David Heinemeier Hansson

March 11, 2021

Memento mori illuminator

I really like watches. Not so much because I need to precisely tell time all that often – most of my days, the calendar is pretty empty – but because they remind me that I'm going to die.

That reminder of death is a reminder to make time count. Forget about productivity, though. The notion that TIME = MONEY – squandered unless invested with a great return! – is spiritually bankrupt. No, making time count in terms of spending it well. Being able to close my eyes, on the last day, with a smile of satisfaction.

This is a recurring theme in Stoicism. That life is long enough if you spend it well, but spending it well requires embracing life's shortness. Which is at once morbid and liberating. That so much of what we fool ourselves into obsession over is trivial. But also that we could spend our time on things that are not trivial. We could embrace our principles, we could go the long way to take a stand.

It's also a strong theme in existentialism. The absurdity of our daily lives. The rut we can't escape unless we accept that absurdity.

It's for the same reason I hope we never do discover immortality. A hundred years, give or take a decade or two, is enough. The constraint is part of what gives the duration its meaning.

But, you know, watches are also just fun. They're art. They're tactile. They're engineering. And right now I'm absolutely smitten by this Casio A168-WA1. It tickles all the right spots of nostalgia. Even though I never owned a Casio growing up! But the mix of fonts, colors, and just plain cool words – ELECTROLUMINESCENCE! ALARM CHRONO! ILLUMINATOR! – is as interesting to me as the mix of balance springs, wheels, plates, and rubies of a mechanical watch.

casio a168-wa1.png

It's also just a Good Watch. It's light, it's sturdy(ish), the battery lasts 7-10 years, and it's got all the complications I've ever wanted: Time, date, alarm, chrono. And that running seconds counter that really rings the bell on memento mori. One gorgeous change of classic digital digits at the time.

What a lovely way to count down to the last day.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.