WorldTempus: You are an authority on slowness. How do you think fine watchmaking fits in to this theme?
Carl Honoré: If you look at how people tell the time today, it’s mostly with cheap watches or digital flashing screens or smartphones. All of these things are cheap and disposable and because we are looking at time on this cheap and disposable level it reinforces the idea that time is just another commodity, like oil and gas, that you can trade freely. It’s a resource to be exploited.
But if you look at fine watchmaking and you read the time on a watch that has taken hours or days to make and has been built on hundreds of years of heritage, then you have a different relationship with time. It reminds us that time is not a commodity but a gift, in fact the most precious gift that we can give to ourselves and other people. So I think fine watchmaking fits very snugly into the slow revolution.
How do you manage the idea of time yourself? Is it important for you to have a quality means of recording time?
One of the keys of slowness is developing a less neurotic relationship with time. All research shows that just seeing a clock face is enough to make people worry about time, which is why casinos and shopping centres never have clocks, because they want you to forget about time and slow down. So the presence of a clock face or a ticking hand feeds into our mania about going faster, so you have to have a more fluid relationship with time.
How can watchmakers in particular take this into account?
A company in New York has created “slow watches” that allow you to slow down time, but I think the Hermès Arceau Le Temps Suspendu is a great way of watchmakers embracing the idea of slowness. It also shows that people are moving away from the virus of hurry and the idea that every day has to be a race against the clock. One way to regain control over time, or get back your temporal autonomy, is to play around with the watch itself and enjoy the moment. We have lost the ability to do this and are often doing several things at the same time, so I’m all for any gadget or object that allows us to do this.
What advice do you have for people who want to embrace the slow revolution but are having trouble doing so?
One of the problems is that there has been such a deep taboo about “slow”. It has become a byword for lazy and all the things that nobody wants to be. So slowing down is like a guilty secret because we are speed junkies. And like any junkie, when you take away the fix, they panic. So if we find ourselves with an afternoon free we often don’t know what to do and we feel that we have to fill it up with activities.
The workplace is pushing us in the same direction and it is difficult but more and more people are finding ways to slow down. People are realising that speed is affecting their health and that their work is actually suffering as a result.
So what’s next…?
Slow down! You could argue that the pressure of speed started as soon as man learned to measure the time, but it really took off with the industrial revolution and it’s been on an upward trend ever since. For most of that time, the acceleration has been doing more good than bad. But over the past decade or so there has been a feeling that the pendulum has swung too far. It’s hurting us collectively but things are now starting to change. But it’s the slow revolution, so it’s not going to be fast!