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One of the most complex wristwatches ever made (wired.co.uk)
195 points by wilsonfiifi on Aug 27, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 143 comments

This cynicism in this thread is disappointing. Of course, the things that this watch shows can easily be achieved by the most rudimentary computer but imagine the patience and skill needed to mechanically move sunrise and sunsets. Doing complex calculations all through gears and fitting it in a tiny wristwatch.

It can be regarded as a pinnacle of human engineering. I am sure it's possible to draw parallels with equally complex software but thinking of the effort involved in making this, there would hardly be any equivalent.

> I am sure it's possible to draw parallels with equally complex software

Absolutely - I mean which programmer wouldn't admire the mechanics of an Enigma, a Z3 or any mechanical calculator.

I sometimes use an Abacus or a sliding rule - just for fun!

> It can be regarded as a pinnacle of human engineering

I would argue it is pinnacle of art and not of engineering.

Or a bit of both really. I am impressed by the work put into it and the actual engineering, though it does feel like a piece of art as well.

I think their point was that engineering is the process of finding the most efficient way to accomplish a given goal given the whole of science and technology with which to accomplish it. In this way, a purely mechanical watch attempting such complex calculations is suboptimal. As such, it's existence is a form of art -- it is engineering only in the sense that the restrictions imposed are themselves non-optimal (for instance, the requirement that purely mechanical mechanisms be used). Something at the pinnacle of engineering would seek to optimise not only the solution, but also the requirements.

Why is engineering restricted to finding the most efficient way? That sounds straight out of the critiques of the Cult of Efficiency. In my opinion, Engineering is a process applicable to any goals, efficiency being just one possibility; hence I much prefer Wikipedia's definition:

Engineering is the application of mathematics, as well as scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge to invent, innovate, design, build, maintain, research, and improve structures, machines, tools, systems, components, materials, processes, solutions, and organizations.

If you don't allow that kind of restrictions, many modern bridges should be consider art by that logic because "while looking good and distinct" was one of their design goals.

Precisely. They are both art and engineering -- that's the point. Generally, the art aspect consists of the aesthetic restrictions you've placed on your engineering efforts.

restricting a machine to mechanical operations takes severe engineering effort - what you are doing is just playing with words. you can program to display a time on a watch running Python inside - but you probably would have to research for years before coming up with a reliable and usable mechanical watch - not to mention the advanced features at display here.

Playing with words is the point, in this case. The distinctions between art and engineering are as real as the words we use to describe them.

Developing a mechanical way of doing this from scratch is much more efficient than developing the entire stack of technology abstraction layers (from transistors to CPUs to computer engineering to LEDs to OSes to programming languages and runtimes, etc.) to achieve this digitally.

Some spinning weals, gears, and springs are much much much more efficient!

And if the goal is to compute the position of the stars mechanically, with no electricity? By your definition, it suddenly becomes engineering again.

Does that mean all programs written in anything but C are "art" and not "engineering"?

Unfortunately most programs fail to be art for aesthetic reasons :-)

I can agree the most of them aren't engineering either.

Some pieces of art are so bad they're good and the same is true of software: http://ioccc.org/

Engineering is art

It's a pinnacle of engineering in the same way that a vehicle made entirely of jello is. Impressive? Extremely. Interesting? Very! Practical? Not so much.

I think most of the detraction comes from people who think that impressive things must also be useful or practical.

I think your underplaying the role of software in designing this. It's not actually difficult to design something like this anymore. They also avoided mentioning how accurate it actually was because it's 99% art 1% utility.

> I think you're :-)

There's one complication that I've seen in another watch and that puzzles me a lot.

On its back this watch has sunrise/sunset times. These times are derived from a so-called sunrise equation [1] which depends on the day of the year and the latitude, and is expressed via trigonometry functions.

I can see how this can be translated into some sort of irregularly shaped gear(s) if there were a single variable (the day of the year), but I have no idea how one could also allow for different latitudes.

Does anyone know or care to guess?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunrise_equation

Many european apartment houses have stairway lighting that is on around dawn and dusk, but at other times you push a button for about 10 minutes of light. The timing of these things is not static but follows the sun, and older such equipment was mechanical and used what I imagine was simply a sinusoidally shaped gear.

