When you want to innovate, you sometimes have to look in the opposite direction. I remember a conversation I had with my mother. In her fifties, her eyesight has recently declined. She admitted to me that while she would like to buy a nice watch, the problem she had with most of them is that she just can’t read the time on them.
A few months later during a stroll through the city she stopped, “Look, Simon, that right there is a great watch, I can read the time perfectly“. I turned over and followed where her finger directed me to and was greeted by an old favourite of mine, an A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk.
Where most traditional watch companies saw a threat in digital timepieces, a few select individuals noticed an opportunity in mixing the best of both worlds by utilizing a mechanical movement to display time in a digital manner. While not necessarily a new idea, it was around long before the digital watch, it was dormant for a long time only recently to reappear. Why though?
Well, first of all, I believe that displaying the time in a digital manner is simply a more natural display of time due to it being both easier and faster to read. This is a factor of particular interest for those not usually attracted to mechanical timepieces, feeling somewhat intimidated by the analogue display of time.
From a design perspective, it further allows for an incredibly clean look. With a maximum of only 4 numbers having to be displayed at once a lot of clutter is removed which can make for a very clean look as was achieved with IWC Tribute To Pallweber Edition ‘150 Years’. Alternatively, you can make a hybrid piece like the Monsieur de Chanel, which presents the hour digitally and uses the remaining space to focus on the analogue minute dial.
Finally, it is just incredibly refreshing. While many watches aim to differentiate themselves by yet another collaboration, so few actually dare to meddle with the concept of time telling itself. Digital time-telling is as functional as it is creative, and we need more of it in the watch world!