To make a long and complex argument short, let’s say that watch enthusiasts can be divided into two camps: those who prefer time-only watches and those who don’t. To be fair, there is a lot of crossover between the two camps. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say that some find the inclusion of a date aperture, chronograph function, or moon phase to be something of a visual distraction. These people see complications as interrupters of dial symmetry. On the other hand, some don’t mind complications at all. If we look at watches as objects that we can emotionally connect to — as well as practical inventions—then we can say that time-only watches come with a certain beautiful simplicity: in terms of visual balance and pure functionality. Let’s discuss this!
It’s All About the Symmetry
First and foremost, let’s discuss the fact that many proponents of time-only watches claim that they look the most beautiful because they have perfectly symmetrical dials. At least, this is true when the dial is well designed. Looking at classic dress watches, for example the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia, we do see how the absence of any complication guarantees the perfect symmetry. And if A. Lange & Söhne would have added a date aperture, it would have “broken” the symmetry and deprived the watch from looking this elegant. If you know the German brand Nomos, you might have an opinion about this too: I know some watch collectors who are strongly opposed to the brand adding large date apertures to their most classic looking models. (Look up the Orion Neomatik 41 Date.)
Functional Simplicity of Time-Only Watches
Having a no-complication watch also comes with the added benefit of making its operation simple. This is even truer if you have an automatic timepiece with a long power reserve as you only have to set the time once and you’re ready to go for days. Conversely, the more complications a watch comes with, the longer it takes to set it. Imagine a perpetual calendar with a moon phase or a watch with a day/date function, it takes a few minutes or more to set the time and its complications. This means having a time-only watch reduces the amount of time we need to set things which means we can spend more time enjoying our watches. (Imagine having a time-only quartz watch? You basically have to set the time only once every 2-3 years.)
Romanticizing Time-Only Watches
There is of course another layer to this debate which is a highly subjective one: how meaningful it is to have a time-only watch, in other words, being kept in the present moment at all times. Add a date, we know where we are in the month and perhaps we are forced to think about the bills we have to pay. Add a GMT complication and we think about what others are doing in a different part of the world, far from where we are right now. Add a perpetual calendar and we have a constant reminder of the vastness of space and time. All of these scenarios mean we are not focusing on the present moment, which is something that can be scary to many of us. So, having a time-only watch means we can only track today’s time. There is something beautiful about this.
When I think about the first mechanical clocks that were created in the 13th century, they could only show the time and they did so in a less precise manner as 21st century watches do. They only had one hand that indicated the hour and more or less the minutes. People were fine with it of course because nothing else was available. And for centuries, we were all ok with not having an indication of the day of the month or day of the week as we had paper calendars. We were mostly concerned about time. And nowadays, we actually don’t need watches with complications because we have smartphones and computers that can do all of these complex things for us. (We actually don’t need watches either.) All of this is to say that time-only watches are beautiful in their simplicity and all we need most of the time. What are your thoughts on this? Please leave your comments below.Featured image: www.hodinkee.com