I used to manage a small apartment block in Stockholm and remember setting latitude and day-of-year into ours to get the timing to agree with the sun, and to stay there. Here's a photo of a similar device:


Here is example of time switch with solar dial [1][2]. Big Clive explains its internals a bit. The dial seems to be made for specyfic latitude as cams are set and only input is day of the year.

I think that it can be made to use latitude input with some more complex set of cams and user setable input.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i_vfsuCpJY 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_dial

I thought of that video too. Before electronics, mechanically calculating the movement of celestial objects was pretty common, and goes back a long time:


I don't know what watch you have seen, but here is an explanation of a similar watch: http://newatlas.com/krayon-everywhere-watch-sunrise-sunset/5...

TL;DR: The factors such as latitude are user-programmable.

This clock is really impressive, but it took me nearly 10 minutes to find out what time it is on the pictures. The graphical display of sunrise and sunset on the other hand is genius.

Thanks, haven't seen this one. There is no explanation per se, but this confirms that it's doable. Knowing the answer exists is half of the solution :)

PS. And it's only 6.5 mm thick!

The watch is build to function at the desired latitude of the buyer. These aren't mass produced models, so it's feasible. Especially considering the price tag. :)

I would think, that the customers who can afford those watches tend to travel between latitudes.

I suppose, as they can clearly afford the time to do so.

Wondering the process of changing the geo location.. Or is it even possible once the watch is finished.

Amazing peace of art though..

I recommend watching this video if you're interested in learning about multivariate analysis using mechanical computers. It's very approachable and informative. https://youtu.be/s1i-dnAH9Y4

As others have mentioned, the watches are customized to the owner's preferred location. https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/vacheron-constantin-les-ca...

It's not really feasible for a small pocket watch but for larger clocks you could use a cam where rotation is the day of the year and the position along it is the latitude. For the Long Now clock they're using something similar for their solar noon synchronizer to correct for drift of the main clock.

A mechanical watch is a beautiful little creature living on my arm. I love to take off my automatic Seiko and enjoy looking at the pulsating balance wheel through the transparent back. It reminds me of a heart beating. If I don't feed it enough by moving my arm it goes into sleep. Then I have to wake it up by shaking it or by operating the manual wind.

I am a reasonable person - I wouldn't spend excessive amount of money on a watch. Mine did cost 300 Euro - that's the right price and you can get a very nice one if you look around. I even took the hassle of importing it from Japan.

Isn't the complexity here trivial when compared to the complexity of the cpu in smart watches?

I think I would view this as the watchmaker equivalent to making Commodore 64 demos in present day. It is utterly pointless, serves no practical purpose, and achieves effects that would be tremendously easier if obtained through a different method. But, it isn't there for the purpose of achieving those effects, but rather for showing off one's mastery of a craft.

This is a great analogy. There are people who still make new games for the C64:


...and other companies that release new music on old long dead mediums:


It may be kinda hipster, but it's also pretty impressive.

You apply modern engineering to those old color and memory limitations and it's pretty amazing what you can get out of decades old hardware. In the same way, you can apply modern manufacturing techniques to the classic design of a mechanical watch and really stretch the amount of functionality you get with such a small space.

For me it's about the human experience being an analogue one, and having a watch that works and expressed in an analogue way is a beauty in itself and is instantly relatable, and has a meaning in itself. So this is its value that is not just about showing off craft

I think the main selling point for the people actually buying the watches is the exclusivity and display of wealth they represent. To get a sense, you could have a look at this amusing parody article. It is a parody, but there are nonetheless a lot of people who think this way.


I mean, I dig the notion of the human experience being "analogue." But the human experience doesn't normally include spending twenty-plus years worth of a normal person's wages for a useless trinket to wear on your wrist. I'm really torn about this. The device is something amazing, but the cost is extravagant in the extreme.

I can understand why you're torn, but - speaking here as someone who owns such a watch - people vastly overestimate the Veblen status potential of expensive watches, which is unfortunate because that can lead them to be quick to judge their owners. I have met wealthy people in the sort of industries you might typically associate with this kind of pedigreed excess (Wall St, Big Law), and those folks don't appear to recognize what I'm wearing at all. Often they're wearing smart watches these days.

The truth is that extremely expensive watches are a poor form of wealth signaling unless they're loud (think of a Hublot encrusted with diamonds, or something extremely iconic like a Rolex). If you walk into nearly any room wearing a Patek, Lange, Vacheron, etc. I can virtually guarantee that your watch will simply go unnoticed.

