It should be a month back.. when I was sipping something warm in my office pantry along with my friend, something else caught my attention. A nice new clock in place, matching near perfect to its surrounding. Though not so special, there was one thing in it that really made me to press the button to a new discussion channel in waiting. The grabber here was the Seconds hand – red in color and continuously running – that intrigued me a lot. In fact we shared a few thoughts, until it was time for us to walk along our respective aisles. For me, it didn’t end up there but indeed twirled my imagination to my early teens.
Then was the time, we were a family of four having four types of watches split across four brands. My father as the senior most had the most outdated type and a brand that was indigenous, publicly owned and dying – yes, a manual winding model from HMT. But as a strict disciplinarian, he never missed even a single day to reach his fingers to its crown. My mother was gifted – thanks to his brother who works in Gulf – she had an automatic watch from Seiko. Silver-ish, bit glittery and a small chain-like part attached to its strap that dangles, it was more a wristlet than a mere watch. Though a nice fit for a woman, its form of usage validates that it wasn’t a right choice made by my uncle for a homemaker who couldn’t wear it all the time as supposed to be, thus used to end up in frequent halts.
Me and my brother – grown up and not in our years to wear those bright colored toy ones with a chromatic dial that always shows a static time upon twisting our arms, and also after our due pesters such as we can’t go watch-less for our exams – got our first real ones in the form of analog that has this word printed even on its dial – Quartz. I went along with my father’s brand and my brother was smart by not only opting for Titan but also picking a better looking one. Hence proving the color of grass on the other side! After sometime, during our Magi’s next visit from Jeddah, we had our first taste of a gadget. A Casio digital watch that not only shows time but had a wakeup machine, a stopwatch and an illuminator to play, and a manometer that tells your systolic/diastolic levels. A timepiece we could really boast of during those days, but eventually used ninety-nine percent of the time just to watch time.
Though wristwatches – mechanically powered and those that overthrown the pocket models – and clocks with electronic movement were prevalent earlier, it was Seiko from Japan who pioneered the technology of combining both into one piece. A portable quartz watch that offers the highest form of convenience. This became a revolution and in turn made Swiss watch makers to get consolidated under one big conglomerate – Swatch group of companies. Eventually they became the OEM supplier for several brands in and around so as to stay in competition against the low cost threat that arose from the land of rising sun. In fact, they survived and bettered.
Fast forwarding to now, Swatch recently announced that they are going to stop selling their parts in order to gain more profit margins. Of course, the move made the small players to seek help from the court. But for big players like LVMH from France (think of Tag Heur), who once relied on Swatch, it isn’t a problem because their models are fully homegrown now. Like Titan decimating HMT in India, can LVMH turn everyone’s head towards ‘Made in France’ label rather the prestigious ‘Swiss made’? Let’s wait and watch, amidst the current testing times in the eurozone.
Watches had always fascinated me. Indeed I had a pretty decent frequency in jumping to new ones. Ranging from desi brands to videsi imitations, formals to casuals – one in the shape of scuba diving googles, I always cherished wearing them and many a times window shopping them at highly priced boutiques. But apart from the huge variety it offers in aesthetics, what I learned a lot is its other forms of design.
“Analog or digital watch, which one is more usable to know time?” is one of my common interview question. For which an immediate answer would be – Digital. Not bad. Digital watches tells you the accurate time, precisely to a second. Also most of the models offers lot many features such as alarms, timer, etc. all in one unit. You can even set the 24 hour format that aligns to our train and flight timings, where it’s considered unambiguous. Does all these that includes the value for money factor serves the most intended purpose in the best possible way i.e., to know the approximate time at the shortest glance possible?
Humans process information in an analogous manner. We interpret pictures more easily than numbers and text. A reason why icons are used in software interfaces for most recognizable items instead of either using labels or the least prefixed to them. It would be during the days when we as kids learnt to read a clock, subconsciously all the images that depicts a particular time should’ve got stored in our brain incrementally. As a result, the moment we look at them, the image gets mapped to the corresponding time and gets recognized immediately. Indeed an ability we could achieve in watches that don’t even have any kind of visual cue to denote the hours. On contrary, in a digital watch we need to read through it every time. Something similar to compilation and interpretation in programming languages!
By the way, as analog means continuous, it also helps us to compare and distinguish one time with another. Examples from our daily usage are.. ‘How many minutes left for me to get ready?’, ‘How many hours you were late to a party?’, ‘He will be at our house within half-an-hour’, etc. Also, a clock face that resembles a human face, is a classic example of anthropomorphism principle in design.
Hands in an analog display are sized in proportion. This is to assist the sequence of steps when we look at a timepiece. The Hour hand is fat and short because it has to be spotted first. The Minutes hand are relatively thinner and made longer because it has to point the exact minute indication within an hour. The thinnest are the Seconds hand, whose information we are least bothered but essential for its existence. Yes, they tell whether the clock is working or not.
So, as seen in the clock that I saw in my office, does it requires to be in red? Ideally ‘No’. Or should it be continuously sweeping rather move around in a tick-tick fashion? Not necessary, because the former are a distraction when compared to the latter. At least it caught my attention. Also it’s quite uncommon to see one such in an electronic movement model as it used to be in the yesteryear mechanical ones.
On the other hand, seconds in a digital display is the blinking colon. This in fact throws us an option to hide the seconds part itself. Also when it comes to failure indication, digital outscores its rival. Here the display simply disappears, whereas in an analog, the incorrect time shown can mislead your plans.
Design in a clock face also plays its part in non-functioning display models seen in stores and also in its pictures used for advertising and other related purposes. The static time kept is 10:10. Though there are many myths that surrounds this setting, the reason for this position is very objective. The hands doesn’t overlap, they are symmetrically positioned and the brand logo gets nicely cusped with a smiling gesture.
That said, a hybrid model that has both an analog and a digital display can sort out all the differences and serve the purpose well. But watches are not worn just to see time. For some, it’s an accessory to match their attire, and for a few, it’s a jewellery. Here the buying factor that dominates the most is the look. A watch for below a thousand bucks will do the job and can be reliable for a decent period of time. But we end up spending a few more, because, if there is one possession that has the widest gap between the cost it takes to buy for its intended purpose and the prestige it offers, it should be a watch.
So, why this kovaleri by me? should be the question that would have struck you now. And if you’ve reached till here, I am sure you would’ve peeked at your watch at least once – but this time not for the time!
It’s been around two years I’ve stopped wearing a watch. I am planning to buy one. But everyday when I turn the pages in The Hindu, the ads seen are along the lines of Longines, Omega, Rolex and Rado, for which my time hasn’t reached :). But as time tells.. time teaches.. time heals.. time also gives us a lot of hope.
Have a great time ahead in 2012.