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You don’t have to be mad to love watches, but it helps –...
Connoisseur of watches

You don’t have to be mad to love watches, but it helps – Part 1

Thursday, 09 January 2020
By Laurent Picciotto / Chronopassion
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Laurent Picciotto / Chronopassion

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5 min read

In a series of five portraits, Chronopassion gets to grips with our passion for watches, from how it begins to how it develops, its symptoms, those most at risk, and the (rare) instances of recovery. Part one.

Are all watch enthusiasts more cuckoo than a clock? Not all of them, no, at least not to the same degree. Sufferers of this condition will show subtle variations in their symptoms. In the more benign cases, the patient will systematically stop up short whenever a timepiece comes into view; the most pronounced examples entail the relentless pursuit of the ultimate watch that is always, of course, the next in line. After an often intimate, always emotional 25 years in the company of watches and watch enthusiasts, Chronopassion can venture a reasonably accurate definition of five different sociotypes of customers affected by a severe bout of horolosis.

Episode 1: "Youth has no need for utility" - Raymond Aron

Or how the passion for watches takes root in childhood

For the average Joe or Jane, a watch is an adornment, an accessory, a utilitarian object, even; in a word, an addition to the person. For the enthusiast, a watch becomes one with its owner; it represents who they are and is part of them. A person who feels naked without a watch carries the seeds of a passion that can reach pathological proportions. Where do these seeds originate? “We all caught the bug at an early age,” notes Laurent Picciotto. “Back in the schoolyard, there were the kids who had a watch and the ones who didn’t. Already, a child or a young teenager gains an underlying sense of pride from owning a watch.”

For a child, owning a watch is to stand side by side with their father.

Many children’s first encounter with a watch is through their father; to own a watch themselves is therefore to stand side by side with him, each possessing the same object that is theirs and theirs alone. Should we see this as the first step towards adulthood? Laurent Picciotto disagrees, although “by sharing the same toy, child and father ultimately share the same emotion.”

The one difference comes from the extent to which Junior and Senior exhibit their timepiece: whereas a child will flaunt his trophy to anyone who wants to see it – as well as those who don’t! – a man in his 50s or 60s is less of an exhibitionist… in theory, at least. Because, as Laurent Picciotto points out, “we know that the passion for watches, and Chronopassion is proud to be its official supplier, thrives on the private pleasure of wearing a beautiful timepiece but also, from time to time, the pleasure that comes from the conspiratory wink of a perfect stranger who has spotted it on your wrist!”

Episode 2: "Every true passion thinks only of itself" - Stendhal

Or how personal interest grows into a private passion

A work of art goes on public display, a classic car can travel the world, but a watch is reserved for the sole enjoyment of its owner. It’s a fact: a passion for watches is a private one. It takes root in the family circle but has no need for parents or siblings in order to grow. When an obsession with watches takes hold, the young man who stands on its threshold finds himself gazing into a territory so vast it could take over his entire adult life. Anyone who steps through that door goes from passion to pathology, interest to addiction.

In watchmaking the field of learning is so vast that the very first steps reveal more horizons, ripe for discovery.

One particularity of this phenomenon is to be self-sustaining. In watchmaking the field of learning is so vast that the desire to take even a few steps opens up more horizons, themselves ripe for discovery. “At this stage, the enthusiast experiences an impassioned fascination,” Laurent Picciotto explains. “Interest is constantly nurtured by the sheer scope of the subject. Who could remain deaf and blind to these marvels of beauty and technique, endlessly developed by all these brilliant watchmakers? I can’t even begin to imagine. This personal sensitivity is something I share with my customers.”

Episode 3: "Everything absolute belongs to pathology" - Nietzsche

Or how a passion can take a pathological turn

There are certain tell-tale signs that a passion for watches is becoming more of a pathology. The first is dependence. In its weakest form, this means not feeling fully dressed without a watch on one’s wrist. At a more advanced stage, the onus shifts from wearing to owning and can be broken down into different pathological profiles. “First you have the box-ticker who absolutely has to own every single model in this or that series or by this or that brand,” says Laurent Picciotto. “Then there’s the collector who reasons in terms of quantity. Fifty, five hundred, a thousand, who cares, as long as they can keep adding to their collection. Last of all, we have the compulsive buyer. They are motivated not by quantity but the hope of one day owning the ultimate watch; every timepiece they buy, in one way or another, contains an element of that ultimate watch. Which of course exists only in their imagination. For them, the ultimate watch is always to come.”

This is also the driving force behind Chronopassion. The constant search for something new, an innovative complication or an original design, determines which new timepieces make the grade. “Whether choosing for Chronopassion or choosing for myself, my motivations are the same. For me to include a new watch, it must add something to what I already had to offer. In this respect, I’m no different to our customers. Their never-ending pursuit of the ultimate watch overlaps with my aim to always bring something they had never seen before.”

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