I actually like Rolex watches quite a lot for the real engineering work that goes into manufacturing them, but I don't own one specifically because I'd rather not broadcast an expensive item on my wrist. I consider watches like these to be a form of art that emerges from the idea of practicality but also frees itself from it (as do most collectors I've personally spoken to).

I own a Submariner and most people won't recognize it as there are so many other watches that look like it and those that see that it is a Rolex think it is a fake anyway, at least when I'm wearing my usual t-shirt/jeans combination.

Confirmed. Owned a real Rolex, saw a strangers copy, liked it better and bought one. Ended up selling both at a profit, so a win I suppose. But other than the other guys with expensive watches, no one cared. And after a while, I realized I didn't either. I now own a few 1800s era mechanicals, that were cheap, I can repair them (or at least try), and really seem to have more character and soul than the modern swiss movements.

I have Seiko SKX007 (https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/the-seiko-skx007-divers-wa...) and it costs less than $200. There are Seiko 5 watches even cheaper than that.

The chips in the smart watch aren't made by hand :-)

Seriously, what you're paying for here is the labor (mental and physical) of a highly-skilled artisan. It's the same thing as paying more for a painting by a skilled artist than you do for an inkjet printout of a digital photo.

By smart watch I take it you mean one of those gas guzzling things that doesn't quite manage to do anything particularly useful that the phone you probably carry as well does rather better 8)

I strapped a Citizen Eco watch on my wrist about 12 years ago. It charges itself via four solar panels behind the hands - they simply look black. The only pains are I have to do BST/GMT adjustments and worst of all: "30 days hath September ..." Oh, and its not water proof. The time keeping is good enough.

I am surrounded by more ntp daemons than you can shake a stick at if I need millisecond accuracy, eg this laptop:

$ ntpq -p remote refid st t when poll reach delay offset jitter ============================================================================== +server1.webster 2 u 237 256 377 15.144 0.081 0.713 * .GPS. 1 u 11 64 377 12.541 -1.346 0.698 -ntp3.ds.network 2 u 196 256 377 334.847 4.998 23.715 +babbage.betadom 2 u 177 256 377 10.992 -0.505 1.023

Tut! one of the servers I'm using is showing an offset of nearly 5ms but it's OK: that system has a - against it.

In a few days time I will be firing up a new member for the general ntp pool(s). I've been using it for many years and its time to give back. I'll be following this guide: https://www.ntpsec.org/white-papers/stratum-1-microserver-ho... Depending on how that goes, I may be able to fire up quite a lot of them scattered across the UK. Some internet links I look after are only for failover and are largely idle most of the time.

> doesn't quite manage to do anything particularly useful that the phone you probably carry as well does rather better

I don't have a full fledged smartwatch, but a running watch with some smart features. Its killer feature is not to pretend to be a phone. It's much simpler than that. Its receiving (only high priority) notifications on my wrist. Incredibly convenient when I can't pick up my phone.

Edit: apparently my phone strongly prefers "it's" over "its".

> apparently my phone strongly prefers "it's" over "its".

Wanna swap phones? Mine always writes "its" which I almost never want -.-

It's also super handy to just put on your running gear and start running... I don't want a phone in my hand or in my gym shorts when running. I just need the watch to track my movements and when I get back home, I can sync it up to my smartphone, who will take the data, upload it to some running website and analyze everything (including heart rate data). That's still one of the best use cases to justify buying a smart watch at the moment

Adding two spaces to the start of text code-formats it. One single newline (eg, aaa\nbbb) converts to a space (aaa bbb).

I was both curious about the ntpq listing and mildly fidgety about its current presentation, so I fiddled with it to see if I could reassemble it.

  $ ntpq -p
  remote           refid           st t when poll reach   delay   offset  jitter
  +server1.webster  2  u  237  256  377   15.144    0.081   0.713
  *  .GPS.           1  u   11   64  377   12.541   -1.346   0.698
  -ntp3.ds.network 2  u  196  256  377  334.847    4.998  23.715
  +babbage.betadom     2  u  177  256  377   10.992   -0.505   1.023

I recently purchased an Eco that has an atomic clock receiver to self correct every night. Auto charging and auto setting is very helpful. Even the dates are always right.

It's a beautiful thing and I've gotten so used to having perfect time on my wrist that I actually feel strange when I don't have it.

