Against all odds, it seems the wristwatch has found a place all its own in the 21st century. In fact, watches are experiencing a surge in popularity. Not only are heavy hitters buying investment grade pieces, but a younger generation is also discovering the beauty of mechanical watches for the first time. So with new digital gadgets and wearables constantly flowing into the market, what is keeping the wristwatch relevant?
Editor's note: This is the last in a series of introductory pieces on mechanical watches from our friends at Hodinkee. You can read the rest here.
Modern watches have done more than grow in size over the past 50 years (for better or worse): they have also pushed the boundaries of how we read and interact with time. Progressive watchmakers such as Urwerk, Christophe Claret and MB&F have shed conventional wisdom in order to re-interpret what a mechanical watch can be from the ground up. This means using cutting edge production techniques, creating decidedly modern designs, and telling compelling stories to elevate their vision far beyond a circle with three hands.
The UR110 from Urwerk, for instance, ditches the hour hand for 3 orbital satellites that track minutes along a vertical arc. Having a hard time visualising that? Check out this video. The Opus 11 from Harry Winston is quite literally made up of small pieces that flourish to display the time, which you can see in action right here.
One commonality between many of these horological outliers is a man named Max Busser (the MB of MB&F). It is his vivid imagination that has brought us the brilliant Horological Machines and Legacy Machine One, and his knack for bringing people together that brought us Harry Winston's Opus series. Not only has he helped bring the wristwatch squarely into the 21st century, but in doing so has caught the attention of a generation increasingly detached from the analogue and mechanical world.
Sure these examples live well outside of the average budget, but they are nonetheless important in that they hold public interest and build excitement around the craft of watchmaking in general. So instead of cashing in your 401(k) to buy an HM3, maybe you'll settle for something like a d.m.h. that captures the spirit without the price tag.
Either way, looking at your wrist for the time will be a far greater treat than pulling a phone out of your pocket. The people around you just might appreciate it that much more as well.
HODINKEE is a robust online magazine featuring in-depth reviews, critiques and reports on watches of a particularly high calibre.