I must admit, I have a big weakness, I like to collect watches. So it was a great pleasure last week when the IBM Hobbyclub at the Zurich Lab organized a visit to a very special Swiss watch company, “Ochs und Junior” in Lucerne.
They have a very limited collection of watches designed by the Swiss watchmaker and inventor Ludwig Oechslin. The watches have complications such as an annual calendar or a moon phase. Contrary though to usual watches where the complications are realised with many parts, Ludwig Oechslin spends a great deal of time on the design, simplifying the mechanism until the function can be built and operated with the fewest parts possible.
His first commercial design is the MIH watch sold at the International Watch Museum in La Chaux-des-Fonds where he is the director. It has an annual calendar made of only nine extra parts beyond the basic movement.
At Ochs ind Junior, we got to see his newest designs. I was most impressed by a moon phase watch that has five extra parts, but is exact for more than 3,478 years, which appears to be a lot more precise than some of the more complicated moon phase watches.
His strive for simplification resonates well. As computer scientists we also learn that the more time we spend on the design and the architecture or an algorithm, the less we need to code and the better the resulting product can be maintained. Unfortunately many people though sit down and start coding before they’ve really worked out the simplest and most efficient way to solve the problem.
I for one find beauty in such simplicity rather than complication and thus also appreciate the simplifying design that goes into other products such as the iPad, which is the first computer my wife, a true luddite, really uses.