Kinda missing the point, I think.

I'm sure the complexity is not what drives the price so high...if you would replace Vacheron Constantin with Foxconn you wouldn't sell it for $1000 regardless of its complexity. Many luxury brands place ridiculous prices on specific items so that they can increase the sales of less expensive models.

A five-year-long project involving some of the finest watchmakers in the world surely cost far more than $1m, and that watch will sell for much more than that at auction some day.

If it was priced to reflect its complexity it would be probably more on the order of $10m or more. Much simpler movements frequently cost $1-2 million to develop, often higher.

Yup. They will be rare and fetch good auction prices.

I gave my watch collection to my son, keeping just a Citizen. He had them appraised and they have all pretty much retained or increased in value.

Is there value to these devices beyond timekeeping and resale?

No, and there isn't really value in its timekeeping either. It's designed as a form of art, not for practical utility.

It's for one-upping your rich friends.

And if Hollywood is to be believed, an expensive watch may be traded to a minor speaking-role character for a plot-necessary object in an emergency. By that theory, this watch is not only a watch, but also a canoe, a pair of shoes, or even a motorcycle.

It's jewelry

Fashion, novelty, and conversation all spring to mind.

Except Foxconn cannot make a watch like this for $1000, or even $10000. We currently do not have the infrastructure/tools to mass produce something like this yet. It's not just the parts, it's the assembly of hundreds of tiny parts to the highest precisions, the finishing details, the engraving.

Modern assembly lines simply can't pull off something like this. And this is why even the cheapest Chinese Tourbillion watches cost about $5k USD.

I think this is an excellent point, but I'll add that we don't have the economies of scale for it either. If there was enough demand for a tourbillon, an Apple-esque company would emerge (maybe Richemont or Patek) and drive the costs down for manufacturing.

Other than that, part of the appeal is the handcraftsmanship involved in these pieces. The engraving and setting work on my own Lange is a thing of beauty to look at under a magnifier, and it can't (yet) be achieved by a machine, even if the design and modeling can be done in software and the tools themselves can be mass manufactured.

Vacheron Constantin and less expensive in one sentence ...

A hand crafted digital watch could be a thing of beauty. Especially if the circuitry of the CPU was visible under a magnifying face.

Not QUITE the same but this guy[1] makes Nixie Tube watches. Steve Wozniak has one.

[1] http://cathodecorner.com

Perhaps, but the ratio of number of people involved to complexity is much higher in making a watch like this.

I am inclined to agree with twiceaday on this, even with the qualifier of people involved to complexity. Obviously, if you factor in the entire supply chain for the whole industry, the semiconductor/electronics/plastics industry is higher, but I expect there are several ties in the quartz watch system where there are few people involved but huge amounts of complexity. The layout and routing of the microcontroller and the hard real-time operating system that runs on a moderately feature-rich watch have orders of magnitude more lines of code (not a precise measure of complexity, but it's close) than even the entire count of teeth on the gears of this watch.

In fact, the argument that this involves fewer people seems to point to it being less complex. If one guy with a CNC micro lathe and some metal stock could make a precision clock like Chris of Clickspring, and a quartz watch takes huge industries with thousands of people, isn't the latter definitely more complicated?

The way this article is written suggests that the whole clock was modeled on a computer, and that they even used a constraint solving system to figure out the gearing:

"I rely on these equations and the powerful software to find a solution with our input. It's a question of using these tools to find new solutions."

Also notice the quote towards the end that they were able to redesign the whole drive train just to make it a bit thinner.

What I'm trying to say is that this watch has little in common with what people assume is a "hand made and designed watch".

So this watch feels more like your later example, where you have the huge (computer) industry behind it.

It's not a secret that the industry uses software for modeling. But it still has skilled staff operating that software.

When people emphasize the artistry and craftsmanship of mechanical timepieces at this price point, they're talking about two facts:

1. Most such watches are designed in-house according to rigorous specifications and long R&D cycles, with the majority of tooling and manufacturing processing being wholly original and unique to the firm,

2. The watches are assembled and serviced entirely by hand with a sophisticated precision that takes watchmakers years to learn.

On the upper end of the spectrum you have independent watchmakers like F.P. Journe who singlehandedly design and build entirely new systems in their movements.

For those wondering about Clickspring, here is a link:


I advise you not to click on it. It will eat up your time and it takes your complete attention.

