It had to happen. For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Newton’s third law can also be applied to human nature. A recent survey revealed that adults check their smartphones every 12 minutes, however, according to Sky News it appears that we are trying to make amends. The broadcaster reported this week that there has been a 5% rise in global sales of dumb or feature phones, compared to that of smartphones of only 2%. Could this be the start of a trend to disengage social media and continuous notifications? A global consciousness, a rally cry to reconnect and talk for real again. But heaven forbid those obnoxious personalised ringtones also make a comeback.
This rediscovery of ‘old’ tech runs hand-in-hand with the growing interest in mechanical timepieces, which not only make bold statements of style but also exemplify the lasting values of a bygone era. Back to basics, when less was more – when we seemed to get by just fine with useful, simple, solid tools.
I was a latecomer to cellular communication and survived four years in London without one. When I was finally seduced, I managed very well on my futuristic-looking Nokia 8110 until Vodacom’s biennial upgrades locked me in with more of more. I now use an outdated iPhone and the next step is a 3310. Just what I’ll do without the convenience of the Uber app and Snapchat is yet to be seen.
In 2006, I joined the first leg of the MINI Odyssey, a journey that would see three drivers and support crew cover 13 000km in 49 days as they set out from Johannesburg and drove through Africa and Europe to the home of MINI in Oxford, UK. I ‘navigated’ Botswana and Zambia for the very accomplished racing car builder Matthew Nash – then 25 years old – in one of three MINI Cooper S cars, which although stripped of unnecessary trim and slightly raised for improved ground clearance, were off-the-shelf. And while my BlackBerry 8700 offered better everything at the time, I had no roaming and Facebook posts had to wait for my Canon PowerShot downloads on my return.
MINI lead on the gravel and dunes of the Dakar Rally for many years. Not in the little Cooper S, but in the puffed out Countryman. Created to feed the burgeoning SUV craze but surely also inspired in part by the feat of those three little hatchbacks – first launched in 2001 – the BMW Group took the Countryman and made a specially designed version to win Dakar. The incredible MINI ALL4 Racing team trashed Pajeros and Touaregs to take the title for four years running from 2012 to 2015, before being outperformed by the team behind the wheel of the mean-looking Peugeot 3008 DKR.
Various brands are involved in team sponsorships such as TW Steel who support the charismatic Coronel brothers through limited edition pieces like the Dakar Volante and Grandeur Tech, but the official timekeeper for many years may not be so familiar. Edox means ‘measuring of time’ in Greek and the Swiss watchmaker has been doing so since 1884. It was their bold, retro-inspired 46mm Edox Koenigsegg Limited Edition chronograph created in collaboration with the Swedish supercar maker that caught my attention back in 2007. They’ve been official timekeepers of the Class-1 World Powerboat Championship since 2008 and for the World Rally Championships (WRC) since 2010, and in 2012 became the official timekeeper for the Dakar Rally.
Although their ‘sporting instruments’ provide support for great champions of extreme sports under extreme conditions, the company is a champion in its own right. Their invention of the crown with double gasket for greater water resistance was patented in 1961 and first seen in the Edox ‘Delfin’. This feature is still used today by many brands. The company became known for guaranteed water resistance to extreme depths with the 1963 ‘Hydro-Sub’ featuring the first crown system with tension ring allowing it to performing well down to 500m. Quite remarkable for that time. Edox also launched the first truly global timepiece in 1970. The ‘Geoscope’ covered all time zones and almost 50 cities around the world.
The watches in the ‘Chronorally’ collection are recognisable by their bold red stopwatch-style pushers. The ‘Chronorally-1’ automatic (approx R40,000), is powered by the Edox Calibre 91 based off the hugely-reliable ETA 2824-2 movement with high-quality Dubois Dépraz 291 chronograph module. With its 45mm black PVD case it would certainly be a fitting tool if you’ve entertaining notions of becoming a WRC champ.
Although watchmakers may promise to keep accurate time, alas nothing else in love, war or sport is as reliable or predictable. Earlier this year, relative newcomer Italian-Swiss brand Anonimo was announced as the new official timekeeper for WRC and their special edition, cushion-shaped 43.4mm PVD automatic ‘Militare' chronograph appears to be a worthy competitor for your wrist.
End note: It would appear that I’m forced to eat my words. As nature would have it, when I popped out for a coffee break before submitting this column yesterday, I ended up assisting a couple of Chinese tourists with a few recommendations of my favorite haunts around Cape Town. Thanks to my smartphone and Google Translate, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was the very willing tour guide for a most fun night on the town. New tools put to good use.