Getting the Feels: Hot Horological Haptics
There’s the way a watch looks. There’s the way a watch works. But there is also the way a watch feels. And that sense of tactile satisfaction can elevate a timepiece’s appeal in every way. Here are some of Team Watchonista’s favorite timepieces that give us the feels.
The positive push-back of an IBM-era keyboard; the snap and pop of a Zippo lighter; the secure click of a five-point race car seatbelt; the whip and fold of an actual printed newspaper: These are all tactile responses that, while admittedly old school, lead to an enduring love of the products they accompany that goes beyond their function and design. The same can, of course, be said of timepieces.
When you think about it, probably more often than not, our favorite wristwatches bring along some sensual, real-world effect that newer digital haptics simply cannot replicate. Here are some of Team Watchonista’s favorites.
Dive Bezel Action: Rolex Submariner
I don’t care if you’re the reincarnation of Gérald Genta himself: Everyone plays with their dive watch bezels. Everyone. But the adjustable bezel of a dive watch presents a unique combination of the whimsical and functional.
So, say, for instance, you want to distract yourself with a bit of wrist-twitch fun during a boring meeting, then you’ll need a bezel without too much resistance and a relatively soft click. It will make for easy finger adjustment potential and discreet auditory stimulation. However, if you want to use your dive watch for its intended purpose, then there is nothing more important than a bezel that will stay put and can be re-adjusted even while wearing thick gloves. It can save your life.
Going through its latest major revision in 2020, the Rolex Submariner has always featured arguably the “sunken gold standard” of diving bezels, especially in its contemporary Cerachrom execution.
Beefy yet easy to adjust above the waves and below, you can spin the wheel until your heart’s content. But, once you’ve calculated your tank capacity and bottom time, the reassuring click into place is an immovable constant when you go hands-off; it’s not going anywhere. Moreover, Rolex designed the Submariner’s bezel so that even a brush against a coral reef won’t throw the secured bezel off target.
The latest 41mm Rolex Submariner timepieces run from $9,100 for a date-less version in Oystersteel to $42,000 in white gold with a cyclops lens date at three o’clock. Visit Rolex’s website for more information.
Chronograph Pushers: Omega Speedmaster ‘57
Chronograph pushers, whether in the traditional mushroom-top form, unadorned buttons, or even recessed, flat, or trigger-activated executions, can run the gamut from disappointingly mushy to overly sharp and difficult to activate (making you feel like you’re going to break it every time it’s activated).
While you merely need to look at the dial to know whether the chronograph is running, there is something about that “just right” Goldilocks feel of a well-made set of pushers that is irreplaceable. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, at the end of the day, the feel of the start/stop/reset action is one of the most appealing aspects of wearing a chronograph.
Before NASA, the Omega Speedmaster was one of the best chronographs ever designed, and it was perfect for behind-the-wheel use by race drivers. So, perhaps in deference to Omega’s intentions to highlight the appeal of Speedies before they became “moon watches,” the new Omega Speedmaster ‘57 perfectly fits the bill in our collective opinion.
The traditional mushroom pushers live right where you want them at 2 and 4 o’clock. Meanwhile, the uncanny positive-click feedback lets you know your stopwatch is running without having to take a double-check glance at the dial.
The 40.5mm Speedmaster ‘57 collection ranges from $8,600 on a leather strap to $9,000 on a steel bracelet. Omega’s website can give you more information on this Clooney-preferred model.
Rotor Feel: Carl F. Bucherer Manero Peripheral BigDate
Palm-popping an unwound mechanical timepiece before strapping it on is one of the joys of watch-wearing, especially if you don’t own a winder or have run out of room on yours. But some rotors spin soft, silent, and sexy, while others kick off with a ratchet-like action and sound like you’re bowling with a tiny bag of broken porcelain.
In our humble opinion, the so-called peripheral-style rotors – with all the weight of the traditionally fan-shaped, centrally mounted oscillating mechanism riding on the outer edge of the circular spring-winding device – deliver the most satisfying option. Plus, they grant you an unobstructed view of the watch movement. And watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer has made at least part of its estimable name on its ingenious peripheral rotor technology.
Driven by a silently swirling peripheral rotor, the 41.6mm Manero Peripheral BigDate models range from $9,400 to $22,900 (depending on materials) and feature a sharp dial design with an offset big date aperture at 11 o’clock. Learn more on the Carl F. Bucherer website.
Deployant Clasp: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43
I don’t know if anyone’s done the research, but a simple buckle and pin closure on a watch strap is probably perfectly secure for most situations; they’re just not very fun to use. We prefer the deployant variety.
While the so-called “deployant” folding clasp was invented by Louis Cartier in 1910 and probably developed for less dangerous wearing experiences, the device has become associated with a kind of military-spec wristwatch execution that calls for total security and, well, a bit of technical coolness. However, beyond its badass associations, the feeling of working your hand through the extended metal blades and folding it to secure the clasp with a reassuring “click” can only compare to when the clasp is released so the watch can unfurl luxuriously from your wrist.
While watchmaker IWC has been making news with its inventive use of color and ceramics with the new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun variations, its more traditional Big Pilot’s Watch 43 sports one of the best, most secure, deployant clasp approaches in the business, whether on a leather strap or a steel bracelet. Again, like an airplane, once locked down, this watch isn’t going anywhere without someone running the show, even if you’re pulling multiple Gs in a strafing dive.
The core Big Pilot’s Watch 43 collection ranges from $8,950 on leather to $9,950 on a steel bracelet. You can find out more at IWC’s website.
Touch and Feel: Coussin de Cartier
So, we’ve shared timepieces that snap, crackle, and pop, much to our senses’ delight, but how about a watch you can cuddle up with? You may laugh, but we assure you, it’s not as funny as it sounds. In fact, at the 2022 edition of Watches & Wonders, none other than the house of Cartier astounded the crowds with a unique watch which can only be described using the scientifically significant designation of “plushy.”
Despite featuring cases paved in either diamonds or colorful gemstones like emeralds, tourmalines, tsavorites, and sapphires, the case of the Coussin de Cartier is made with intertwined gold links, so it is flexible and yields to the touch before popping back to its original shape. Of course, “coussin” translates into “cushion” in English, so it all makes perfect sense. However, this softer, less rigid approach is not only unique in watchmaking, but it is decidedly tactilely appealing. Just say “oui” and take a poke at it.
Available in three sizes, a rounded square or rectangular case shape, and nine different colorways, the Coussin de Cartier ranges from $26,200 to $74,500. You can make a soft landing at Cartier’s website for more information.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell & Pierre Vogel)