I chose the wrong profession.

Whenever I write complex code, it is worth less instead of more.

Oh it's the same here.

If you can design a watch that achieves what this watch does with less complexity and more reliability, it would be hugely rewarded and hailed as a crowning achievement.

Just remember the design constraint is that no electricity of any sort can be used.

It is an interesting phenomenon. Everything this watch does could easily be done by a $1.99 smartphone app. But of course that's not the point.

I'm sure on the level where it counts these wristwatch makers/designers are rewarded for achieving their goal in the least complex way.

In the same way, when viewed at from a high enough level, developers are generally paid more as the systems they work on get more complex

But you don't "see the gears behind the code turn". I remember fondly the old computers that flashed their memory at you, floppy access, or later memory addresses, then later cpu and hdd activity, then just hdd, and now nothing. The feedback, the pulse, of our devices is now so small to be hidden entirely. I find I prefer physical switches and buttons over virtual "smart" buttons almost every time. I miss knowing what a button does without having to examine software. These watches speak to that in a way even good code can not (and I can enjoy some good code). Its simply less abstracted.

Not always. See hand rolled assembly loops in the right place.

(S)he is a TypeScript developer. We've forgotten who wrote the code by the time it reaches the Assembly line

Awesome watch. But they are anachronistic, if you'll pardon the pun. Any $0.50 quartz watch keeps better time!

I don't think anyone would buy a watch like this because they wanted to keep accurate time.

There are in fact high-end luxury watches that keep unusually accurate time. I own one - an Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33. It has a thermocompensated quartz movement (TCXO) and so is accurate to ~10 seconds a year, compared to the ~15 seconds a month of a normal quartz movement.

The Bulova Accutron is also very accurate, as the name suggests -- around five seconds a year -- and is much less expensive than the Omega.

The fact is that most luxury watches are mechanical; the Skywalker X-33 is an oddity in that it's a luxury quartz, which barely exists as a market segment. Mechanical watches are not as accurate, with standard COSC deviation being -4 to +6 seconds... per DAY.

-Other luxury watch companies also made forays into quartz back in the day - say, Rolex Oysterquartz for a prime example. I believe Vacheron Constantin also made one at some point.

Modern mechanical watches can do significantly better than COSC, by the way - I have owned an Omega Planet Ocean (c.2500C) for a decade now, for the first seven or eight years it ran consistently 0.7 seconds/day fast - so I just adjusted it back a minute or two every time I unscrewed the crown to correct the date.

Now it is due for a service soon - but still within a couple of seconds a day.

Back in the day, when quartz seemed like it would take over the world... how many people nowadays know about or want an Oysterquartz? ;)

The point I was trying to make is that probably one of the LOWEST selling points of a luxury watch is accuracy -- there are far more accurate, electronic solutions in the watch space. I love mechanical watches, but I hold no illusions as to how they compare to more modern technology as timepieces. :)

Oh, I want one - an OysterQuartz, that is - primarily to show off to Rolex enthusiasts who thump their chests saying 'Rolex NEVER made a quartz watch!' (As if that is something to be ashamed of; an accurate quartz movement is also impressive in its own right, IM(EE, digital/RF)HO.

I do agree 100%, though - much as I love my mechanical watches, if I happen to be in a situation which requires exact knowledge of the current time, I simply look at my HP Z3801A.

A mechanical wristwatch serves a different purpose - and in addition being good enough for everyday life, much as vinyl is plenty good enough to have us enjoy music, even if there are more high fidelity-solutions out there. Vinyl has its own intangible advantages; as do mechanical watches.

Genuinely curious (after looking up the price tag) - do you think the accuracy justifies the cost?

The accuracy is not the only reason I bought it, it's a very capable timepiece, but it surely helps. During the eclipse I used it to get 60 second warnings of the start and end of totality.

A good fountain pen is anachronistic as well. They (pens and mechanical watches) are not casual goods just to be used, they are luxury goods, even if some of them are quite affordable.

These are pure Veblen goods, with a nostalgic slant on trivial practical utility, used to display purchasing power in a capitalist economy where purchasing power is considered a proxy for high social status.

In fact they're more like cult power objects - what anthropologists call fetish objects, which confer an implied cultural blessing on their owners.

