watch this

On the perception and cultural coding of time via the framing face of the history and currency of the male wrist watch. Critically & poetically a philosophical and socio cultural enquiry into the commoditization and fetish of time and exactness + a look at the one of most costly personal products of capitalist making and design excess.

The wristwatch is a sunset technology & also the first personal tech object, the forerunner of the proliferations of gadgets that clutter our lives. The wrist watch was once the signature device given to a boy, turning the boy into an exacting man ruled by the tic tock of a life of labour and adult / social responsibility. It began as, and has increasingly become, a possession wound by obsession, of fetish, of intense signification, of status and definition.

It is of course first of all a measuring device, but a measuring of what exactly?

For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not. Yet I say with confidence, that I know that if nothing passed away, there would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not be future time; and if nothing were, there would not be present time. Those two times, therefore, past and future, how are they, when even the past now is not; and the future is not as yet? But should the present be always present, and should it not pass into time past, time truly it could not be, but eternity. If, then, time present — if it be time — only comes into existence because it passes into time past, how do we say that even this is, whose cause of being is that it shall not be — namely, so that we cannot truly say that time is, unless because it tends not to be?

Augustine, Confessiones lib xi, cap xiv, sec 17 (ca. 400 CE)


This ticking ruler, this imaginary agreement of clock time — what is it? This is the principal “thing” that will be explored in the film — and it is only in the medium of in the time-based mediums that a proper exploitation of the subject could be executed.

What are the stories that have created the myth of the solidity of clock time? And what does it mean for our society, for our selves, for our lives that we have become hostages to the moment(s) of a machine?

“The clock turns time from a process of nature into a commodity that can be measured and bought and sold like soap or sultanas.” George Woodcock, 1944, (The Tyranny of the Clock).

Timely, a film essay or full documentary on the subject of the watch surprisingly has not been done, though the cult of the wristwatch is massive, excessive, knowledgeable and extensive. There is an incredible wealth of history, public domain imagery, thousands of insanely knowledgeable collectors and enthusiasts and dozens of firms and institutions to pull out information, visuals, graphics, films, videos and stories from. My intent is to capture and create a glistening piece of translucent fascination, a telling of our own — your own, yes it is the personal you I am talking to — mortality. And the mortality of our species and our world.


The Hiroshima watch — frozen on the date and time of the August 6 atom blast.      The release at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) went as planned, and the gravity bomb known as “Little Boy”, a gun-type fission weapon with 60 kilograms (130 lb) of uranium-235, took 43 seconds to fall from the aircraft flying at 31,060 feet (9,470 m) to the predetermined detonation height about 1,900 feet (580 m) above the city.


Peter Heinlein, a master locksmith, and cutlery craftsman, created the first portable watch in Nuremberg sometime in the early 1500’s. He was also a convicted murderer as was his brother (who murdered two young children — probably in connection with sort of sexual deviant act ) . True: Peter Heinlein’s personal watch was found in a flea market box in 1987 by a watchmaker’s apprentice, it was certified as Heinlein’s watch in 2003.   The watch, now 506 years old, needed only cleaning and some minor repair to get it up and running. The inscription on the watch says : “In the year 1505 – The time will escape me, but I (the watch) will recognize the correct time.”  So the beginnings of the watch — connected with murder, with the art of the knife, the lock, the key, division, ownership.


The next big moment for the watch and time keeping was the chronometer in 1762, which allowed for the accurate determination of longitude at sea. This accelerated to a great degree the ability of the different colonial powers to navigate their burgeoning colonial possessions. Here again time is linked with control — here clearly — the mechanism of marking time — linked to power over space.


DROMOLOGY: The Logic of Speedspeed

Jacques Henri Lartigue Le Grand Prix A.C.F.,1913

“The contemporary image is a time-image, even a speed-image. Until the invention of photography, there was only aesthetics of appearance. Images only persisted because of the persistence of their medium: stone in the Neolithic era or in ancient times, carved wood, painted canvas…With the coming of photography, followed by cinematography and video, we entered the realm of an aesthetics of disappearance: the persistence is now only retinal… I believe in an aesthetics of disappearing is another world, another link to the real. It is a link to the real as fleeting, as uncertain.” Paul Virilio, Author “Pure War”, “Popular Defence & Ecological Struggles”, “Open Sky”

Virilio’s argument remains informative, though fantastically it too has become (somewhat) dated to a particular era, the ascendance of French semiotic thought in the 1990’s. We learn that our social construct is one tailored to a manufacturing process governed by speed of the production process itself. And as we continue our acceleration into the post industrial era, moving away from a civilization conditioned by Taylorism(s) and the conditions of a life accounting ordered by predetermined motion time systems (PMTS), as we accelerate exponentially towards the singularity predicted by the likes of Kurzweil — what use then will be this antiquated measurements? Is Internet time the beginning of the end of time, the reintroduction of the timeless via impossible acceleration or is it into the momentary pure simple like a plant, a blossom, a flower?


“James Bond wore a Rolex,” Michael Williams said. “Who really needs more convincing than that?”


It is of note that one other moment was crucial for the popularization of the wrist watch, one that pictures well the relationship between the conquering of space with the assistance of the clock tied to the necessities of speed — utopianistic and the distopic. Santos-Dumont, the pioneer aviator played an important role in popularizing the wrist watch in the early 20th century.

In 1904, while celebrating his winning of the Deutsch Prize at Maxim’s Restaurant in Paris, Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch to time his performance during flight. Santos-Dumont then asked Cartier to come up with an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls. Cartier went to work on the problem and the result was a watch with a leather band and a small buckle, to be worn on the wrist

Dumont committed suicide, hanging himself on July 23, 1932, depressed over the use of beloved aeronautics in war (he had believed that air travel would usher in an era of universal community


Extraordinary Artisan Watches (Some watchmakers to be contacted for interviews)


The Hesitation of Light

(the most important watch event in the world)


Watches have much to do with the male attempt to conquer space, to expand and escape the rounds of the earth by understanding or rather gauging time. See the Gagarian Tourbillion which is a watch inspired by the first man in space Yuri Gagarin.