Editor’s note: The writer of this piece, Dan Kaufman, got in touch bemoaning the nuttiness of the some of the most common gripes that you read in the comment sections of watch sites. We reckon he’s got a point, too. You might not agree with every one of Dan’s arguments below. But his piece may encourage you to question some of the assumptions that have somehow passed into the horological gospel.
Let me start by alienating half the readers immediately: the date window is essential. There, I said it. And now, let the angry comments roll.
The same people who believe date windows shouldn’t appear on watches are often the same who claim they wear watches not because they’re tools, but because they love the mechanics. Or the art. Or the symbolism. Well, let me tell you something: I love all those factors, but I also use my watch as a tool to tell the time – and date. Colour me crazy, but that’s what a watch is for.
I never even realised the date window was so maligned until I started reading watch sites a few years back. Until then, despite being obsessed with watches since I was eight (and with mechanical watches for over 15 years now), I never looked at watch sites until my wife bought me a wedding watch and I started researching it online. I’m not sure what’s weirder: that it never even occurred to me to look at these sites before, or that I now obsessively read them every day. Actually, don’t answer that.
At first I checked out watch sites because I learnt a lot about everything from movements to design, plus of course there was the eye-candy – but then I got sucked in by the comments sections. And, all of a sudden, I realised a lot of people think completely differently about watches than I do. Naturally, they must all be wrong since I’m always right. Obviously.
At first, when I saw people bitching about watches being too small for their manly wrists, or that a watch only offered 50m of water resistance (who are these people – deep sea divers?), or that it dared to have a date window, I shrugged them off as cranks. I don’t even mean that in a bad way – hell, I’m the mother of all cranks, which is why I‘m writing this. But then, repeatedly, I saw the same comments come up again and again and again. I realised that for some unfathomable reason, these are common complaints. And since they are all wrong, let me now explain why and end these silly comments once and for all.
Myth 1: The date window isn’t necessary
What exactly is the logic behind hating date windows? Yes, you could argue that the dial would be cleaner without it – but I have a news flash for you: it would also be cleaner without hands.
Myth 2: The date window needs to be the same colour as the dial
Simple answer: no, it doesn’t.
Slightly less simple answer: designs often have multiple colours – whether they’re for houses, cars, or … um… anything.
Brutal answer: it can look tacky if the colours match – just as it can look tacky if your shirt is the same colour as your pants. Then again, if you’re still reading this column, your shirt probably does match your pants. But I digress. Yes, it might be cheaper for watch companies to go with a white date window. That doesn’t mean a coloured date window is better.
Myth 3: We wear watches for the sheer thrill of the mechanics, not to tell time
When I was in high school, I was a vegetarian for a whole year, eight months and four days. One day, a red-headed girl who I had a crush on – and who was also a vegetarian – challenged me in front of everyone by demanding to know why I didn’t eat meat.
After I stammered that I didn’t want to kill animals, she shot me a withering look and declared that I was full of it – and that she simply didn’t eat meat because she didn’t like the taste of it.
Why am I mentioning this now?
Mainly for therapy.
Oh – and also to point out that her retort is as meaningless as people who say they don’t need their watches to tell the time because they have mobiles.
I mean … sure, you can take your phone out of your pocket every time you want to check the time. Whatever floats your boat. But there’s a reason why people stopped using pocket watches – namely because having a watch on your wrist is easier to check.
As for the red-headed girl: if you are magically reading this now, 30 years after you crushed my spirit, I have this to say: although I genuinely admire people who don’t eat meat because they love animals, not liking the taste of meat is not a valid reason. It simply means you’ve never had a good BBQ.
Myth 4: Watches need to be 40mm or larger
I get that people are taller now than in the dark ages – but I don’t believe human height has increased so much from the mid 1950s that all of a sudden a 35mm watch is too small. Sorry folks, but evolution just doesn’t work that quickly.
And yet, judging from many people’s comments, anything less than 40mm is an indictment on their very manhood. I could make a crass comment about overcompensation – and, well, I guess I just did – but instead I’ll say that if a 35mm watch is masculine enough for Don Draper, it’s masculine enough for you.
Then again, the way watches are so tied to masculinity worries me. I like how Jerry Lewis often wore women’s watches because he just liked the look and size of them. The Submariner is a beautiful watch, but people who wear it in an attempt to emulate some fictional spy worry me. A man who’s confident enough to wear a thin bejewelled watch … OK, on second thought that actually does worry me, only because NO ONE should wear a bejewelled watch. Ever. Except if their clothes match.
Myth 5: A watch needs more than (name an arbitrary number here) metres of water resistance
Considering that gaskets are only trustworthy for a year or so, I fail to see why people care about the depth rating on their watch. Unless you have it serviced every two years – and NO ONE does that – then you shouldn’t be diving with it anyway. Besides – who the hell dives? I didn’t realise we lived in a world filled with Jacques Cousteau types. Worrying about the water-resistance rating on your watch is like worrying about the top speed of your car. You are never, ever going to need anything even close to it. And if you are dumb enough to dive with a 50 grand watch on your wrist then I want to know how on earth you managed to get that 50 grand in the first place.
Myth 6: An in-house movement is better than an ETA or Sellita
Why would something harder and more expensive to service be better? On what planet does that make sense? I’d always rather a Tudor with an ETA over a Tudor with an in-house movement because … well, duh. Unless you can actually see the movement through a sapphire back AND it was designed with aesthetics in mind, there’s just no point in paying more.
Then again, if it were lovingly machined and crafted by a single watchmaker who was passionate about …
Oh crap. Maybe that would have more romance to it than a mass-produced movement.
OK, let’s try another myth…
Myth 7: Mechanical is better than quartz
The reason why I prefer manual and automatic watches over quartz is …
I don’t know.
No matter how many times I think about this, I cannot come up with a single, genuinely good answer. Do I believe a mass-produced ETA movement has more romance than a Casio? No. And yet I, too, somehow give it more value. So … (insert awkward pause here) … if there were a moral to this column – and by now I suspect we all know there isn’t – it would be that people who are opinionated about watches do not always make sense. And by not always, I mean hardly ever.
So you know what – if you want to run around with a 46mm watch that has no date, even though that would be useful, but does have a helium valve that you will never, ever need, then go for it. But for the love of all that is horologically holy, don’t pretend there’s any logic to it. Oh yes – and stop matching your clothes.