“A detailed diary from John Arnold would have settled many of the continuing arguments about the originator of the lever escapement, albeit many keen horologists would have been denied the pleasure of getting angry with each other.” – Kenneth Ullyett, “Watch Collecting,” 1970
Watches, it must be said, are not a rational preoccupation; we tend to love them, or hate them, and because we don’t all love or hate the same thing, a lot of the time we argue over things that must seem unlikely, or even outlandish, to people who don’t share our fascination for mechanical timepieces. Here are five things that produced divided opinions among HODINKEE readers in 2015 (and “divided opinions” is putting it mildly).
Quartz, Oh Boy, Quartz
Quartz is something that is probably always going to be divisive to mechanical watch enthusiasts in particular, and watch enthusiasts in general. Our foray into putting some of our favorite, most historically interesting or technically advanced quartz watches out there met with decidedly mixed reviews, and with good reason: for many mechanical watch lovers, the fact that quartz wristwatches exist at all is a bit of an affront. Still, they’re indisputably a technology that certainly can be interesting, and that offers surprising and unexpected variations in quality, and despite the despair with which some folks greeted an uptick in our quartz coverage (“I miss the old HODINKEE,” lamented one commenter, to which another shot back, “You mean, like, last Friday?”) they’re not only obviously here to stay, but something even the most diehard mechanical fan can learn to appreciate at least, if not love. Check out our look at an historic Girard Perregaux quartz watch right here, and for a look at quartz at the high end both technically and aesthetically, have a look at this Grand Seiko.
“In-house” – it remains, for watch enthusiasts, probably the single biggest red flag there is. Much to our amazement, brands – and some of them, very good brands – persist in using the term when it’s not really apt. The problem with calling a watch or watch movement in-house is that on the brand side, you really don’t get to define the term, unless you want a tremendous amount of grief. It’s important, instead, if you don’t want to get into oodles of hot water, to understand what the term has come to mean to customers, not to try and retcon a definition that fits marketing needs into it. That said, the more persistent and perhaps more relevant question long term is, does it really make a difference if a watch is in-house? Here at HODINKEE, we actually do have a position on that, which is that taken alone, it hardly matters at all. In watchmaking, we’ve always believed that how you do what you do is what really counts. And based on what we heard from you, the HODINKEE reader, you pretty much feel the same way: honesty and transparency pay off big time; obfuscation doesn’t.
Read a little more about our position on the subject right here.
Rolex, Because Rolex
If love of watches and watchmaking is by definition irrational (and by and large I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to agree that like most things human, we react viscerally and find so-called reasons after the fact) then the object of some of the most irrational passion in the watch universe is Rolex – ironically, perhaps, because on a certain level, this is one of the most rational (read: pragmatic) brands. The most vivid demonstrations of this come in two flavors; the first is when Rolex does something that Rolex fans feel is inconsistent with brand identity (gem-setting, no matter how well The Crown does it, never seems to get a pass from the faithful) and of course, whenever someone sees a Rolex you love, differently from the way you see it. We’d like to say there’s a unified front on at least one Rolex, but there isn’t – the only common thread is that when it comes to Rolex, watch lovers love to disagree almost as much as they love Rolex.
As a result, and as we observed last year, wearing Rolexes can come with a certain amount of philosophical baggage – especially, perhaps, this one.
Googling “Hodinkee Date Window” produces about 45,000+ returns, and the second return has this line of text as the text snippet: “The afterthought of a date window on this one is an example of what not . . . ” Needless to say, the remainder of the comment was not a paean of praise for the sense and intelligence of the designers of the watch in question. Team Date Window and Team No Date Window – ne’er the twain shall meet, it seems, with the former deriding the latter as absurdly prescriptive and doctrinaire, and the latter deriding the former as absurdly tasteless and lax. You either couldn’t care less about, or resented the hell out of, the date window in 2015; to see the absence of a happy medium in all its glory, have a look right here.
And no, there is apparently not going to be a modus vivendi reached between the two sides any time soon.
Cruelty To Animals
This one, folks, was our April Fool’s Day post from last year and it was, I thought at the time (I wasn’t with HODINKEE yet) both pretty damned funny and also a good litmus test for who did and did not know it was April Fool’s Day. Many of you got the joke; but a surprising number actually thought it was an actual watch, with actual ants, that you could actually buy (and then presumably watch them slowly expire in their little prison). Just in case anyone is wondering I just walked across the office and confirmed with none other than Benjamin Clymer himself that the watch in fact never existed. A surprisingly large number of people apparently didn’t think it was funny, even as a joke in which no actual ants were harmed.
And apparently, you still think being mean to the beasts of the field (and, we presume, the fish of the sea and the birds of the air) is in very poor taste, and in at least one very conspicuous recent case, we have to say, we’re with you on this one.
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