Feature: The 5 WORST Watch Features
Those of you who’ve been around a bit longer might know that I’m a little bit of a stickler. Small details that don’t work stick in my throat like a fish bone, and sooner or later it’s all going to have to be coughed up. So here it is, a rant: the five worst watch features that are really annoying—and have to go.
I’m a creative person, always have been. I like writing, photography, drawing—anything that means I don’t have to get a proper job. And it’s fantastic to have such things to be so passionate about—but there is a downside. Little design details that just don’t quite work stick out like a sore thumb. You get a sixth sense for it before your conscious is even aware. Something itches in the back of your brain. Like the feeling of realising you’re in a dream, you just know—something is wrong.
Take the Bremont Supermarine. On the face of it, a very handsome watch. Well-proportioned, handsomely styled, careful use of materials and colour—but something’s not right. My brain itches like three-day-old underwear. Perhaps you’ve spotted it? If not, I’ll tell you. This watch is a font glutton. Rather than using one or two elegantly selected fonts to do the job of communicating the words and numbers imparted by the brand, Bremont panicked and used them all.
With more fonts than a ransom note, the dial of the Supermarine is one headline short of a tabloid front page. Count ‘em—there’s one for the logo, one for the date, one for the model and one for the chapter ring. No, Bremont—no. Just because there’s a whole load of free fonts in your design software doesn’t mean you need to use all of them.
The next gripe is even more subtle still—that is, until it jumps up from behind and bites you on the behind like a starving rottweiler. Let’s say, for instance, that you buy a lovely, lovely Rolex Daytona in rose gold and, a few months in you fancy yourself a change to a bracelet. Well, good luck, amigo, because there’s a hungry mutt right behind that’s a got a taste for posterior.
When you think of integrated straps, what springs to mind are watches like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, where the style of bracelet or strap is clearly dictated by the overall design language of the watch. And that’s fine. It’s impossible to change the strap for a bracelet and vice-versa, but if that was a surprise to anyone then perhaps they’re better off leaving the thinking to the adults.
No, what I’m talking about is the sneaky integrated, the watch that looks like it can have its strap swapped out but—as a dismayed owner will eventually find out—absolutely cannot. Leather for leather, fine, but try a bracelet on this Daytona and you’ll soon realise that the presumed end links are actually fixed in place. And it’s not like you can just walk into the shop and buy the bracelet version of the watch instead …
Asymmetric Date Windows
When it comes to beautiful design, symmetry isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some of the most beautiful things in the world are asymmetrical. Trees and that, for example. A great oak with exactly the same branches left and right would just look weird, like a kid’s drawing. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that symmetry is not the be-all and end-all of design.
Not for everything, at least. For some things, symmetry is an absolute, pulling everything together in a way a good rug wishes it could. Take the human face. They say—I don’t know who “they” is, but they say a lot—that symmetry in the face is the defining factor for beauty from which all else follows. No offense intended to anyone whose left and right don’t mirror exactly—take it up with them. They’re the ones that said it.
The same is true of a watch’s face, it’s dial, and the date window is a necessary evil that blights that beautiful symmetry. No doubt a watch looks better without one, but then that leaves its owner with the dilemma of not knowing if Keeping Up With The Kardashians is on that day or not. And so, manufacturers have managed to expertly blend the date window in at three o’clock, usually in symmetry with the nine o’clock marker, to do the least damage.
Not Zenith. From the original El Primero, Zenith has chosen to humiliate many of its watches with a date at four-thirty that looks as comfortable as a chair made of cheese graters. Put it at three, park it at six, even—but there? Do you want me to hate you, Zenith?
Buckles On Heavy Watches
I like a good horror film, but not any horror film. A slow burn, a creepy atmosphere, a movement in the shadows. That’s why Alien was so good. The monster wasn’t as much of a terror as what you thought the monster could be. As soon as you see the guy in the suit, for me, it’s all over. What I dislike massively in a horror film, however, is a jump scare. It’s cheating. I hate it. Kids in my school used to clap in my face and make me blink, and they’d say, “Ha ha, you’re scared of thunder!” No to them and no to those horror film jump scares. Find something better to do with your life.
Stands to reason, then, that I hate heavy watches on a buckle. Hear me out. When you get a big watch, especially in gold, and you put it on, you have to go toe-to-toe with physics. All the weight is at one end, making it weirdly balanced when you try to put it on. Most manufacturers get around this by fitting a deployant clasp, which folds out enough to get an arm through, but keeps the loop closed so it’s not going to drop to the floor.
Not Oris with the Artelier 110 Years Limited Edition. At 43mm in rose gold, it’s a weighty beast, and all it has to hold it together is a buckle. Fine once it’s on, but wrangling it all together with one hand and a knee can prove problematic. And, inevitably, you’ll lose purchase on the top half of the strap as the weight of the watch pulls it free from your struggling grip, causing to you introduce your underwear to yesterday’s dinner. Thanks, Oris.
I’m big on proportions, me. With watches, I mean. Lug width, dial diameter, case thickness—it’s a juggling act of millimetres that can very easily turn a handsome watch into a disgusting mess. Getting it right is genuinely hard. I’ve seen great watchmakers produce watches that should at first glance look perfect, but have something so proportionally off with them that it just makes the whole thing fall apart.
It’s usually because of limitations with the movement versus the desired case size or something like that, a restriction forced upon the designers that they do their best to hide with a bit of a visual trickery. I get that. It’s hard. What’s not hard is not having stumpy hands, however.
Whether fashioned that way to correspond with a smaller hour and minute track, or because the designers are completely blind, short hands just don’t look right. They never have and they never will, and watchmakers need to stop it. Unless they want their watches compared to underachieving anatomy, they’re better off fitting a pair that can actually reach.
Those are some of my gripes. What are yours?
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