A great affinity exists between watch enthusiasts and car enthusiasts.
And while it’s one thing to glory in external beauty, true love—the kind that lasts—worships what’s on the inside, not just the façade.
The visible engine bay of a modern super-car is the exhibition back of a fine watch.
We fall for what’s on the inside, those of us who are inclined to fall for this sort of thing.
But why would a car enthusiast become a watch enthusiast? What is the psychology behind this love of mechanical mastery?
We Love What’s Beautiful, Not What’s Practical
From a strictly practical perspective, one could argue there are better things to love than super-cars and fine watches.
Even if you love both, an electric car or a quartz watch are far superior to their mechanical counterparts.
Electric cars are healthier for our planet, especially if we parse out the manufacturing process from any comparisons.
They require less maintenance and, for now, despite recent threats during reform attempts, they come with a significant tax credit.
The incentives are there on many levels to forego old mechanical affections.
Quartz watches appeal to the more efficient or digital-minded collector, too. They can be accurate to within one second per month or better.
Even the most exquisitely engineered mechanical watch can’t match that.
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If you’ve ever seen a microchip under magnification, you could argue that the intricate circuitry of transistors is just as beautiful as a hand-built, mechanical movement.
Cramming millions or billions of transistors onto a sliver of silicon is undeniably amazing.
But we don’t see the circuit of a quartz watch or the details of an electric-car motor exposed in the same way as their mechanical contemporaries.
Would we have the same response if we did? I don’t think so.
We Love The Creative Skill of Movement
We are talking about the layers of technical and creative work that dance in sequence.
As a car enthusiast, you might not think of yourself as a sensualist. You are mistaken.
If you love the mechanics, whether in cars or watches, you love movement.
Imagine the three-dimensional profile of your favorite mechanical works.
Whether automotive or automatic, depth in mechanics invites a closer look. The tangibility of the work is your proof that everything must be assembled just right for movement to occur.
For enthusiasts, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of wonder at the trade and craft of the balance of that assembly.
We Love The Sound of True Mechanical Work
Then, there is the sound of a mechanical movement, the reassuring ticking as the balance wheel oscillates back and forth.
To be sure, a quartz watch also makes a ticking sound, but its ticking is a result of a precisely geared stepper motor.
Nothing disparaging about it, either.
It’s an incredible achievement and allows interesting, high-quality watches to be accessible to new collectors or those who simply need a new watch that looks good at a reasonable price.
The ticking of an automatic watch’s mechanical balance is actually evidence of its technical imperfection—it truly never will be as accurate as the quartz watch—but it has a finesse and subtlety, which you can discern by holding the watch up to your ear.
If you need more convincing that the sound of mechanical masterpieces is paramount, consider this: the engine of the Lexus LFA—to my mind, the most exceptionally well-rounded supercar built to date—has its engine tuned by Yamaha.
Not the Yamaha automotive group. The Yamaha music group.
The soulful sound of its powerful V10 is nothing short of angelic. We should be so lucky in the watch world.
We Love Getting Hands On
I would be remiss to ignore the most obvious aspect of our affinity as watch and car lovers. The touch and feel.
It’s why Porsche still produces a 911 with a manual gearbox.
Yes, one can navigate a race circuit far more efficiently with a dual-clutch transmission, but rowing the gears by yourself has no equal in the modern automotive era.
Likewise, a mechanical watch requires either hand winding of the crown or motion of the body to wind the mainspring.
A 40-hour power reserve keeps automatic watches, running while at rest, but automatic styles will eventually halt without the human touch.
The finest cars and watches elevate the experience from spectator to participant. The deliberate, manual task work is the experience, no more, no less.