I've always been curious about the intricate little machines known as watches. It began with the cool Casio digital watches of the '80s, symbols of another world. Years later, I got my first G-Shocks. But what really captivated me wasn't just the gadgetry; it was my step-grandfather's mechanical watches that held my fascination throughout my childhood. One watch in particular reminded me of him, and I cherished it until I lost it during one of my many moves.
However, there came a point when watches just turned into an item for me. After acquiring a titanium-cased Citizen quartz watch which lasted only five years or so, I stopped wearing watches altogether for a long stretch.
That changed when I was gifted my first mechanical watch. It wasn't expensive, but it came with a bit of a story – a Laco Altenburg. This watch opened my eyes to the wonders of mechanical engineering. I admired the smooth sweep of the second hand, the dial that glowed in the night, and the overall feel of the piece. But then, my family and I got caught in a downpour that proved too much for the watch, which was only water-resistant to 5 ATM. I'll always remember the twist of fate that stopped it. I tucked it away in a drawer when I found out that repair costs was not worth of it. In its place, I got a cheap Seiko 5 Sport as an alternative, steering clear of the world of horology altogether.
A couple of years later, I avoided the first and second generations of the Apple Watch but finally gave the 3rd a go. I used it extensively, more for its health and sport tracking features than as a watch. It opened my eyes to my lacklustre sleep patterns, but I was never satisfied with the watch faces, always choosing complicated ones crammed with information and apps. Eventually, I grew tired of the way the watch seemed to control my life, from its battery life to the anxiety-inducing notifications, with Slack being the worst culprit.
Surprisingly, during a Google Meet call, I discovered my long-forgotten Laco watch had started working again. I tried wearing it for a day, then a week, and three weeks later, I sold my Apple Watch.
But that wasn't the end of it. My renewed appreciation for mechanical watches led to a shopping spree. I picked up a Glycine Combat Sub 46, an impressive dive watch. Not long after, I sought out a second Laco for the dual time zone feature, ending up with a Frankfurt GMT. Despite enjoying it, the first dent it received was unexpected and led me to sell off several cheaper watches.
My adventure deepened as I started to distinguish between GMT and true-travel watches, opting for a Longines Conquest V.H.P. with its travel-friendly features. This watch stayed with me for almost a year as I explored other brands and models, but I found myself longing for a more durable tool watch, especially after every new mark on my polished Conquest. Sinn, an affordable German brand, caught my attention, and I was sold on the Tegiment-based Sinn 836 the moment I tried it on in a store in Dresden – my first time buying a watch in person.
However, life had other plans. A hospital stay at the end of 2023 (nothing serious, thankfully) showed me the importance of the data my old Apple Watch could provide. The following day, I bought an Apple Watch Ultra, and two months later, I parted ways with my Sinn.
Do I miss mechanical watches? Absolutely. But the practicality of the smartwatch keeps me tied to my Ultra. Its long battery life and durability, thanks to the titanium case and extra tempered sapphire glass, have proven invaluable, and the bands are in a league of their own compared to traditional watch bands. The Ultra also helps me on my hikes, having compass, backtracking and even offline maps with me is a life saver. I stopped searching for complex watch faces and instead enjoy countless animations with Snoopy instead. No date, no complications, and very little notification. My watch is just a watch most of the time.
Is this the end? Perhaps periodic upgrades are all that's left, but I still long for the mechanical watches I have and those I dream of owning. Maybe one day....