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Feature: Only Watch People Understand These Weird Things

Being a watch owner is simple, right? You put it on, it tells you the time? No, no it is not. Owning a watch may be simple, but being a watch owner, a watch person, is a very different story. We’ve got the new HMS002 and BICOMPAX 002 from Baltic here to convey what that’s actually like. Perhaps a few of these may be familiar to you…

Feeling Vulnerable Without It

You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone, as the saying goes—and watches are no different. Perhaps you’re in a rush for work, you’ve lost your keys and your dog’s just been sick, and after the furore, you finally settle into your commute to realise … it’s gone. Your watch is not there, on your wrist. Nothing but skin.

Remember those dreams where you’re up in front of an audience without a stitch, nothing but you and your shame for all the world to see? Like the dream, the absence of the familiar weight of your timepiece leaves you feeling naked, exposed. The almost imperceptible difference it has on your mobility is somehow as noticeable as having your hand cut off entirely.

Why is that? Why does it have such a profound effect? Well, the dream is believed to be driven by guilt, perhaps, or inferiority, a fear of being exposed—but I think that’s a bit much for a little flash of wrist. No, I think it’s a sense of control, or rather losing it, something so normal and so familiar being out of place and the shock of having let that happen. It’s a tiny slip on the hold of reality that most of us feel we’re desperately clinging onto anyway. First, the watch, then … who knows. Our sanity?

Discovering The Wrist Bone

You can be as old as you like, there will always be something new to discover on your body. Whether it’s a new mole—get it checked out if its uneven or changes shape or colour by the way—a direction you didn’t know you could bend in or just the gradual worry of ongoing deterioration, our bodies are mysterious and revealing, surprising us in ways we never thought possible.

For instance, when you’re not a watch person, you think very little about your wrist. It’s the shaft of a broom, neither the handle nor the head; it’s the bread in your sandwich, not the sauce or the filling—it’s just kind of there and it does what it does without much input.

Buy a watch, however, and all that changes. You’d imagine in your head that your wrist is set up, well, a bit like a cartoon drawing of a bone, nice and symmetrical and even. That is until you pop a watch onto it and realise that it’s not. On the offside, you see, is a bony nodule that is the sworn enemy of the comfortable wristwatch. Do I wear the watch to the left or right of it? To the left and it’s more like an arm watch than a wristwatch, to the right and you’re Leo DiCaprio in a TAG Heuer advert. Put it directly on the bone and—ow, no, don’t do that.

It’s a bizarre compromise all watch wearers have to make and a decision that those who don’t will never come to face. And we haven’t even touched upon wearing it loose …

Looking But Not Seeing

If we wanted watches to tell the time and only tell the time, we wouldn’t spend multiples of our monthly pay cheque on them. The job can be done well and even better by a watch that costs as much as a bracelet adjustment does on the one you’d rather have. So why would you rather have it? Because it’s nice.

That’s not a wholly reasonable justification for buying something with such a high cost to size ratio—price density, if you will—but what it does do is give rise to something wholly unique to the luxury watch owner: number blindness.

When you wear an Apple watch or a Casio or something practical, the process of telling the time goes something like this. You think, “What’s the time?”, you look at the time on your watch and then you know the time. This is the way the average human being operates and is well within normal perimeters.

Not us. No, sir. We start in much the same way, almost indiscernible from your typical factory spec human, but when it comes to the looking phase, that’s when it all starts to go wrong. Instead of reading the time, we look at the watch, think, “Nice watch,” then return the watch back to position A, the original objective completely forgotten. Some might call it a curse—I call it The Woman In The Red Dress.

That First Scratch aka The Doorframe Effect

I would like and hope to think there aren’t many of us here who’ve suffered any tragedies. Loss is a very difficult thing to endure, especially by oneself, and it is a testament to the power and complexity of the human condition how overwhelming it can be.

Nevermore has this been demonstrated than with the first scratch. Whether it’s a donk, ding or—whisper it—dent, the first scratch on a watch is like the scene in Bambi where Bambi’s mother dies but only about a million times worse. It’s more like if Bambi’s mother had died and then Bambi was made to watch her being turned into glue and dog food.

It all starts with what can only be described as a genetic mutation in the balance centre of the brain, the part that helps translate your stereoscopic vision into a three-dimensional image of the world science calls spatial awareness. Perhaps there’s something in the chemical makeup of a watch shop receipt, because shortly after buying a watch, all sense of how big a door frame is goes out the window. You’ve walked it a million times, with the grace and elegance of a true pro—until you try it with your new watch on and smack the thing straight into the only part that’s made of metal. You’ve not experienced true tragedy until you’ve done that.

What’s That Weird Noise

The great thing about a mechanical watch is that it’s full of bits, kind of like a Smartie McFlurry. Not only is it ice cream—the McFlurry, I mean—it’s also a lovely bite of candy-covered chocolate with every mouthful. It’s what we all expect, but more, and that makes life worth living.

Problem with bits, however, is that the more there are of them, there more there is to go wrong. A mechanical watch, this time entirely unlike a Smartie McFlurry, is a miniature powerhouse, a scaled down engine operating at proportionally high levels of strain and therefore prone to failure. Well, not prone exactly—this is a centuries-old technology after all—but the possibility is there, however slight.

The best thing to do is keep an ear out, make sure it’s all sounding as it should. Problem is, sound and memory have a little bit of a habit of not playing nicely. Wind your watch up one day and—did it always sound like that? Didn’t it go zzzrrrrrr instead of chrrrrrrr? Paranoia has never been so acute as when you’re listening, breath held, to the sound of a watch movement. Chances are it’s absolutely fine—if only your brain would let you stop thinking about it for just one second…