The Strategic Marvels of the Watch

Anyone who’s ever taken a look inside a wrist watch knows that something as seemingly simple as moving those two hands in a dependable way is anything but simple. It’s the perfect metaphor for a team that works, which, in the estimation of this Orange County branding agency, makes it the perfect metaphor for the strategic planning process.

When you really stop to think about it, wrist watches are one of the stranger luxury items. The right Patek Philippe will cost you more than a Ferrari, and yet really all a watch does is make it easier to worry about being late, which a smart phone can do much more efficiently.

It takes time

Clocks were invented surprisingly long ago—appearing in the 15th century. The pocket watch became accurate enough to have a minute hand in 1657. Ever since, though, horologists, or watch makers, have been tinkering. A simple time-telling Rolex has about 220 pieces. The recently built Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 pocket watch has about 2,800 components and 57 different functions. It’s likely that people will continue to try and raise the bar in accuracy and complexity. Even though quartz watches tend to surpass them in accuracy, the standard mechanical watch is still a status symbol, and if I had to guess as to why that is, it’s because of the achievement. They are basically one of our best metaphors for the pursuit of perfection, and are still one of the crowning achievements of human engineering.

This also makes them a great metaphor for business, and its pursuit of perfection.

Every piece in its right place

There are two main principles at play within a watch: one component stores up energy, and one for releases it in a controlled way. The main spring stores up the energy when the watch is wound up. Next, a rotating wheel called the escapement regulates all that energy, and deals it out accurately, otherwise the hands of the watch would spin like a pinwheel after you wound it up.

Because of these two forces, all the various pieces of the watch move in proper relation to one another, one transferring energy to the next until the outcome is achieved: the hands tell time.

No matter what type of system you’re dealing with—a mechanical watch or a successful business, the same principle persists: appropriate action is achieved by a combination of energy and control. Young businesses, or businesses that were small enough to function successfully with one or two employees may have gotten along without putting this plan on paper. When the topic of progress—growth—comes up, that’s when strategic planning becomes necessary—to learn what’s working, what’s not, and what is possible in the next few steps. Larger, more successful businesses have the opposite problem—they are too often wooed by excessive growth, which can throw them into a cycle of boom & bust.

Certain parts of your plan are limiting: accurate budgeting, reigning in certain expenses. Then still other parts of planning are expansive and energy-providing: a targeted marketing campaign; the acquisition of another company in a different market. A watch shows this principle perfectly. If the escapement fails, the power of the spring won’t get to where it needs to go; if the watch isn’t wound at all, then the watch’s hands eventually grind to a halt. And for mechanical watches, it is essential to take it in periodically to keep it maintained by an expert.

Many Orange County branding agencies tend to ignore the strategic planning process during branding. In our opinion, this is like giving your watch new hands and ignoring what’s under the hood. If you’re ignoring strategic planning, it’s like you’re assuming the watch will keep ticking forever without maintenance. A rebrand is the perfect time to make sure your business is on track.

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