Posted on October 18 2023
There's a long philosophical tradition of contemplating our mortality, with each culture expressing this through its own ceremonies and imagery.
If you take the time to research the art and objects used to remind us of the fleeting nature of human existence, you're going to find a common theme.
There's a hell of a lot of skulls, often paired up with a lot of bones. Take the Parisian Catacombs. These underground tunnels literally hold the skeletons of millions of people. They're neatly stacked and almost civilised and they invite us to walk among the dead while considering the meaning of our lives and our inevitable deaths.
The Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic - first introduced to me in John Connolly's The Black Angel - takes it a step further. To make sure you think about your death it uses human remains as furniture and decoration.
The Aztecs were fond of their death whistles and many cultures have added a little reminder of death into their art and literature. Understandably, skulls are a central theme.
So when British watchmaker Mr Jones Watches released a Memento Mori watch I was expecting a skull. I was pleasantly surprised to see an absence of bones and instead, a touch of elegance and a little humour.
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Mr Jones The Accurate
Mr Jones The Accurate Watch Review
Okay, so I've glibly discounted the cultural wisdom of the French, the Czechs and the Aztecs, but there's a valid point here. Any mention of death, and skulls are the go-to imagery. Indeed, Mr Jones Watches have used skull artwork more than once on previous watches.
So when they designed a watch that references memento mori objects, it makes sense that I'd expect a skull or two. Particularly when the brand has a colourful and ornate style that has been expressed in the past through Day of the Dead styling.
They didn't go for the obvious and this highlights why I enjoy Mr Jones's watches so much. They don't follow the path of others. In this case, it's worth noting that the founder - Crispin Jones - was born and bred in London. That's where the manufacturing facility is and the company has a new store in Covent Garden. Recycling French or Aztec designs wouldn't feel as authentic as creating something new in their own studio.
The brand was launched in 2007 with the aim of using watchmaking to tell a story and with a mission to create new, unique designs rather than homages to existing watches. I guess it makes sense that a memento mori-themed watch wouldn't employ the usual death tropes.
Having said that, there's a recognisable house style that I noted in my reviews of The Ascendent and Nuage models. The watches tend to be ornate, colourful and layered. Importantly, they're often created with the intention of introducing a unique way of telling the time. I spend a lot of time around watches and it can be refreshing having to read the instructions in order to work out how to understand a new watch.
So that's what I knew about Mr Jones Watches when the Accurate landed on my desk.
The brand likes colour, and unnecessary complications and has now produced a timepiece that is worn on the wrist as a reminder of mortality and the impermanence of life. Presumably, the watch is designed to prompt thought about our place in the world and the limited human lifespan.
But rather than another elaborate piece, Mr Jones has offered its most simple and visually mainstream model. A simple three-handed quartz watch that at a glance would fail to stimulate conversation the way that the Nuage does when my wife wears it on a night out.
And guess what?
I love that idea.
Surely death is too big a subject to be buried beneath layers of moving clouds or large tigers. The Accurate is a straightforward watch that uses the English translation of 'memento mori' as its sole piece of decoration, leaving the contemplation to the wearer.
Let's take a closer look.
The Mr Jones Accurate Watch in Detail
Having sung the praises of Mr Jones' eye-catching designs in previous reviews, it would seem obvious to start the detailed part of this review with a focus on the differences between the Accurate and the Nuage and Ascendent.
I'm going to do the opposite.
Because in many - maybe most ways - the Accurate sticks to the house style of Mr Jones. Or at least, it retains most of the features that we've come to expect from the brand.
Like previous models, the Accurate is a mid-sized watch that suits the current trend for smaller watches. At 37mm it sits towards the lower end of what I'd expect for a man's watch but has the added appeal of being an ideal unisex model. There's a larger 40mm mechanical version of the Accurate also available, although the price does reflect the upgrade in size and movement.
The case is quite traditional and includes slim lugs that continue around the edge. It's common to the brand and gives the watch a distinctive look. In keeping with the minimalist nature of the watch, the stainless steel case has a simple polished finish. It reinforces my first impression - that the Accurate is an elegant, dressy piece.
This case design can be seen on other Mr Jones watches and it boasts a quirky feature - the watch appears to have two crowns. There's a functional crown in the traditional 3 o'clock position and an extra crown-like button at 9 o'clock signed with the brand's logo.
I like it. It's an unusual touch that gives Mr Jones its own signature styling.
As expected, the case has 18mm lugs, a nice fit for a mid-sized case. It's equipped with a utilitarian black leather strap with white contrast stitching. The polished buckle matches the case and is decorated with the brand logo.
Like all of Mr Jones' watches, the dial is the star of the show. Or in this case, the hands. Previously, I've detailed the artist's inspiration behind the dial and the complex workmanship needed to bring that into reality, but with the Accurate it's different.
The message is more straightforward and the design reflects this.
The silver dial has an attractive sunburst effect and forgoes both markers and numbers. Instead, it has a simple track that marks the hours. At first glance, the watch gives the impression of a simple, smart dress watch with a minimalist aesthetic.
Of course, the whole design is about four simple words. The hour hand displays "Remember" and the minutes, "You Will Die". The only colour is the bright red of the second hand.
For me, the simplicity of the design compliments the complexity of the message and the simple wording and placement give the watch a light-hearted and comical edge. The subtleness makes it somewhat of a private joke for the wearer.
Visually, the watch works well, because despite the brand's insistence in creating something new, the stainless steel case, silver dial and black strap are a well-proven and well-liked colourway.
It works here and the signature case and quirky hands give the watch enough individual character to make the Accurate stand out from the pack. The dial text features a small logo that reinforces the minimalist nature of the design and the whole package is smart and simple.
The dial is protected by a sapphire crystal and the the watch is powered by a reliable Swiss-made Ronda quartz movement.
So is the watch name - The Accurate - due to the accuracy of the battery-powered movement?
Thank god, it's not.
It's a humorous reference to the idea that if there's one time we can all be sure of, it's that we'll all die.
The case back will be familiar to Mr Jones fans and simply states the model name and that the watch was made in England. Once again, the case back was displayed through a cut-out in the packaging and the box features Mr Jones' unique fairground-style artwork.
The Accurate from Mr Jones manages to do a few things well. It's both light-hearted and solemn and is fairly typical of the brand while paradoxically also looking unlike any of the other Mr Jones watches.
That means it's a watch that can be appreciated on more than one level. At its most straightforward, it's a minimalist-style dress watch with a simple silver dial, stainless steel case and a plain leather strap.
However, it's also a memento mori, an object designed to be carried with you as a reminder of your own mortality. I'd suggest, it's also a handy prompt encouraging you to seize the day and make the most of life while you can. It's fun, quirky and deadly serious.