july 2017

A brief analysis of horologitis

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Addiction: dependency on a drug. In the case of horologitis, the addiction presents as an obsessive compulsive disorder with respect to watches.
 
Are all tick-tock enthusiasts off their rockers? No, not all of them – or at least not to the same extent. In fact, this medical term covers a range of subtly different behaviours. The most benign involve suddenly coming to a halt whenever a timepiece is in sight. The most serious lead to a quest to possess the ultimate watch – which of course is always the one after the one in hand. But Laurent Picciotto adds a word of reassurance: “in all cases, this is a complaint without any serious side effects, and unusual in that it’s something enjoyable, fuelling a healthy passion for beauty!”
 
After 29 years of emotion-packed friendships and acquaintances with watchmakers, Chronopassion is in a position to provide a fairly accurate definition of the different sociotypes of watch customers prone to various forms of horologitis. If you’re reading this, you are one – simply because you’re here on this site. Is it serious, doctor? No. “The best way to resist temptation is to give in to it,” was Oscar Wilde’s view. “All of us around here suffer from horologitis to some degree,” adds Laurent Picciotto. “Otherwise, I’d be the first to be in another job.”
 
Chronopassion will be featuring a series of five posts examining the mechanics of the passion for watches in detail – from the first signs through to its full-blown manifestation, dealing with its symptoms, risk areas and, in a few rare cases, recovery. Will you have the courage to read them all?
 
Episode 1: the beginnings of a passion for watches
Episode 2: from passion to obsession
Episode 3: from obsession to pathology
Episode 4: at-risk subjects
Episode 5: recovery
 

Episode 1: “Youth is nothing but a passion for the useless” – Raymond Aron

How the passion for watches takes root during childhood
 
For ordinary individuals, a watch is an ornament, a piece of jewellery, or perhaps even a useful item – basically an external object. For watch enthusiasts however, a watch becomes a part of its owner, representing them and becoming a part of their lives. Anyone who feels naked without their watch has within them the seeds of a passion for watches which could become pathological.
Where do these seeds come from? “We’ve all been exposed right from our earliest days,” explains Laurent Picciotto. “In the school playground there were the kids who had watches and the kids who didn’t. So working away in the background, there’s already a sense of pride in children and young teens.”
Watches also connote with the father image and the possession of this object, inextricably linked with fathers. For children, having a watch means becoming their father’s equal, by having the same object and the exclusive, private use of it. Should this be seen as one of the first signs of adulthood? “No, but when the child and the father have a watch each, they each have the same toy – and it gives them the same emotion.”
In terms of age, the only difference is the degree to which the timepiece is shown off: whilst a young child proudly displays his trophy on his wrist for all to see – even those who have no inclination to do so! – a 50 or 60 year-old man has a less exhibitionist relationship with his timepiece… at least in theory. As Laurent Picciotto explains, “passion for watches – a delicacy for which Chronopassion is the proud official purveyor – is nurtured not only by the indulgent pleasure of having a fine timepiece on the wrist but also, from time to time, by an exchange of knowing looks with another unknown watch-lover who notices it!”
 
 

Episode 2: “True passions are selfish” – Stendhal

 
How personal interest develops into selfish passion
 
A masterpiece may be on public display and a vintage car can be used to travel the world – but a watch is for the sole delight of its owner.
The fact is that a passion for watches is not gregarious in nature. It takes root in family soil but grows alone, away from kith and kin. When, for a young man, the doorway to an obsession for watches beckons, the space beyond is so huge that he could spend his entire adult life in there. Stepping over the threshold means moving from passion to pathology, and from interest to addiction.
The particularity of this phenomenon is its self-sufficiency: the field of watch-making knowledge is so vast that the simple desire to take a few steps opens up fresh horizons to be explored. “At this stage, watch lovers experience passionate fascination,” explains Laurent Picciotto. “The interest is constantly fuelled by the sheer scope of the subject. How could you remain deaf and blind to the aesthetic and technical treasures constantly being developed by all those watchmaking geniuses? I can’t even begin to imagine how. It’s this personal sensitivity that I share with my customers.”
 
 

Episode 3: “Any form of absolute is pathological” – Nietzsche

How passion can slide into pathology
 
There are certain signs that show that a subject is transitioning into a certain form of pathology.
The first sign is addiction. At the lowest level, this is characterised by feeling naked without your watch on your wrist.
At a more advanced level, it’s no longer a question of wearing your watch but of possessing it. At this stage, there are a number of horologitis profiles. “First of all you have the box-tickers, who feel obliged to have all the models in a certain series or of a certain brand,” explains Laurent Picciotto. “Then there are collectors, for whom quantity provides a rationale for their passion. This can involve fifty pieces, five hundred or a thousand: the number itself is not very important, as long as the collection can still be added to. Finally, there’s the compulsive buyer: in this case, quantity is not very important. They are in pursuit of the ultimate timepiece; each watch acquired has, in some way, one element of the ultimate timepiece. Which of course is pure fantasy. For this type of person, the ultimate timepiece is always the next one.”
Chronopassion is fuelled by this same obsession. The perpetual quest for something new, a brand new complication, an innovative design – these are the factors that dictate the choice of new timepieces. “Selecting watches for our collection involves the same motivation as when I choose my own watches. For me to take on new watch, it has to provide something new compared to what I already have on offer. This enables me to keep in step with our watch lovers, who can then pursue their never-ending quest for the ultimate timepiece – always holding out the prospect of something they’ve never seen before.”
 
 

Episode 4: “Some sufferers like their complaint so much they can’t stand the idea of getting better!” – Corneille

How to identify people running the risk of an unbridled passion for watches.
 
A family predisposition is one determining factor; intellectual curiosity is another. These are the two conditions for getting to know about watches and then getting involved. But this alone is not enough. There are other factors for detecting at-risk populations. “Firstly, there’s quite simply access to timepieces and having the means to achieve your ends,” explains Laurent Picciotto.
“Secondly, there’s a marked sensitivity to beauty. Some people are sensitive to objects, others aren’t. Only the former are at risk. The subject doesn’t buy a watch because it’s there, but because he feels drawn to it. In fact that’s the leading motivation, perhaps even the only one, for me making particular watches available. Some timepieces could definitely become best-sellers, but if they don’t arouse any emotion in me, they won’t be found at Chronopassion. I’m right with my customers on this point.”
At the same time, a certain form of brazenness can be noted. “These purchases may appear to be irrational to observers, but the subject does not feel too concerned by that, since there are plenty of other people with profiles similar to his own doing the same thing. The reasoning is more or less as follows: “if I’m not the only one, I can’t be mad.” There’s also the pride of owning the timepiece. This is a childish pride – that of owing a beautiful toy that friends don’t have – even though this is less prominent. Lastly, there’s the constant to-ing and fro-ing between reason and folly: the subject is generally down to earth with a keen sense of reality, but at times they break free, yielding to compulsive instincts that are in complete contradiction with their usual behaviour.”
 

Episode 5: “Wisdom is the art of living” – Cicero

Or how human wisdom (sometimes) wins out over horologitis
 
“Timepiece”: this horological description of the watch says it all. By owning a “timepiece”, a man is revealing that he wants to corner a “piece of time”. At the end of the day, he’s actually trying to gain a piece of eternity.
This desire for immortality is not the sole preserve of watch-lovers. The quest has been one of mankind’s obsessions since time immemorial! But those who love beautiful watches paint one of the most poetic pictures of this yearning, embodying it in watches set with precious materials: miniature treasures that call for a plethora of different craftsmen’s skills.
Alas, the passage of time cannot be reversed. The desire for immortality weakens as the years go by. The feeling of having your whole life before you gradually disappears; watch-lovers begin to learn wisdom and reason as they go through life. From then on, the watch-lovers’ pathology, in terms of the desire to store time, is no longer a valid pursuit. Sometimes, the subject may even sell their entire collection, as though they have been delivered from their quest by rediscovering reason.
Other recoveries may occur following an overdose of watches. In this case saturation leads to abandoning acute horologitis. However, there are very few people who have the courage to get rid of a collection built up over their entire life. If somebody does take this irreversible step, the auction rooms suddenly become very popular with other collectors…
Lastly, the subject may become addicted to another compulsive, exclusive passion; this automatically displaces the previous one. It could be a passion of a completely different kind, or sometimes, a horological variation that is very different from the original all-consuming passion. This is the case, for instance, with ultra-exclusive timepiece collectors who halt their prodigal spending overnight and instead devote themselves to watches that are much more affordable – but that will afford them hitherto unknown sensations.
There remains the very particular female case. “Some women can also suffer from horologitis, but the outcome is very different. For many of them, their desire for posterity is fulfilled in their children – at which point nothing else matters any more,”concludes Laurent Picciotto.
 
Journalist : Olivier Müller