Green Rambles: It’s All About Precision, Right?

With watchmaking, you think it is all about precision. While we and many brands like to act that it matters, it does less than you might think. While I know a few groups passionate about their high-precision quartz movements, even keeping logs of their performance, the accuracy of timekeeping suffers greatly when we move into the mechanical side of the industry. Sure, there are fancy ways to counteract that, or at least give that impression. Toss in one or even more tourbillons, put them at an angle, give them multiple axes, add a constant force escapement, and/or experiment with silicon parts; the list is nearly endless. Do you know any other industry where they invest and struggle so much when they know they will always come in second place, as even your phone is a more accurate timekeeper?

While a tourbillon is very desirable, its contribution to precision still doesn’t make a mechanical watch competitive to quartz.

The fact of the matter is that watchmaking is not about accuracy anymore but experience. Whether a watch runs 1 or 10 seconds fast each day is hardly relevant, as many of us won’t even notice the difference. It will probably not make you miss planes or get to daycare too late to pick up your child. For many of us, precision within a minute (or even a couple) is more than enough to keep our days on track, and virtually all mechanical watches can deliver that. What we want more is that experience of all those tiny gears and levers that make a mechanical watch tick, that we power it with the movement of our wrist, and that it comes with added features that we also don’t need but really enjoy. In that matter, the mechanical wristwatch is primarily a celebration of human ingenuity, and maybe because of that also a bit of a status symbol to some.

Modern-day mechanical watchmaking is an art form

When you think about it, it is funny that the mechanical watch hardly serves the purpose for which it was once created anymore. Sure, it still tells time, but ask a watch enthusiast what time it is when he or she has just checked their watch, and you shouldn’t be surprised when they have to look again to tell you that.

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  1. Danny Simenauer

    Mechanical watches will never approach quartz for accuracy per se, but there are some that come very close. Think that a watch can be designed using a spring and mechanical parts (with some lubricant) and keep time for years near close to 100% accuracy is amazing. And they are safe to wear on the wrist so they can be taken everywhere (air, land and sea).

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