A recent visit to Geneva has set me thinking about watches. My first thought was: why would anyone shell out money for a mechanical watch when a cell phone can tell the time with the satellite-guaranteed accuracy? But after a little thought I’ve come to think that we need the mechanical wrist watch, now more than ever.
The reason? A watch that has to be wound reminds us that machines are as reliant on humans as we are on them. Technology has never been more important for us in our daily lives—as the ubiquity of cell phones, ear buds and blue-tooth headsets makes clear. As we are increasingly surrounded by technology, it becomes more important than ever that we have a way of culturally expressing the truth that as much as men rely on machines, machines remain dependent on their human creators. In other words, our interactions with machines are, however much steel they involve, human interactions because we are dealing with the artifacts of man.
Wearing a mechanical watch, then, is not just a way of telling time, it’s a way of expressing a central and important truth about man and his environment. When understood that way, it’s easier to see why a fine timepiece might be worth its sometimes imposing price tag.