Re: Are Watches An Endangered Species?
- From: "Jack Denver" <nunuvyer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 11:54:41 -0500
Of course within the boundaries of the medium they were working in (and
understand a lot of these boundaries were fixed by the technologies
available to them - enameled dials were the best available, shaped movements
didn't exist, a pocket watch with sharp corners will snag in your pocket so
it can't be rectangular, etc.) there was tremendous variation in the
decoration of the cases, the movements, etc. I've seen old catalogs and
there were dozens of models to choose from in different grades, etc. They
may all look the same to you, but they didn't to the people at the time.
Everyone works within the idiom of their time when it comes to style - look
at the men's business suit with its notched lapels and necktie - this has
been the more or less fixed theme for a century now, but there is a fair bit
of variation within that theme. Really the essence of great art, whether it
is haiku poems or fresco paintings, is to start out with a constrainted
medium and see what you can do within its boundaries. "Anything goes"
rarely achieves greatness.
But you are right that the boundaries of what was acceptable until the end
of WWI were much more constrained, as Victorian society was fairly rigid in
its expectations. People, especially those who were less than wealthy, were
not expected to express their individuality thru consumer goods - everyone
who could afford a car at all drove a black Model T and that was acceptable
(and a lot better than a horse or taking the trolley). Railroad watches
had to adhere to a certain specification, so it's no coincidence that they
look similar regardless of who made them. The early "trench" wristwatches
are also remarkably similar to each other, and again there may have been
military specifications that influenced this. I would point to a different
period - the great post WWI wristwatch explosion of the 20s and 30s, where
there were all kinds of shapes and styles. It seems like wristwatch design,
like the rest of fashion, goes in waves - you have periods of great
creativity and even excess (the '20s, the '70s) followed by decades of
conformity and recycling of previous historical designs . We are in one of
the down periods.
It's true though that what you see at the mall or department store has a
depressing sameness and represents only a small slice of what is out there.
You see the same quartz Movados and Seikos, over and over (I do note though
that I have been seeing ads for automatic Movados and they take pains to
show the display back and the movement, so there seems to be a break thru
where the mechanical movement is seeping back into mass culture). Plus tons
and tons of junque - "fashion" watches with cheap quartz movements that will
be out of style next year if they don't break first. This is true not just
with watches but with a lot of items. More and more I (and many other
people) do their shopping on the internet, where literally the whole world
is available to you. I recently ordered a case on ebay for my son's
non-iPod (Creative Zen) MP3 player. I could have a spent half a day and a
half of tank of gas visiting 100 stores and not found this item in stock
anywhere, or at best found a low grade item at a high price. Instead, with a
few keystrokes, a very nice leather case arrived from Hong Kong by airmail
only a couple of days after it was ordered. Based on the return address,
the vendor was running this business out of her apartment, so she has no
overhead to pay expensive mall rents. How can you beat that? Last weekend I
needed something in the neighborhood of my regional mall (I enter the mall
itself as rarely as possible - I am not agoraphobic, but I find that
environments like casinos and malls expressly designed to separate me from
as much money as possible produce extreme negative feelings in me) and I had
to turn back because the traffic was impossible. I don't know who is going
there, cause it sure ain't me.
"John S." <hjsjms@xxxxxx> wrote in message
> Bo Williams wrote:
>> John S. wrote:
>> > Are watches an endangered species - no, not in my experience. Just
>> > look at the shelves of watches for sale at almost every conceivable
>> > retailer. Many women have several watches of coordinating colors, etc.
>> > Guys engage in similar collecting, but they dress it up in the name of
>> > horology because some of them have an understanding of what goes on
>> > underneath the dial.
>> I grabbed all the Sunday paper circulars that I thought would contain
>> watches for some, um, "errand" reading recently, and I was appalled at
>> the homogeny. Everybody's selling all the same stuff. Anyone reading
>> this knows that a potential watch consumer who gets all s/he knows about
>> what's available from department and jewelry store selections in the
>> U.S. has NO idea.
>> One of the things I really enjoy about being "in the know" is having
>> something on my wrist I know I won't see on someone else's wrist in the
>> course of my day. But it's almost too easy.
> But hasn't homogeneity always been part of the watch scene? Watch
> makers are like lemmings when it comes to style. Just look back at the
> Elgin/Hamilton/Waltham pocket watches so popular from the turn of the
> previous century. Those round timekeepers with a stem at 12:00 or 3:00
> are a ball to collect and enjoy. But they are notable for how similar
> they really are: White porcelain dial with roman or arabic numerals,
> spade hands, carved case, etc. Are there small differences - sure,just
> as there are small differences in todays watches.