Allgemein, Culture

Split seconds

When you least expect it, a split second becomes years. Anders Modig sits down for a coffee and makes an imaginary and takes a plunge into the ephemeral construction called time.

He looks down on me as he walks past my café table on Gerbergasse, holding hands with a beautiful woman. She is taller than him, and he is wearing pressed shiny dark pants, a blue shirt with pecacocky details like coloured buttonhole and a chequered muster on the inside of his collar.  A junior banker, a salesman? His face has not quite smoothened out the pimply stage, and he parading his new girlfriend in an obvious way.

His head slightly tilted backward, in a fascinating way. Is he trying to be as tall as her? Is he trying to hide his post-adolescent insecurity, or is it just to physically balance his long-strided, rather ridiculous bouncy gait with overly outwardly pointing feet? Within a split second he will tilt it back even more. But not just yet.

Within a split second he will tilt it back even more. But not just yet.

Her white tee and blue jeans with a rip over the right knee, the large, brown soft leather bag nonchalantly slung over her left shoulder and a face with no make-up, tells a story of a different, more relaxed, more individual path.

Look closer, and you will find that a split second can can contain an overwhelming amount of information. Photo: Anders Modig

At the moment he is trying to convince the world about feeling bees knees, but his insecurities shine through. He doesn’t know it yet, but she will leave him in a few weeks. When she will look back she will know that it was because he was disrespectful to her. It happened a few times in private, which made her a bit insecure. But it was not until it happened in public, when he made a really crude joke on her expense in her favourite bar, that she had had enough. Some years and boyfriends later she will remember the feeling, but not what the joke was all about. She will remember that nobody laughed at it, and that she without a word simply walked out from the bar and never looked back. He didn’t even try to follow her. Nor did her so-called friends. It will however take her another few years to realise that his behaviour was due to the same insecurities that give him the stupid wide gait she mocked him for from time to time. Not that her realisation will change anything though – understanding doesn’t necessarily equal forgiveness.

He doesn’t know it yet, but she will leave him in a few weeks.

But at the moment everything is still fine. As I look up from my book I first see their hands lovingly clenched together, before I see her. Her beauty momentarily stuns me; I must come across like an old elephant being hit by a tranquilizer dart the moment before it realizes what just happened. The young banker sees my reaction in the corner of his eye, and he tilts his head a couple more degrees and looks down on me. His eyes glaze over with aggression, as were his pupils entering a gladiator arena, they shout out ‘fuck off, she’s mine!’.

They shout out ‘fuck off, she’s mine!’.

But I am no threat; I am not even remotely interested in her. And he has no idea how wrong his possessive behaviour towards her is, even though he will soon find out. And he will learn. Not immediately, thanks to his predominantly male peer group, which will go on to keep reinforcing bullshit values and sexist jokes for another few years. But as they eventually grow up they will, at least, cut down on it. And once the young banker will realise what he actually did to her, how he fucked it up, then he will regret it. Regret and learn from it. Regret and learn – that’s what we do; I don’t care about what Édith Piaf says.

Regret and learn – that’s what we do.

The Triple Split Second Chronograph from A- Lange & Söhne. (press images)

Of course there are different kind of regrets, but there is at least one that belong in the good books. The one that you feel with a pang of bad consciousness just as you experience the enlightening ‚oh no moment‘ about your mistake. The one that makes you think: “I regret that I acted that way, and I will try not to do it again”. You store that lesson in your brain’s limbic system and you do your best to move on, but you don’t flog yourself over what you just did –you honestly try to see clearly beyond yourself, and learn from it. We all want to see more clearly from our mistakes, but oftentimes once is not enough. Blinded by blood trickling into our eyes from banging our head into a brick wall, we will try ever harder, before we realise that it is more comfortable and clever to use the door. Or simply walk around that brick wall.

You honestly try to see clearly beyond yourself, and learn from it.

But today, at this very moment, in time, during the split seconds that the young couple passes my table, he is completely oblivious about what is soon to come.  Today he is on top of the world. Today he is the one walking towards Barfüsserplatz holding the hand of a beautiful woman taller than him.

 

– 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.

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Allgemein, blog, Culture, Digital Life, Fashion, Lifestyle

How could I not?

“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.

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