I own a watch from a brand of comparable quality and complexity expertise as Vacheron Constantin. I don't use it display purchasing power - I almost never actually wear it because I like to wear my Apple Watch most of the time. When I do wear it, I am almost never around anyone who would recognize the brand of the watch. Essentially no one I personally know is aware of how much I paid for the watch, no one has ever commented on the watch specifically, and I do not bring it up in conversation even when I wear it.

In other words, I own the watch because I enjoy it for its own sake. It's a beautiful piece of handcrafted machinery. It's not supposed to have superlative practical utility, nor does any serious watch house actually strive for that. These timepieces are a form of art, and whether or not you appreciate them has no bearing on the fact that their manufacturers are under no illusions of their practicality.

Don't generalize your perception of the entire industry based on your experience or preconception of a relatively diminutive portion of its consumers. There are people who buy Rolexes because it's a good way to show off money, but there are many other people who honestly buy them because Rolex genuinely manufactures high quality mechanical watches. My experience as a collector is that most people do not buy these to show off. Rationally, a Vacheron Constantin is an inefficient vehicle for doing so - it looks pretty, but virtually no one will recognize it nor even comment on it.

Yeah... or the owner just appreciates horology and the cost is less meaningful to them because they are wealthy. I own a cheap mass produced mechanical watch. Its about ten times more expensive than the cheapest Casio with date and time. But that's not a lot of money to me compared to the pleasure of seeing the mechanism work as I drink a coffee and start my day. Mechanical time is a good remi der time is passing in the real world. The abstraction is closer to your own existence because of the motion. There is more to the experience of owning a thing than the thing itself. Computers are wholly uninteresting devices for calculating flips in bits, pushed and marketed by the dreggs of capitalist society. No normal person needs enough computation to model nuclear explosions in their pocket. Obviously.

> These are pure Veblen goods

I collect and restore fountain pens, and I have to disagree. There is surely a segment of the market that this fits well (Montblanc, for instance), but the majority of the fountain pen market is < $100.

For example, I have three pens with me today: a TWSBI Vac700, a Pilot Falcon, and a Sheaffer Snorkel. The TWSBI and Pilot are modern and cost $70 and $110 respectively, but the Snorkel is vintage (1958) and I paid $35 for it.

Excellent modern fountain pens can be had for <$20.

A psychologist said that for some people these kind of objects are a modern ethical way of owning a slave - someone dedicates one year of it's life to meticulously create an object that you then buy, essentially being your slave for a year.

The fundamental difference between slavery and employment is that employment is a) compensated and b) opt-out. So it'd be better to say that for some people these objects are a way to hire someone to do something for them, which doesn't sound all that profound, does it.

The point was that the something to do for them was waste one year of your time. I'm not saying that the other party didn't get anything out of it, just that the whole point of the exercise was to control someone with your money, and waste their time, just like the rich people which buy a bottle of Crystal and then they just spill it onto the floor.

Are you seriously saying that the master watchmaker wasted _his_ time making the watch?

That's ridiculous, he (or she) doesn't do it just for the money, the work itself is satisfying entirely separate from the monetary compensation. I'm sure he could find a job with pretty much the same income but less responsibility and therefore less stress if he felt like it but then he wouldn't have the satisfaction of building such an object.

I don't make watches but I do write some moderately complex software (I try to avoid it being complicated). It pays me the money that I use to feed my family but that is far from the only reason I do it. It is a satisfying endeavour in itself, sometimes just to see the customer's delight in using the finished article and sometimes my own delight in achieving a neat and efficient solution.

Back to physical things, I used to be a test equipment designer and the one thing I regret about moving into software is that I can no longer show my creations to people like my wife and have her see even a slight glimmer of what I have achieved.

That idea doesn't really seem at all comparable to slavery, and I'm curious which specific psychologist has ever staked a claim like that. It seems utterly inane and insulting.

Sounds like a psychologist of the armchair variety to me.

What psychologist said that? That doesn't seem coherent.

One of the most useful things i've learn in my business degree is how price has no floor or ceiling price when we are talking about non-commdity products

Luxury good pricing also doesn't follow the supply / demand curve. In some cases higher prices actually increase demand because that signals greater quality and exclusivity.

It's better to think of these sorts of watches as art. You don't own a watch like this because you have no other recourse for accurately telling the time. You own it because you appreciate it, like a Rothko or Pollock, or a Barcelona Chair if you're into that sort of thing too.

