Filed under: Art & Inspiration
When god created me, he created a man full of internal struggles based around fighting off the urge to collect. I just can’t help my damned self. I find stuff that I like and that stuff ends up owning me – especially, if it’s mechanical. One of those obsessions is mechanical watches. There is something very visceral about an automatic watch. It’s a tiny machine that sits on your wrist and uses what amounts to simple motion to power itself. Open one up and you’ll find a wonder world full of cogs, springs, and other engineering feats in miniature. There aren’t many art forms in the world that are so purely mechanical and it all calls to me in a major way.
One of my favorite watch makers is a small shop out of Germany that labels all of their watches with a simple “Sinn” logo. They’ve never really been a major supplier to any military, but most of their watches are military inspired. They are called “tool” watches as they are built purely with functionality in mind with no regard to style or fashion. As such, they are beautiful.
But what does any of this have to do with traditional hot rodding? Well, it’s a stretch really… But along with wrist watches, Sinn started building Navigation clocks for race teams and rally drivers in the 1960′s. Essentially, the package consists of three clocks that are designed to be mounted on your dash. Each has it’s own function – one is a chronograph with a backwards-counting bezel, one is a chronograph with a forward-coutning bezel, and the last is a chronograph with a tachymeter. I don’t know shit about Rally driving, but I guess each of these clocks serve a pretty important function.
Above everything else though, they are gorgeous. I got to play with a set a few years ago and I was blown away by the detail of the craftsmanship, the way in which they “quick release” from the dash mount, the feeling of heft they give when they wind, the weight, etc… Everything about them feels expensive. And although I have no idea how much Sinn gets for their new units (I was afraid to ask) or how much the market demands on the nearly identical vintage units, I am confident it is a shit load.
And that’s the thing really… While clocks like this would look incredible in a hot rod, they don’t make sense in one. It’s like building a “traditional” hot rod with millions of rivets, nickel plaiting here, brass there, engine turning yonder, and all kinds of other hoopla that doesn’t really serve the ultimate goal of going fast with soul.
Sinn mechanicals are built for a purpose. Hot Rods are too. In my mind, fashion shouldn’t intercept that.
But I am going somewhere with this. Promise.
A few years ago, I was approached by a gauge company looking for inspiration. They wanted a series of gauges that would speak to the traditionalist, but they didn’t want to simply copy the 2 & 5/8″ Stewart Warner gauge that we all cherish. I instantly thought of these Sinn Navigation clocks – the textures they use on the dials, the aircraft proven hands, the sapphire glass, and all of the other technologies that this little German man built into a clock with one thing in mind – readability. Screw everything else… A gauge shouldn’t be a fashion statement. It should be a statement of function, right?
My idea met some opposition. It was thought that taking a “function first” ideology into the design would result in a gauge more suitable to the contemporary styled hot rods than the traditional. But the thing is, the very idea of forgetting fashion in favor of function is the very basis of traditional hot rodding. And while it might be impossible to build a “traditional” hot rod with this mindset (you would probably end up with an F1 car), building a set of the best mechanical gauges in the world would undeniably result in a series of instruments that could have been built just as easily in 1940′s. Well, not easily… It’s never easy to build perfection.
I guess my argument fell upon deaf ears. I never heard back and my dream gauges were never produced. Chickens.
I post my thoughts here simply hoping some other manufacture will see them and respond. Look at these mechanical works of art produced by Sinn. Imagine them not as clocks, but as oil pressure gauges… as water temp gauges… as tachometers… I’m on to something here fellas. And someone could stand to make thousands… well, hundreds of dollars if they simply wanted to thrive for perfection off my obsession. Hit me up.
And further inspiration from the wrist: