Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lesson 3: Timekeeping is (almost) irrelevant

***Timekeeping is (almost) irrelevant

I am not a sailor. Actually I have been known to get seasick riding on the E69 bus over the Spit Bridge.

But many of you are familiar with sailing and will appreciate the analogy.

Suppose I hire you (and your small sailing boat) to take me from Sydney to Hobart.
My only request is that we arrive there in exactly 3 days, 14 hours and 51 minutes.

"Ridiculous" - you say. "That is absolutely impossible! We may get there bit sooner or bit later, but certainly not at any predetermined time!"

And of course my request is ridiculous. The mighty forces of the wind and waves will make the journey over 1,170 km at a constant speed impossible.

The same is true for the ability of a mechanical watch (precisely: its heart) to tick at a steady beat when you constantly move your arm around. And not only you move your arm, but also when you hammer, play golf, ride a bike, play sports, shake hands, gesticulate and run - just to mention a few of your daily activities you don't even think about.

This constant movement of your arm create a mighty havoc [tsunami!!] of random forces which, in a fraction of a second, accelerate or slows down that little mechanical heart throwing it around like a tiny dingy on rolling seas.

As any sailor can testify: staying on a course to Hobart is a huge challenge in itself, let alone arriving there at a certain predetermined time.

Yet somehow, you expect your mechanical watch to overcome random man-created forces at a predictable rate – not mentioning gravity, variation in temperature, state of lubricant and internal forces which power the movement.

Despite all of that, mechanical wrist watches do actually keep remarkably accurate time. Out of 86,400 seconds per day most watches miss only a handful, resulting in accuracy of 99.99946 percent!

Watch enthusiasts who demand 'perfect timekeeping' are missing the point:
the journey to Hobart is all about arriving to the destination, conquering the mighty forces.
Getting there at any particular point of time is as irrelevant as it is impossible.

Time keeping is not about achieving perfection. Rather, it is a continuous horological attempt to reduce imperfection.

A $50 Seiko can be as accurate as a $50,000 Patek and a $10,000 Rolex can be as inaccurate as a $10 Raketa. Money cannot buy happiness, and as you now know, it cannot buy accuracy either.

Questions: there are _________ seconds in a day.

Considering the obstacles they have to overcome, mechanical watches are remarkably ________ timekeepers.

Happy collecting,


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