Lady Gaga doesn't wear a meat dress just to stay warm. Just think about the craftsmanship behind the dress. It's art that is elevated, transcended beyond mere mortal concerns of food.

I did like the pun. However I'm going to argue with you.

You can pick up a good mechanical Seiko watch with a tried and tested automatic movement for $100. When properly adjusted these can keep good time and do not need batteries. They stay wound simply by wearing them.

They have a sweep second hand (not a "tick-tick" 1hz hand like quartz watches). There is no need to change a battery. There is a lot of practical utility in that. In addition watches can be beautiful objects and a pleasure to wear.

anachronistic depends on what we are looking for, I for example just got my first mechanical watch, I know it's not accurate as a quartz but that's not the point. I'd like to think about it from a nostalgic point of view, from the days when not everything had a computer inside.

The Clock of the Long Now has a gear machined to match the earth's 26k year precession cycle: http://longnow.org/clock/prototype1/

This watch reminds me a lot of the Antikythera mechanism [1]; exquisite mechanical engineering and design, most advanced materials science of the day, implementing the astronomical theory of the day, but never to be disseminated as a mass-manufactured product. If one of these watches survives a couple thousand years, then if our future descendants guess (like we did for the Antikythera) that it was for a wealthy patron, then they'll be right.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

Yet those future archaeologists will be really confused when they find landfill sites full of even more complex smart phones and other electronics.

Excuse me if I'm ignorant; I get that it's a complicated watch but how are complications a countable concept? They list "57 complications". If I just added a 6 gears to the mechanism that do nothing, does that make it 63 complications? If I change the circle to a complicated shape with 25 vertices, is that counted as one complication or 25 complications upon the simplicity of the circle? If I tell time in binary, how do you count the added complexity?

a complication is each thing the watch does, so a date would be a complication, a moon phase, etc

Why don't they just call it a feature?

The use of domain-specific language signals membership in the domain. Such as "pushing to origin" instead of "uploading to the remote Git instance".

Watchmaking likely predates the usage of 'feature' as a general term for the same concept.

Complication is just a watchmaking term for what others might call features

A pretty accurate one in software also.

Tedu (OpenBSD) considers features to be (unnecessary) complications

Because the mechanism and it's purpose; namely, keeping track of time, is further complicated when doing something else.

It occurs to me that 'complication' is a better engineering term. Next to 'complication', 'feature' seems like an unfortunate euphemism.

I think so too. Given a mechanical context, a complication is very significant. People should think in those terms as there are no freebies.

Overly complicated mechanisms tend to be less robust, perform more poorly,require more energy, and more.

> Excuse me if I'm ignorant

Why? You have Google at your fingertips.

As someone with a natural attraction to stuff like this, it would be very interesting to see a parts diagram or even a service manual for one of these.

Where exactly does one go to school to be a watchmaker?

Is there a place to read up on gear ratios/design patterns for complications, and for linking complications together to form the mechanical watch?

Is there a watch designing application that would allow you to drop in a complication (however simple) and learn how all the gears perform the calculations needed for a complication?

I find elite watch designers to be fascinating.


Never-mind this looks amazing and was posted lower in the thread:


  Where exactly does one go to school to be a watchmaker?
Here's a fun interview with Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz, a master watchmaker: https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/interview-meet-dan-spitz-a...

The article mentions the Bulova School (closed since 1993 according to Wikipedia), and WOSTEP.

> Where exactly does one go to school to be a watchmaker?

I'm not a part of that world, but I hang around the periphery of the high-end European firearms community. Most of the master gunmakers and engravers didn't go to school to do that; they apprenticed under a master.

I imagine watchmakers do the same.

It's a neat watch, but the display of opulence is rather disgusting. There are people literally starving, social mobility is declining, yet there are people willing to spend enough money that most people could retire for life for a status symbol. That's money that could be invested in the local economy to build industries and create opportunities for the people in the area, yet they've chosen instead to buy a shiny toy.

The disconnect between rich and poor must be real, or else there wouldn't be a market for such things.

Couldn't this be argument be taken further? There's starving people, why do we spend money on Tesla autos? There's starving people, why do we take vacation instead of sending them money? And so on...

> That's money that could be invested in the local economy to build industries and create opportunities for the people in the area, yet they've chosen instead to buy a shiny toy.

