“What inspires you, something that is also related to what you do, something time-related?”
Stevie’s question came out of the blue just after we let out a couple of discreet post-lunch bagel burps. It set the wheels spinning in my brain, which has been very occupied, perhaps too occupied, with writing about watches for more than a dozen years.
It took me a while to realise that it is actually the foundation itself that inspires me: time. It is the only thing we have, and agreeing on what time is and should be is the only way it is possible to keep a society together. Initially experimental sundials and water clocks were few and far between, but since the 1300s keeping time has been very social. From the church clocks ringing to get the congregation together to the infamous countdown for New Year’s Eve under the big clock at Times Square, time is absolutely everywhere. From when you are at work to the exact meeting time to the trains to the start of your favourite TV show to the minutes you cook an egg to your liking – time is absolutely everywhere, and nothing in our civilised society would have been possible if it weren’t for the relentless studies of men and women like the Mesopotamians who raised a pole, measuring the movement of the sun, John Harrison cracking the mystery to perfect sea navigation thanks to the accuracy of his clocks, Abraham-Louis Breguet for not only putting timekeepers on the wrist, but also mitigating the adversarial effects of gravity on the movement of pocket watches, and present-day geniuses like Rémi Maillat of Krayon who just made the first mechanical watch that shows you sunrise and sunset wherever you are. They all work with the same foundation: how to mimic and symbolise the celestial movements, because that’s what time and clocks and watches are all about: astronomy. And like the Austrian designer Rainer Mutsch put it:
“Time has no undo button.”
What baffles me is that despite the fact that time is the only thing that we have, the only commodity that is distributed to each and every living creature on this planet, people ask me why I write about watches, thus in an extended perspective asking why I write about time. I hadn’t thought about it in that sense before this article, but for the next time somebody puts this question to me I now have the perfect answer: “How could I not?”
– Anders Modig
Anders Modig, based in Basel since 2013, has been a journalist for 15 years. He writes about watches and design for titles like Vanity Fair on Time, Hodinkee, Café and South China Morning Post.
He has been editor in chief of seven magazines and books, including the current annual design magazine True Design by Rado, and his company also organises events for clients like TAG Heuer, Zenith and Patek Philippe.