When I think about a clock the image that pops into my head is that of the mechanism that keeps time, intertwining cogs and springs. I’ve been fascinated by watches since I was a child, how can they possibly work, and how can you make something so intricate so small? Every so often I will look into buying a new watch, and as I have gotten older and richer I have looked at investing in a watch. I am a sucker for a glossy advert with airplanes but if I am to buy a “nice” watch, I want to make sure I understand what makes it special. Why are mechanisms measure in jewels (have a look here if you are interested), and what makes a watch worthy of investment? Back to reality though, I don’t actually wear a watch. That’s not quite true. The one time I wear a watch nowadays, is when I go swimming, because it enables me to train to an interval but perhaps more importantly tells me when to get out of the pool. I am short sighted and cannot see the clocks at the side of our pool. Since I haven’t been swimming for months now, I don’t wear a watch.
Even when I did wear a watch, I used to find it annoying that I only wore it on one wrist (I had a pocket watch once). It makes me asymmetrical and I have this thing about being balanced. I didn’t like having a tan line around one wrist, though in past times I did like seeing the contrast which indicated I had a tan which I used to want. So I would switch the wrist I was wearing the watch on, but for a while I would then look at the wrong wrist. Actually the good thing about moving the watch onto the other wrist is that I suddenly became aware of how often I looked at my watch. It was like a nervous tick, I would constantly refer to my watch and to what purpose?
Have you ever been coastal sailing? On a sailboat that is rather than a powerboat, though I suppose the experiences have similarities. One of the things that struck me was that on a boat, I became much more attuned to the changes in nature. Life focusses around tides and weather systems and the one variable that links it all is time. Weather forecasts are listened to at certain times of day, weather predictions are time locked, and high tides and low tides are measured at certain times. But whilst our reference to the weather and tides are based around times, what is important, and what changes our decisions and our behaviour is what the weather and tides are doing. We can only go through that channel when the tide is with us, so we need to time our approach to coincide with so many hours after slack tide. A storm is coming in from the west so we need to find a safe anchorage that faces east, do we have time to circumnavigate that island? We are driven by basic needs: safety, food and water. We would get up before dawn to catch the tide, and we would sail through the night to cover a long passage. Nine to five doesn’t come into it.
Time is measured through the movement of our planet around our sun. Sunrise and sunset changes daily, and yet we enforce a structure over our daily routine using clocks. We don’t get up when the sun rises and we don’t go to bed when the sun sets, we get up at seven o’clock (choose your time here) sometimes in the dark and sometimes in the light. Perhaps I am saying that we would have a better connection with our planet if we weren’t so structured? Perhaps I am saying we would have a better connection with ourselves if we weren’t so structured? It is considered a luxury to go to bed when you feel tired, an indulgence to get up when you wake up but we are all different so is it a crime to need more sleep than someone else? Some companies have core hours and flexible hours. I believe some tech companies even are focused on the product rather than what hours you keep.
I know time is a vital parameter to how technology works together, but we humans are not so regimented, we are flexible and we can cope with variability. Perhaps life would be a bit easier if we were easier on our timings? Sailing off the west coast of Scotland is an amazing experience, freedom within nature’s bounds but, we still need a watch to keep safe. Perhaps a second hand Rolex after all because it can be a pain to use the mobile all the time.