10/03/2015 13:15 GMT | Updated 10/05/2015 06:59 BST

Horology and the Apple Watch - According to My Dad

Horologist: A person skilled in the practice or theory of horology. A watch or clock maker. My Dad.

So, Apple had 'a thing' again yesterday. The net was abuzz with the new 'Wafer Thin' Macbook and iOS updates, but the really excitable chatter was around the Apple watch (other computers for your wrist are available.)

Knowles Senior gained his Diploma from the National Association of Goldsmiths in 1960/61. Here's an extract our chat about his world of watchmaking.

JK: What made you decide to do this?

Knowles Senior: Laughs Confusion! At some stage I decide it was a good idea to do something at an art college. Adds wryly - which you know about.. (A reference to me doing fine art degree). I had a GCE in art but I was not a good artist, so I thought I would try textile design, I did that for a month.

JK: Just a month? What happened?

KS: It's boring! Both laughing. (Note here that I have a textiles diploma too - I think he's trolling me).

Someone said, "give jewellery a go". It coincided with me getting a job with a jewellery company. The company paid the fees to the college.

JK: Did you do alright on your course?

KS: I think so. I would like to say I was best in the country for that year, but I was second best. Me and my mate Brian took the exams in London and we went out drinking every night and he came first and I came second.

JK: This is not great parenting...kinda cocky no?

KS: We knew it because we were working it as a job every day. Not just from a book or coursework.

JK: Making a watch sounds fiddly.

KS: Yeah. You work with an eyeglass all the time and you shouldn't have too much to drink the night before so your hands don't shake. I didn't say that.

Both laughing

JK: So, what was a cool watch back then?

KS: To me they were ones that looked artistically nice. Not covered in diamonds or anything, but at that time watches were getting thinner and a nice thin watch was attractive. Especially when you knew it was from one of the top makers like Vacheron and Constantin. (V&C - since 1755 world's oldest watch maker. Clearly a man of taste eh?)

There were some makes considered to be good that didn't attract me because I thought they were a bit 'lumpy'. Patek Philippe made the thinnest good looking watch around 1960-61. Artistically fabulous but so thin you thought you'd break it.

JK: And under the hood, what makes a good watch technically for you?

KS: The design and manufacture. Whoever worked out the design makes it work properly, uses good steel and good brass and very good metals for the balance wheel that are non-magnetic and have little change in temperature etc. If you work with manufacturers that care about these things - you'll end up with something really nice.

JK: It's expected that the Apple watch will be networked for time keeping, is accuracy important?

KS: Well yeah, the Apple watch should be accurate - as near as dammit perfection.

JK: Is accuracy important to you? Do you think we really notice?

KS: Well, the watch I am wearing at the moment has no hour or minute markers on it.

JK: Wat?

KS: It's an arty-farty watch, by Seiko. I like it.

Both laughing

JK: So, the Apple watch are you intrigued?

KS: Yeah, intrigued and interested. I'd like to know what it does as I like to know what's happening with new tech. I know I can't afford one and I don't really want one. My close-up eyesight is rubbish and I don't want a really expensive piece of electronics on my wrist that I cannot see. If it needs touching or poking on something so tiny, I'd get frustrated.

JK: Because you've got giant hands?

KS: Not compared with some blokes! Laughs But, yeah - I have trouble with an ordinary touch screen phone. I have to read what I am doing because I know I am likely to press the adjacent button. I'd be hopeless with a screen on a wrist watch.

JK: Is the Apple watch really a watch?

KS: No. The only similarity is where it's worn. I am led to believe it's a computer.

JK: What do you reckon to the price range? The Apple watch collection runs between £299 - £13500.

KS: Well, a certain amount of people will Have more money than sense but at £299 that's an Xbox. I was being a bit mean there, but it's in keeping with a game console price. We've established I like a watch to tell me the time. I've seen some nice looking watches for 25-30 quid and I'm content with that and getting my money's worth.

JK: Do you think that watches are a form of jewellery that men can use to express themselves. Women seem to have more options traditionally.

KS: Oh yeah - some guys have six or seven watches or more. They like the look of them. The best you can do on an expensive computer watch is put another illustration on the screen.

JK: If you think of it as a computer on your wrist, does it have to look like an old watch anymore? Can it be turquoise plastic like some of the other offerings from Pebble or Google?

KS: I've not really given it thought, but if it's going to be a computer - it wouldn't offend me if it looked like a mini computer rather than a traditional watch. Form following function.

JK: Do you think smart watches change the cultural legacy of what a watch means as a gift or an object?

KS: Yes. Grandfather's pocket watch handed down to his son it was valued because it was great grandfather's watch, it was the thing to have. When people used to retire - you get a watch or a clock. They have sentimental value.

But that changes when it's a computer. It's usually to do with someone in the lost generation who left their watch to you. That's not going to work with a smart watch.

JK: So are you going to buy me an apple watch?

KS: No.


The full version of this conversation appears on the Jemimah Knight blog.