Circadian Rhythms And The Mad Rush: Speake-Marin Velsheda
Is time of any real consequence to your life? Of course it can be, in many ways, for business and family life, for planning dinner with friends, or making sure you can make it to the 9:15 showing of that new blockbuster.
But what about the precise, down-to-the-millisecond exactness that we now measure our time with? There can be many arguments made for the need for precise time-measuring: if I am taking a long-haul flight across the Pacific Ocean with an airline that calculated exactly how long the flight would be and filled the jet with just enough fuel to get us there (and a margin for safety), then I would whole-heartedly agree.
But think about it for another second (or minute, or hour; it’s up to you). Do we humans really rely on the precise knowledge of time to continue existing? The answer is no, because we don’t have to. Having a general sense of time is generally more than enough, and in some cases simply knowing the sun is going down and sleep is needed is more than adequate.
We live in a society that has become increasingly efficient and time-sensitive, with people sometimes measuring out their days to the minute and, in extreme cases, accounting for spare seconds along the way. These people, while seemingly productive, are missing out on the wonder that is actually living.
I imagine that racing from one place to another with budgeted time measured out to the nearest 15 seconds is very soul-draining.
Humans don’t need precision
Humans don’t need to be this precise; we don’t even need to have devices to tell us how to be this precise. Not really. We have a whole slew of rhythms and cycles inside our bodies keeping us on track naturally, without the need for a 1/10,000th-of-a-second chronograph (even though the latter is pretty darn amazing as well).
These natural rhythms are controlled by nature, the sun, our genes, and our brain. They take the form of our most recognizable circadian rhythm and its “master clock,” secondary peripheral oscillators, numerous ultradian and infradian rhythms, and other, minor free-running rhythms toccuring throughout the body.
Based upon our evolution and natural factors of our environments, we have become pretty good at living in a repeatable and stable rhythm. That is however should we not obliterate it with late work nights, early morning conference calls with Japan, or a double shot of 5-Hour Energy after two all-nighters and 39 hours of cramming for finals.
Our bodies naturally know what to do, when to do it, and how to tell us what it needs.
Think back to when you were a child on summer break running around all day with your friends, playing sports, getting into all sorts of trouble. You all knew when it was time for lunch by the hunger in your stomachs and your lack of energy. You knew when you needed to get home because the streetlights were coming on and the sun and moon were playing peek-a-boo with opposite horizons. And your body told you when you were too tired from the day and needed to fall, exhausted, onto your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sheets for a long night’s rest.
Oh, and if you were like me and a great many others when young, you probably didn’t have a watch on at all and weren’t paying attention to anything but how you felt and what your body and the environment were telling you.
Controlled by your circadian rhythm, the need to sleep and the need to wake is influenced or reset by light and other external stimuli. This rhythm also controls or influences blood pressure and circulation, body temperature, hormone secretion, and other body cycles.
Digestion and heart rate, appetite and even REM sleep cycles are examples of ultradian rhythms, cycles, which have periods of less than 24 hours.
Cycles that have periods longer than a day are infradian rhythms, with common examples being female menstruation due to monthly fluctuations in hormones and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) due to low melatonin levels in in autumn/winter caused by reduced sunlight.
Why so specific, then?
With all of these cycles and rhythms occurring in the human body, all we really need to do is listen to our bodies and we will generally have an approximate idea of the time. Not in the human-manufactured way of hours, minutes, and seconds, but lunchtime, dinnertime, naptime, and especially the ever-indelicate bathroom time.
This worked perfectly for over 100,000 years, and only in the last few millennia have we become more specific with time-keeping devices. And only in the last hundred years has being accurate down to the millisecond become a required standard of accurate timekeeping.
So why do we need to be so specific, why do we need to schedule meetings at the top of the hour and plan for a measly fifteen-minute lunch break?
Because we can, I guess.
Not because we really need to know time that precisely, however, but because we are now all held to super-accurate digital standards of time from which we cannot escape. Thanks to Warren Marrison and J.W. Horton (the inventors of the first quartz clock in 1927) for getting us all stuck in our time crunch.
Never fear, relief is on the way
For those wishing for relief, or at least a temporary respite, from the ever-more-urgent demands of time, and those who happen to love independent watchmakers as well, Baselworld 2014 saw the release of something for you.
It is a timepiece that not only evokes emotion in me due to its design, it allows me to feel freer with time and listen to my body instead of the clock: the Speake-Marin Velsheda.
The natural descendent of the Speake-Marin Shimoda model, the Velsheda is a one-handed watch. It tells the time to the nearest five minutes, but if you are wearing it, you may not even care. This watch uncouples you from the speedy second hand sweeping around the dial and even the noticeable crawl of the minute hand.
