker
Around the 16th century, about two centuries after the first mechanical watch was sold, a small group of British men met up at a small atelier in a small town at the outskirts of London. They were all clockmakers. At the time, being a clockmaker was simply a humble profession. A way to accommodate the rich and royal and put bread and butter on the table.
The men were experts of an international calibre. They had travelled around the world solving some of the most challenging riddles hidden in a broken watch. The purpose of their meeting was to establish a small society of craftsmen that would pay tribute to their profession and share knowledge and experiences. It didn’t take long until the news of the skilled society had spread and noble men from far and wide came to get their pocket watch cared for and fixed, by the best of the best.
The society became known as the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and the appreciation for their skills and detailed work was reborn as a highly respected art form, reserved for only the most patient and skilled craftsmen. The society still exist today and is now a charitable association, but remains the oldest surviving institution in the world, continuously paying tribute to the watch and the profession of clockmakers.
A piece of history
At the heart of London City, you find Pendulum of Mayfair. A shop that immediately leaps to the eye. Not because of its size or some flashy facade, but because it is a little piece of 16th-18th century history placed right in the middle of fasttrack popular culture. Try to imagine a wall build out of clocks. All kinds of different clocks. That is the exact sight that meets the eye when you step inside Pendulum of Mayfair.
The same family, who has run the business throughout the past 40 years, sell every type of antique watch produced throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th century. In the back of the store, you will discover a little workshop that is open for visitors where time is spent repairing and restoring the oldest and most fragile clock pieces which are still intact. Truly a symbol of passion and paramount fascination of a tiny element of history that has shaped the modern man’s perception of his watch and how it should be treated.
Tempus Rerum Imperator
It comes from the ancient Latin language and means ‘Time is the ruler of all things’. Besides being the motto of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, it also embodies how our understanding of time has shifted. What is so fascinating about this modern-day appreciation for the history of time, that Pendulum of Mayfair represent, is the very different mindset, in contrast to how we think about time today.
Today, time truly is the ruler of all things. It constrains our ability to do everything our heart desires and it often forces us to think efficiency before quality. It makes unforgettable moments of love and cherish a minority because the lack of time deprive us for the courage to stand still and enjoy life for just a little bit longer. However, the history of time tell us something different. That’s the tale of patience and a keen eye for details. Cutting corners to get ahead is not an option. The tangible construction of time was considered a mastery. A calm endurance of complexity.
Today the quality of many modern clocks is far inferior than the items produced by these past masters originating from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. It may reflect our constant need to rush. Be quicker, faster and more efficient. But the history of time have left its mark on the carrier of the watch and the love that goes into design, feel and details, even though they might be mass-produced.
Every man has his favorite watch. The one that has a history. A sentimental value. He may only wear it for special occasions or he may wear it every day. The point is, that he takes care of it. He treats it with respect and it is selected specifically to him. To reflect his personality and to signal the man he is or strives to be. In a way, the watch is still an element of art. Just as you would buy a painting that reflect your style, the details of your home, your temper. In the same way, the watch on a modern man’s wrist reflect his nature. His lifestyle. And his identity.