Editors note: Fancy a date? If you’re single and ready to mingle, this question, when asked by the right person, would likely be met with rapturous approval, but ask someone who’s into watches and the answer is a lot less sure. Few elements of watch design are as contentious as the seemingly innocuous date window. Where some see a useful calendar tool, others see a symbol of all that is wrong with the world. Last year I went into bat for the humble date, and we thought it was about time to revisit it …
We’ve got a surprisingly complex relationship with date windows in the Time+Tide office. And not just because we’ve been known to forget to set them on occasion. No, every time we review a vintage reissue, it can be assured that we’ll have a host of comments on various social media platforms that read something like this:
“Love the design, but they RUINED it with that ugly date window.”
I understand this reaction and, to be fair, there are plenty of sloppily designed date windows out there. But ruining a watch? I’m not so sure. A few years ago we were interviewing Walter von Känel, CEO of Longines, and we mentioned in passing that his heritage collections received near-universal praise, except for the fact that they almost invariably included a date. We asked why he put a date in. To my recollection (it’s a few years ago now), Mr von Känel laughed and said that he did it because most people wanted dates on watches.
He’s got a point. I suspect that most people wouldn’t be able to tell you off the top of their heads what today’s date is. Sure, there’s a profusion of screens in our lives that carry this information, but I think it’s still far more convenient to quickly glance at your watch than to dig around for your phone. And the date is something you need quite frequently. Signatures, online forms, scheduling your life in general: for all of these, the day of the month is more pertinent knowledge than the day of the week – or, for that matter, what month it is.
I don’t think I’m the minority opinion here. If, by some miracle, we were able to get access to an apples-to-apples comparison – say, the sales figures for the Rolex no-date Submariner versus the date version – I suspect that the latter would far outstrip the former. And I, for one, don’t think that watch brands, who are in the business of selling watches after all, should acquiesce to a small but vocal lobby of no-date purists to the detriment of the many for whom this little window offers genuine, if occasional, functionality.