Horology has come a long way in a short time. The first mechanical clocks (that we know of) are fewer than 1,000 years old. The first wristwatch is just over 200 years old, created for the Queen of Naples in 1810. In the grand scheme of timekeeping, which goes back nearly 10,000 years, wristwatches are a very young phenomenon. Their small form factor and multitude of applications have pushed watchmakers further than imaginable. As of today, horology advances on the wrist. With that, let’s look at three exemplary watches. While they’re all significant for different reasons, they provide a similarly candid snapshot of modern horology. In a world that no longer needs mechanical timekeeping, where does it stand?
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep
Image Source: gq-magazine.co.uk
In 1926, Rolex made history with the introduction of the Oyster case. Waterproof watches had implications way beyond just technical achievement – significantly impacting military operations and scientific exploration. Six years later, Omega released the Marine – a watch that essentially had two cases, the outermost being sealed with cork. The Omega Marine, thought to be the first commercially available ‘dive watch’, could reach depths of 135 meters (completely insane at the time). Throughout the 20th century, a period in which diving for sport exploded in popularity, watchmakers aimed to make the most capable dive watch. Depth ratings became an easy-to-understand and quantifiable feature – one that divers and consumers alike could point to when shopping for a watch.
In 2019, a concept model of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep (since adapted to be commercially available) reached the deepest point on Earth – the bottom of the Mariana Trench. This 10,925 meter dive set an unbeatable record. Aside from lab pressure tests, there’s simply no more room for improvement. The Ultra Deep reached the deepest real-world depth. While there’s plenty more to a watch than its depth rating, the Ultra Deep lasered in on this historical variable – maximizing the capabilities of modern technology.
Grand Seiko Kodo
Image Source: timeandwatches.com
In 2020, Grand Seiko released the “T0” concept movement – marrying a constant-force mechanism with a tourbillon. If you don’t know what those words mean, don’t worry. A constant-force mechanism ensures consistent flow of power to the escapement (your watch’s “heartbeat”). Variations in power lead to inaccuracies in timekeeping; a constant force mechanism eliminates this variation. A tourbillon is a constantly rotating cage composed of three things: a balance wheel, a balance spring, and an escapement. This cage rotates to counteract the force of gravity, which can push/pull on mechanisms based on the watch’s orientation. Like a constant-force mechanism, a tourbillon eliminates variation. And again, variation leads to inaccuracy.
In 2022, Grand Seiko released the Kodo – the first ever wristwatch to feature a constant-force mechanism and tourbillon on the same axis. The Kodo’s movement (Cal. 9ST1) is 90% different from the T0 concept movement, but boasts the same claim. A constant-force tourbillon is a one of a kind (more accurately 20 of a kind) achievement. On top of this horological milestone, the Kodo is masterfully finished. Its skeletonized architecture is balanced, mesmerizing, and somehow even legible. Every single piece of this watch was created for this watch – no detail was overlooked. Rarely do we see a first-of-its-kind complication executed with near perfection. The Grand Seiko Kodo represents the bleeding edge of modern horology.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Image Source: hodinkee.com
What is this watch doing on this list? What am I even talking about? Let me explain. While the Omega Ultra Deep and Grand Seiko Kodo display immense technical achievement, there’s more to horology than breaking records. A watch can be appreciated for its simplicity, history, and beauty. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a no-frills luxury timepiece from Earth’s favorite watch brand. It doesn’t have a constant-force tourbillon, a skeletonized dial, or even a date window. This watch tells time. The Oyster case is one of the most recognizable silhouettes in watchmaking; it anchored the blueprint of case design for years to come. The Oyster Perpetual represents modern horology because it guided modern horology, and it’s here to tell the tale.
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