Before I begin, I feel the need to apologise: this article has taken far too long to write, and also contains far too many hanging prepositions.
I write about watches because I want to, not because I need to or get paid to. It’s the same with all my social media interactions: when I first started ‘blogging in 2005, it was a stream of consciousness, a litany of songs, objects and observations. Nobody read it. Not a single soul. Many of my posts have still never been read by anyone other than me. It was a slightly cathartic response to a series of events, and, for a year or so, it worked. But it didn’t need an audience (and still doesn’t).
Then in 2007, I thought that I might actually start to do something a little more focused. Settling on watches was relatively easy; my interest had been piqued some time before, perhaps ignited by William Gibson’s 1999 Wired essay on eBay, but how to begin? I recalled the approach taken by Jeffrey Steingarten when he became a food critic for Vogue (documented so brilliantly in The Man Who Ate Everything): training. And list-making. Steingarten took his job as a food critic extremely seriously, concocting “a Six-Step Program to liberate [his] palate and [his] soul”. I did something similar, although my six steps were slightly simpler and required fewer bowls of kimchi.
I read. I searched the web. I joined Forums. I asked questions. I visited stores. I chatted. And the more I did these things, the more I found that I really enjoyed it. And more than that, I enjoyed the people behind the watches, and the stories behind the marques. While much of this may be attributed to marketing, no amount of anti-branding snark can detract from the wonder of horology, or the history of timekeeping. It’s the story of how we marked out our daily lives into discrete periods, learnt to navigate the globe with certainty and in safety, began to measure the world of the increasingly minute, and how some of the most extraordinarily beautiful micro-mechanical masterpieces were conceived, built and displayed. Of course, with the rise of the smartphone, all of this is almost entirely pointless, but, to me, mechanical watches remain amazing, if only for the fact that they are so precisely, and so very nearly completely, unnecessary.
|A Meridian movement|
I’m not a WIS, I’m just a guy who likes watches. Someone who occasionally gets to meet cool people, see some cool stuff and (once in a while) even write about it. A few months ago, the opportunity arose to visit the workshops of Meridian Watches, a new company set up by watchmaker Simon Michlmayr and collector Richard Baldwin. Richard also lent me a prototype watch to wear over a period of time, reporting back to them my thoughts and observations, but I’ve not yet written about the experience itself.
|A partially-built Meridian movement|
|Meridian cases (C) Horologium|
When I was first loaned the MP-12 prototype, I really wasn’t sure that it was my kind of thing. It’s huge, for a start, and almost wilfully utilitarian; the hands are thickly lumed, and lack the finesse that one might expect from a watch that costs a shade under £5k; the massive crystal is treated with an anti-reflective coating that picks up every smudge, and therefore requires polishing almost constantly; the Gasgasbones canvas strap that is supplied as a secondary option doesn’t quite hold the watch in place on my wrist, perhaps due to almost excessive lug-to-lug dimensions. But I still wear it. And wear it a lot. It’s not perfect, but it is fun. It’s tough, reliable and it makes me smile; from what I hear from Richard, there are quite a few others like me.
I’ll be sad to give it back, to be honest: I’d not expected to bond with it quite so much. But that’s one of the reasons I like watches – these mechanical marvels still have the capacity to surprise.