The Quest For Watchmaking Perfection

I have always felt that there is a certain quirk of human nature that finds the perfect expression in watchmaking.As a species, we continue to innovate, and to push the limits of what is possible. Making something clever and useful is only the first step. Soon enough, someone else comes along and says: “You know, that’s a really great idea, but what if we added…”  When it comes to the history of watchmaking, this is more evident than anywhere else. Since the very first watch, the quest for watchmaking perfection has continued, and still continues today.So what, exactly, makes the perfect watch?For some it’s in the way it looks, the gold, the artistry and style. For others again, it’s all about what’s on the inside – the perfect m. Some don’t care about aesthetics, and just want something reliable and robust. What follows is a list of, in my opinion, three of the most ideal watches ever made – each one perfect in its own way.

Perfectly Complicated


Back in the 1920’s two fabulously rich (and slightly obsessed) gentlemen were constantly trying to outdo one another, and they both had a penchant for complicated watches.One was James Ward Packard, and the other was Mr. Henry Graves Jr. The latter eventually won the ‘Gentleman’s disagreement’ when he commissioned Patek Philippe to make the world’s most complicated timepiece  – and he didn’t care what it cost.The result was the 1933 Patek Philippe Supercomplication – which for many years was undoubtedly the world’s most complicated (not to mention most expensive) pocket watch.This masterpiece of workmanship contained 24 complications (or functions) including a perpetual calendar, moon phases and the night sky of New York City. It has dials on both sides, and contains an incredible three-tiered movement. It recently broke the world record for resale value at the Geneva auction. ‘Complicated’ is hardly an adequate word.

Perfectly Simple


Then again, sometimes simpler is better. The legendary design of the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia range is one of the vintage watches I love most, simply because of it’s minimalistic quality.This dress watch is quite diminutive, only 34mm wide, and a mere 8mm thick, and very easy on the wrist. In a way, it suits an aquired, sophisticated taste. It doesn’t immediately stand out, but once you’ve handled one, even the most seasoned watch enthusiast will marvel at the workmanship, the fine materials, the substantial weight, and the overall simplicity. It doesn’t need all the super-complicated machinery, it simply is what it is – beautiful and rare, and best of all - simple.

Practically Perfect


Sometimes a dainty, bejeweled, dress watch will simply not do. For some, the perfect watch is something to use, not to show off.The Heuer Bundeswehr Flyback (or ‘Bund’) is perfect for someone who needs a watch that can take a punch. Originally made for Luftwaffe pilots, and the military back in the 1960’s, the Bund’s robust design has been the inspiration for generations of masculine utility watches.This is a rugged watch. The clean, uncluttered dial, the long-stemmed pushers and coarse bezel ridges are designed with adventure in mind, not dinner parties. It’s the kind of wristwatch you don’t have to remove your gloves to operate. The typical two-piece leather strap adds to the overall utilitarian nature, and there is absolutely no compromise on quality. This one was built to last. There are more than 30 variations on the vintage market, and all of them are sought-after. If you can find one, hang on to it.So whatever your definition of the perfect watch may be, chances are that someone has designed it already. Having said that, knowing how people are, even your perfect watch is probably due for a re-design one of these days!


Published at Esquire Online, August 2015

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