What it leaves you with is the imperceptible creep of the single hour/minute hand as it makes its way around the dial every twelve hours. You will not be timing a 100-meter sprint with this, and you will definitely not be using it to hard-boil an egg. It doesn’t really matter though because those aren’t the only reasons to buy a watch these days. This watch understands that.
The Velsheda allows you to keep an eye on time but lets it pass according to your own natural rhythms and does not make you feel rushed or even slightly hurried. It makes you feel calm and, more appropriately, appreciative of the time that actually is passing with you instead of around you.
It might sound a little philosophical and existential, but when you are more concerned with deadlines and meeting schedules, lunch breaks and commute time, time itself flies right past you while you race forward to an unseen and unknown goal. But when you take a step back and take a moment to enjoy the present, time flows like a meandering stream, with you along for the ride.
This is where the immediate beauty of the Velsheda lies, which may only be appreciated by the few lucky souls who have unbound themselves from the rat race.
The clever bit is that in the center of the gigantic singular hand is a seconds wheel in the shape of the famous Speake-Marin topping tool motif. You can glance at it for a reminder of the race you escaped, watching it whirl about with what now seems like unneeded haste.
And while you watch, you are treated to a beautiful spectacle as the center of the hour/minute hand is also filled with the same motif, creating a slowly changing pattern of polished blued steel over a white lacquer dial.
It’s at this point that, since you have some time on your hands (see what I did there?) that you notice how exquisitely the single hand is shaped as it takes up the entire expanse of the dial.
Dividing the dial in half, the arrow-shaped hand with equally long (so nicely balanced) tail creates constant and everlasting symmetry. It can never be asymmetrical by virtue of its very construction.
So while the time slowly creeps by, the face of the watch never really changes, only flows along with your now disengaged relationship with time.
Having had the opportunity to hear from the maker himself in our meeting at Baselworld, it became immediately clear that, besides taking great pride in construction, finishing, and overall appearance of the pieces, Peter Speake-Marin is also very concerned with the actual graphic design and impression the dial makes on the viewer. More than once he commented on why a font size was chosen or text placement decided based on symmetry, layout, proportion, and the resulting aesthetic.
For this reason, the dial of the Velsheda is cleanly and evenly adorned with proportional Roman numerals and chapter ring around the entire exterior of the dial. “Speake-Marin” and ” Velsheda ” are perfectly balanced around the center with slightly more visual weight being given to the brand at the top of the dial. This text sits within a smaller concentric inset into the dial to assist in adding complexity and fullness without breaking the clean symmetry of the face.
And this is why I love this piece. You get the iconic Piccadilly case in stainless steel and can enjoy the amazing symmetry and tranquility that the dial offers. It allows you to actually appreciate the passage of time instead of worrying about the next appointment.
Visually, it is heaven to my slightly OCD design sense that craves clean and balanced shapes.
Oh, and it is a great timepiece too. Inside is the Speake-Marin Eros caliber, which is hand-finished and features a power reserve of about 120 hours, so you can go on being unbound to time for quite a while.
So if you find yourself looking for a way out of the hustle and bustle, all you need to do is strap on the Velsheda and let the time flow by while you enjoy a moment to yourself for the first time in a long while.
But until then, just let it break down around you.
• Wowza Factor * 9.1 The clean symmetry and unattached feel regarding time makes for a very relaxed wowza.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 39.87 gn » 390.991m/s2 With a third of the force of a spring missile, the Velsheda has enough lust appeal to keep me staring all night long.
• M.G.R. * 40.2 Speake-Marin Eros movement with 120 hour power reserve. Peter Speake-Marin-made. Need I say more?
• Added-Functionitis * N/A This is almost a misnomer, because this watch has one of the best added functions ever: the ability to focus on living again! So in that case there is no need for Gotta-HAVE-That cream, because it isn’t swelling anything except the feelings of relaxation.
• Ouch Outline * 8.95 – Attempting To Ride A Skateboard On Ice – I’m not that great at standing on a skateboard to begin with, so why I find myself attempting it on ice is sure to end in pain. And of course it does. But, hey, let’s give it another whirl if that means the Velsheda ends up on my wrist!
• Mermaid Moment * All The Moments. You aren’t tied to the rat race anymore, you flow with time. This means you actually have moments again. All of them. Now you can find a moment to discuss seating arrangements for the reception.
• Awesome Total * 360 Multiply the hours of power reserve (120) by the number of atmospheres of water resistance (3) for a perfectly appropriate awesome total. Seriously, it is a perfect circle of awesome.
For more information, please visit www.speake-marin.com/collections/j-class-collection/velsheda.
Case: 42 x 12 mm stainless steel
Movement: automatic Speake-Marin Eros caliber
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds wheel
Price: 8,500 Swiss francs
Also published on Medium.