They're literally supporting the watch industry, which does employ people, and is part of a local economy. Watchmakers are artisans, and deserve to be paid for their craft.

Well, obviously the line of disgusting opulence is drawn a bit higher up the food chain than us, for whatever definition of us you like. ;)

Counting the electronics I own, it adds up to 10s of thousands of dollars. Even if I subtract what I would require to do my job, continue my career, and to keep contact with others, I still have vast amounts of electronics often for the purpose of entertaining myself. That amount of money could've saved many lives, even provided education so that someone could not just survive but make a living for themselves.

Yet I seem to lose no sleep over this.

Or consider the case where clothes manufacturers, giving in to public pressure, ended child labor in some third world countries. Those children ended up in even worse 'jobs' if you could call them such. Not only did people behind this not feel bad about it, they saw it as having done a good thing.

On take all the time I devote to entertainment. While some relaxation is necessary to keep a good work life balance, I likely far over indulge in it. That time could've been spent making the world better in some way.

I really don't feel I'm in a place to criticize someone for building their a masterpiece of their craft.

> Counting the electronics I own, it adds up to 10s of thousands of dollars... I still have vast amounts of electronics often for the purpose of entertaining myself.

That's not a display of opulence, that's you using your own wealth to make your life more pleasant. You didn't get a $500,000 computer, did you? _That_ would be a display of opulence, and would be on par with a million dollar watch.

> it adds up to 10s of thousands of dollars

There is a very limited amount of investment you could do with $20-30k. You could build much, much more with a million dollars.

It's a matter of degree. The wealthy have such potential to make the world a better place, much more potential than the normal middle-class American. They have power, and instead of using that power to make the world better, they buy a machine that shows off how rich they are.

> Or consider the case where clothes manufacturers, giving in to public pressure, ended child labor in some third world countries.

That has nothing to do with this situation. That is capitalism gone awry to maximize profit at the expense of the workers. There's no display of wealth there. I'm not saying that guy with a million dollars should build a sweat shop.

> take all the time I devote to entertainment... I likely far over indulge in it.

I have no issue with the wealthy relaxing. They're people too. I have issue with them having such potential to help people, yet spending massive amounts of money on stuff like this instead. It's obscene to those of us who aren't and will never be wealthy like they are.

The core of the disagreement seems to be the view that I'm not wealthy, yet I'm sure there are many who would trade parts of their life to have what I have. I can't save millions, but that excuse me from not saving the dozens I could've?

Are the photos swapped? The face of the watch is shown with a caption describing the back.

Think of it as double-sided. The back hosts many of the complications, since you can't display everything on the single "main" face.

Yes they are.

Fascinating. The article mentions that they use some kind of software to help with the design. I wonder who developed it, is it in house, or there are companies in this niche market?

I can only make a wild guess, but when I hear of constraints I immediately think about linear programming, so I suppose they used some general purpose tool like GLPK (GNU Linear Programming Kit) or a commercial equivalent.

I read this article, and comments in this thread, in the voice of Archie Luxury. A previous watch snob on YouTube, his videos are hilarious.

it seems modern smartphone/watch still can't compete with most complications[0]... Or am I not looking hard enough?

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complication_(horology)

Given that a modern smartwatch has on the order of millions of times as many components, arranged very close to the theoretical physical limits of the materials, I don't know how any watchmaker could compete with a silicon lithographer on complexity.

Aside: I don't really care for either smartwatches or complex mechanical watches. I want my wristwatch to tell time, and all else being equal, to look good on my skin along with clothing I wear. To me, complexity should drive function and performance, and on that front, nothing competes with a quartz watch with a standard battery (or solid electromechanical drive) in a hand-opening case.

Complexity and complication are not the same thing.

I'm not following you... what complications do you think an app on a smartphone couldn't replicate? I love mechanical watches, but a smartphone could perform the same work as any complication, as far as I know.

I want something like this, beautifully designed, as gadget for my Always On Display.

Maaan, it's so XX century)

There are a couple of fantastic documentaries that follow some high level wristwatches craftsmen. It's absolutely amazing to see the dedication, precision and care they put into the tiniest of details.

On a larger scale, you have Clickspring on Youtube who does wall clock machining. He's doing a series now on building the Antikythera mechanism. Even that's bloody impressive; then you can imagine squeezing the same into a 45x45x10 mm cylindre...



Awesome, anyone want to buy me a Birthday present :)

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