Watch Curmudgeon: Factoring the Glance

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About a year or so ago, I was sitting in a theater waiting for a movie to begin. Instead of watching all the annoying commercials and mindless trivia games, I was intently staring at my watch, a vintage Rolex Oyster, admiring how the subdued light danced around the bezel as it produced a warm, yellowish glow on the raised, acrylic crystal.

A moment after I returned my gaze to the screen, a guy sitting beside me asked me for the time. Although I had been thoroughly consumed by my watch, I didn’t have the slightest idea of the time, so I had to take a quick glance. That’s when I realized something that should have been obvious to me for a long time: my watches serve a dual purpose.

As a seriously addicted watch freak, I love my watches and enjoy looking at them from every conceivable angle. God knows how many times I do this during the day. I even shower occasionally with my Submariner because it looks great with water splattering on it. And in the evening, I wear a watch to bed because if I wake up late at night, the lume mesmerizes me back to sleep. Yes, this is sick fanatic behavior, but what the &%#@!

Getting back to the point I was attempting to make, when I gawk at my watches, acquiring the time is the last thing on my mind. That’s my main purpose for wearing a watch. The secondary, and boring, purpose is to tell the time. And when I do this, I realized that I want to spend as little time as possible telling the time. That makes me a glancer.

Now tell me this, have you ever considered all the nuances that go into glancing? NO, you haven’t. The true art to accurate glancing depends entirely on the design and overall legibility of the watch dial. Duh! Therefore, I have assigned a glance factor to all of my watches on a scale from 1 to 10. Currently, I only have two that tie for the top qualifying position.

My Tourby has just about every quality that determines a supreme glancer. It’s a 42mm time-only watch with a completely uncluttered, white enamel dial. The hands are dark blued with small, unique tips; there’s an unobtrusive, small seconds subdial; the bezel has no distracting ornamentation; and there’s no logo or typography. It’s a classic, time-telling machine, as are most classic deck watches. If you need to steal a quick, inconspicuous glance during a boring business meeting or a date from hell, it’s perfect.

My other contender in the enviable 10 slot violates just about every principal the Tourby stands for. It’s a Muhle Glashutte Terranaut 2 with a black dial that’s cluttered with numbers and chapter rings. But thanks to the large white minute hand, considerably smaller, yellow-rimmed hour hand, and skinny red second hand, you can accurately read it in an instant. Of course, the bold 44mm diameter, skinny bezel, and anti-reflective coating on the crystal enhance the situation.

Actually, most aviation style watches are, by necessity, excellent glancers. Inspired by authentic dashboard instrumentation, they’re made for people whose lives depended on quick glancing. I mean if you’re putting your P-51 Mustang into a steep dive while trying to evade cannon fire from a rapidly approaching ME109, the last thing you want to do is stare at your altimeter.

I used to have another 10 that currently resides in my son’s collection. It’s a Louis Erard regulator with a beautifully uncluttered, bone white dial. If you know the hour, one rapid glance at the minute hand will reveal the precise time. But if you first have to consult the hour, the watch drops to a factor of about 5. The same can be said for most tastefully designed jumping hour watches.

Now let’s go to a glance factor of 9. That’s where my Rolex Submariner qualifies. If not for the intrusive seconds hand, date magnifier, typography on the dial, and overly reflective sapphire crystal, it coulda been a 10 contender. But, as they say at the Olympics, silver sure ain’t gold. But, hey, I love that watch so much that I’m going to have to apologize to it.

At this point, I’m going to make a promise to you: I’m not going to bore you with glance factors for all my watches. Besides, the guys at worn&wound complain that my posts are too long. I just wasted over 40 words.

I don’t have any glance factor of 8 watches. Which is good. Because I can now rationalize buying a few to fill this needy slot. Hmmmmm. That new Helson Skin Diver Chrono would certainly qualify. Deserves some contemplation.

As far as the factor of 7 is concerned, I have quite a few in this category. Most notably, my old Rolex Oyster due to its small diameter, date magnifier, and slim hands that should be slightly more unequal in length. I have a Girard Perregaux GP90 with a similar hands problem, plus a distracting power reserve indicator. My Tutima Valeo is also a 7 but could have been a solid 9 were it not for a prominent panoramic date, power reserve indicator and two annoying logos.

Dropping down to a glance factor of 4, I have to mention one of my favorite watches: a Chronoswiss Kairos Chronograph. The dial is broken down into four registers, one of which is for the time. Measuring a scant 11mm in diameter, there are two Breguet style hands in this tiny circle located at 3 o’clock. So, for all intents and purposes, it’s an 11mm watch. But it’s gorgeous. And you can still read the time when your shirt cuff is covering close to 75% of the dial.

Is it possible for a watch to have a glance factor of 1? You bet your ass it’s possible, especially when you’re dealing with a MeisterSinger one-hander. I’ve got one, a beautiful limited edition, and I love gazing at it. But as far as telling time at a quick glance, forgetaboutit. You’ve got to stare at it to be accurate within ten or so minutes. I’ll say no more because I’m going to do a Curmudgeon review on this watch in the very near future.

Finally, let’s think about watches with a glance factor of 0. There are loads of them. Many of today’s most complicated, let alone expensive, timepieces have so many hands, registers, and dial cut-outs that telling the time is no easy feat. But that certainly doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t want to cherish one. If you’ve got the bread to buy one of these, you could probably afford to hire someone just to tell you the time. So there!

Do I have a 0 factor watch? Yup. It’s surely complicated, but cheap as hell. It’s a Casio G-Shock digital, which means you’ve got to focus on small digits to get the exact time. If you’re wondering why a mechanical fiend like me would own one of these monsters, the answer is simple. When I wear it, which is rare, it constantly reminds me why I love all my other watches. With its vivid red plastic case and strap, it’s butt ugly. Even at a glance.

by John Weiss

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