Einstein’s belief that time is an illusion is constantly challenged by an industry that exalts in clunking excess, writes Jay Merrick.
We exist in a psychotically bulked-up and tricked-up consumer cosmos.
Car bodywork ripples with hummocks of fast- twitch musculature. The iron-pumping species, homo inflatur, consumes supplements with capitalised brand-names, such as SERIOUS MASS, a whey protein that must be particularly suitable for six-packed Jesuits.
Overwrought biggery reaches its egregiously “creative” apotheosis in watchmaking. A timepiece such as the Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Small Second is rather passé because its design is as (dis)gracefully refined as that of a 1962 three-litre TD21 Alvis, an Oscar Niemeyer Rio chaise longue, or a David Mellor Odeon fork.
Machismo and bravado on your wrist
In the affordable watch sector, Diesel’s Mega Chief is one of many examples of uber-butch watches. Its ‘edgy detailing’ (their phrase) cannot conceal its serious mass (as they almost certainly would put it). The case measures 51 x 59mm, and there’s a plaque on the dial which reads: ONLY THE BRAVE. Wouldn’t UTTERLY POINTLESS PHRASE be better?
At the horological high- end, Albert Einstein’s belief that time is an illusion is being countered in absurdly excessive ways. To adjust the hands of the quasi-Nazi U-Boat Chimera 46 Carbon/ Titanium, you unscrew and flip back a winder-cover with U-BOAT stamped on it, while admiring the personalised silver rotor with blue screws. What have fidgety gubbins and submarines that sank 8,000 Allied ships got to do with checking what time it is?
“The dial of the Marine Grand Deck is a faux yacht deck, over which a tiny boom swings to indicate minutes”
The Ulysse Nardin website opens with a banging techno soundtrack and imagery, plus a #freakmeout hashtag. Its Classic range includes £22,000 watches whose dials are decorated with enamelled cats and oil rigs. There’s more! The Stranger chimes Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night every hour, or – what luck! – on demand. And finally, the dial of the Marine Grand Deck is a faux yacht deck, over which a tiny boom swings to indicate minutes.
We could say these timepieces are virtuosic in the same way as the Marquis of Worcester’s 17th-century Rolling Clock, which ‘measures Time after a peculiar Manner’. But they are not just peculiarly neo- mannerist gizmos. They signal the possession of time, and turn the simple act of telling the time into a decadently displayed style and brand statement created by inquisitional designers who’ve got techno-medieval on time’s ass.