What is a watch?

What is a watch?

Last week I attended the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Finals in İzmir, which was sponsored by Longines. The competition was just awesome; the competitors were so graceful and professional that it was like watching an elegant piece of art. It is very sad that no one knew that such an important event was taking place in İzmir, in Turkey. I wonder if it has anything to do with the “new Turkey” design that the government has in mind, which forbids ballerinas to wear tights, but that is a matter of another discussion.

During the competitions, I had the opportunity to speak with Longines President Walter Von Kanel about watches. I admire the handmade pieces that Longines and other Swiss brands produce with such care and precision, but I am also a geek. Von Kanel has been working with Longines for 45 years and for him, a watch is not something digital; it must be mechanical. Anything digital is no different than a worthless toy for him. He said that as long as he is alive and at his current position, they will never have a single circuit in their watches.

I quickly realized that for both of us, the word “watch” means different things. For me, anything that tells me the time approximately is a watch, for him, it must be precise and elegant. I can wear a digital watch made out of plastic, he would probably just throw it into the nearest garbage can.

However, the other side of the debate sits Apple with their new iWatch and they say the following:
“Every new product we’ve introduced has been defined by a unique input device. With Apple Watch, it’s the Digital Crown. On mechanical watches, the crown has historically been used to set the time and date and to wind the mainspring. We reimagined it as a versatile tool that answers the fundamental challenge of how to magnify content on a small display. Pinching to zoom, as you do on an iPhone, is impractical. But rotating the Digital Crown allows you to zoom and scroll nimbly and precisely, without obstructing your view. You can also push it like a button to return to the Home screen, making it an integral part of the Apple Watch experience.”

It is very interesting to see that when it comes to watches, everyone talks about the experience. So in the end, the importance you put on elegance versus the importance you put on being digitally connected at every moment is going to affect your choice. However, I believe traditional watches like Longines have a better chance to thrive as we can get connected and collect data about ourselves with other devices, but we cannot acquire the elegance of a handmade watch with anything else as men.