Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic philosophy that celebrates the beauty of imperfection and impermanence. It is a way of looking at the world that values authenticity, simplicity, and the natural processes of decay and aging. Often associated with art, architecture, and design, wabi-sabi can also be applied to the way we approach the objects we use and interact with on a daily basis, such as watches.
A watch is more than just a functional timepiece. It can also be a piece of art, an expression of personal style, and even a symbol of status. But in a world where technology is advancing at a rapid pace and trends are constantly changing, it can be easy to forget the beauty of simplicity and the value of imperfection.
Wabi-sabi teaches us to embrace the flaws and quirks of our watches, rather than seeking perfection. A scratch on the case, a slight misalignment of the hands, or a patina on the dial can all add character and depth to a watch, making it unique and more interesting than a flawless, mass-produced timepiece.
Furthermore, the passage of time can enhance the appeal of a watch, just as it does with other objects in life. A well-worn leather strap or a faded bezel can tell the story of the watch's history and the experiences of the person who wore it. This patina and aging process is a natural and beautiful part of the wabi-sabi philosophy.
This is why you won’t find a sapphire crystal, sapphire bezel or ceramic bezel on our watches. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these materials. We all have our preferences. But if you read through my introductory blog, you may have read how my grandmother influenced me in seeing watches as living objects – something you take care of, give life to, and it becoming apart of you or even representing who you are.
I don’t believe in safe-queens (watches purchased and kept in safes) just as I don’t believe in rare, expensive guitars sitting in vaults, never to be played. If you’re going to own something, use it to it’s fullest – but take care of it and it will take care of you. If it gets a little banged up in the process, it just means it was living it’s life doing what it was meant to do – just like you.
One area where wabi-sabi has particular relevance is in the world of watches, especially those with hesalite (acrylic) crystals. Hesalite imparts a beautiful look to a watch and it’s dial that is unmatched by more precious materials - but in all honesty, it is also more prone to scratches.
For some watch enthusiasts, the “imperfections” that come with a hesalite crystal are part of the charm. They, like me, appreciate the way that the crystal can show signs of use over time, such as small scratches or scuffs. These imperfections are a reminder of the watch's history and the wearer's own experiences with it. They add character and depth to the watch, making it a more personal and meaningful possession.
This appreciation for imperfection is at the heart of the wabi-sabi philosophy. In wabi-sabi, there is no such thing as a perfect object. Instead, beauty is found in the irregularities and imperfections imparted by nature (or in this case, the wearer) that make each object unique. This applies to watches as much as it does to any other object. A watch with a hesalite crystal that shows signs of wear and tear is not a flawed object, but rather a beautiful one that has lived a life and has stories to tell.
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, a hesalite crystal also has practical benefits. Because it is made of plastic rather than glass, it is much less likely to shatter under pressure. I once dropped a very valuable watch with a sapphire crystal and it shattered into a hundred pieces. Not a fun day. (Side note: Hesalite's anti-shatter properties also made it good enough to be the only approved choice for NASA to take to the moon.)
The beauty of hesalite is the fact that it can be polished to look brand new with a dab of toothpaste or a speciality product like Polywatch and about 30 seconds of gentle polishing.
I once thought sapphire was the only good choice for a watch crystal – but then I bought my first vintage piece. The crystal had seen better days in it’s 60 years of service, and I was about to try to find a replacement but decided to try Polywatch instead. To my amazement, the crystal ended up looking brand new. And then a curious side effect hit me – the simple act of polishing the crystal imparted the feeling of caring for the watch – like it was alive and just needed some care - just as my grandmother would give life to her watch by winding it. Taking care of a watch makes you bond with it and gives it more meaning than a simple device to tell the time.
In conclusion, the wabi-sabi philosophy is a powerful way of looking at the world that values imperfection, impermanence, and authenticity. Whether you prefer a pristine, unblemished look or a watch that shows signs of wear and tear, there is something to be said for the beauty of imperfection. So the next time you look at a watch with a hesalite crystal, take a moment to appreciate it's ability to be beautiful by being imperfect and make it uniquely yours.
- Edward -