By Gordon Fraser
19 Aug , 2020
In a recent interview, we were asked why we champion mechanical watches over smart watches - it was a really interesting question and one we never really thought about.
For us, it wasn’t necessarily about championing this over that - we use mechanical movements because we love mechanical movements, we love how intricate and complex they are, but also how simple a function they provide. We love the idea that we wear a tiny engine on our wrists.
But it did get us thinking about the benefits of using and wearing a mechanical watch - there are of course cons, as with anything, but there are also huge pros.
Smartwatches are what you’d call short life-cycle objects - so you buy one and wear it for 4-5 years and then replace it. Pretty good, you get all the functions, it’s convenient and benefits your lifestyle, and when the battery doesn’t hold charge or you have whacked it off a door one too many times, just replace it. On the manufacturing side, due to this short life-cycle, there’s the ability for producers of smart watches (and phones and computers) to shift with the trends or adopt the latest technology. So a designer of a smartwatch only needs to design for that future window of 4-5 years because there will be a new trend, or a new tech that they want to harness. But with each 4-5 year life-cycle comes the downside of being on the edge of technological progress, and due to this almost all of those products will inevitably find their way into landfill. You cannot recycle them - they’re designed and produced in a way that prevents any replacement of parts or easy disassembly - it’s uneconomical and cheaper to replace the whole thing if you break it. Think about all that energy and processing that has gone into making a smartwatch - all the materials that needed refining, the screens that were manufactured and assembled, the batteries that were concocted and all the technology that was beautifully assembled within that little box. And in 5 years, it’s all under the ground.
Mechanical watches are different. The life-cycle of a mechanical watch is decades, if not centuries. If you look after your watch, have it serviced and maintained, it can last lifetimes. If you whack a watch off a door, you can replace the parts - every single one. The movement can be serviced and likewise, if a part needs repairing, it can be - this is on a very pragmatic level that we are talking about here. Mechanical watch designers have a bit more of a difficult task, it could be argued, because we are designing a forever product. We can’t shift with trends and there isn’t any latest tech that we can adopt. So when designing a mechanical watch, there has to be so much consideration put into not just how it looks now, but how it will fare in 10 years from now, or 20. It’s a daunting prospect!
So we champion mechanical watches because they can last forever. Because they are complex engines with a simple task - to show you the time. And that simplicity on the surface, tied to the incredible engineering complexity underneath, is what we love so much about these little engines. We will forever champion this way of doing things, because if you keep it together, our watches will last lifetimes.
And as a producer of mechanical watches, the movements - those little engines - are the first thing we consider before any pen hits any paper in the design phase - it's step 1. We have a number of options when it comes to choosing the movement, and it is the biggest indicator of what watch it will be. It dictates the size of the watch, the thickness, the dial design, the crown position and the price. So once we've chosen the engine and have tested it and are happy with it - we then start the very long, and difficult process, of bringing a watch from pencil sketch all the way through to market.