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You're reading: Project Syndicate: Signs of ostentatious wealth in Ukraine are a waste

The laughter should have gone in the opposite direction. Wouldn’t you
laugh (maybe in private, to avoid being impolite) at someone who pays
more than 200 times as much as you do, and ends up with an inferior
product?

That is what the
Ukrainians have done. They could have bought an accurate, lightweight,
maintenance-free quartz watch that can run for five years, keeping virtually
perfect time, without ever being moved or wound. Instead, they paid far more
for clunkier watches that can lose minutes every month, and that will stop if you
forget to wind them for a day or two (if they have an automatic mechanism, they
will stop if you don’t move them). In addition, the quartz watches also have integrated
alarm, stopwatch, and timer functions that the other watches either lack, or that
serve only as a design-spoiling, hard-to-read effort to keep up with the
competition.

Why would any wise
shopper accept such a bad bargain? Out of nostalgia, perhaps? A full-page ad
for Patek Philippe has Thierry Stern, the president of the company, saying that
he listens to the chime of every watch with a minute repeater that his company
makes, as his father and grandfather did before him. That’s all very nice, but
since the days of Stern’s grandfather, we have made progress in time-keeping. Why
reject the improvements that human ingenuity has provided to us? I have an old
fountain pen that belonged to my grandmother; it’s a nice memento of her, but I
wouldn’t dream of using it to write this column.

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