What a 52-year-old watch can teach us about UX and Digital Product Design
In recent years I’ve developed an interest in mechanical watches and how the aesthetic and product design decisions, made over a hundred years ago, have defined and informed wrist watch design today. In today’s digital world I find myself drawn to these physical and tactile things, hand-finished and steeped in heritage and history.There’s a history of watches where I work at Arnold Clark Digital. In fact, high-value sales jobs and nice mechanical timepieces tend to go hand-in-hand. Spending a lot of money on a watch can seem strange to most people, especially when your phone or a £15 Casio watch can do a better job of keeping time. But there’s a lot more to the world of mechanical timepieces than simply telling the time.Company folklore here is that, in the past, loyal or high-performing staff were rewarded with Rolex Submariners or other similar expensive watches. When I’ve visited branches and chatted to the Product Consultants and branch managers, I always spot some interesting timepieces. Since we started filming and sharing the director’s presentations on our employee platform (ACE), I’ve found myself pausing the video, zooming in on the director’s wrists and identifying some of the most sought-after watches in the world.I thought it might be fun to examine the cutting-edge horological product design of the 1970s and see what lessons we can learn and apply to UX and digital product design today.We’re going to look at a specific area of technology and class of watch. The dive watch or simply ‘diver’.Saturation diving was introduced in the late 1960s to help reduce the total decompression time that divers had to endure. In this method of deep sea diving, the divers can spend weeks working at incredible depths in order to build underwater infrastructure, maintain gas pipes, deconstruct oil sites and much more. During this time the divers will live in a pressurised environment so that they can conduct their dangerous and specialist work, lots of times, without having to go through decompression over and over.DecompressionQuick note if you don’t know, when humans spend a long time under water breathing pressurised air, gasses like Helium and Nitrogen dissolve into their blood and stay compressed because of the weight of the water around them. If they were to come up to the surface quickly, the gasses in their blood would decompress and form bubbles inside their body, resulting in a quick and painful death. Check out the hour-long documentary Last Breath on Netflix to get a peek into the world of saturation diving.Humans aren’t the only things affected by quickly decompressing gasses. Because the divers are breathing pressurised air rich in Helium (which boasts the smallest natural gas particle in the world), these atoms find their way into the diver’s watches. Like humans, this isn’t an issue until decompression when the gas quickly expands and pops the crystal off the front of the watch with a tiny explosion.There was a clear product problem to be solved and two main players racing to solve it, Rolex and Omega.Omega, a big name in the professional dive watch space, went straight to work on their new watch, The Seamaster 600, also known as the Plongeur Professional (Ploprof).Because the issue was identified as Helium escaping too quickly, Omega thought that the best solution to the problem was to develop a watch with a case made of steel, » Read More
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