Freestyle Shark Clip Review

by Dave Laichtman 0

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4.5

The Freestyle Shark Clip is simple, sturdy, and cheap. Impressively, Despite, or perhaps because of, its more tawdry aspects, it attains something of the numinous.

Our Rating:

Freestyle Shark Clip Review

Art and design, when successful, achieve intended goals through the balance of two opposing elements. Within the rarefied air of his Valle de Joux workshop, Philippe Dufour presides hoarily over the ultimate quality watch manufactury. Every aspect of each watch he produces is as near to ideal as the human hand has heretofore been able to execute. This perfection is one of ascetic restraint; the patriarch has excised from the aptly named quintessence of his Simplicity all ostentation and nonessential vestigialities: this is wabi. A day‘s drive away in Glashutte, A. Lange and Sohne watches are wrought using antique treadle-powered tools. This creative choice leads to minor inexactitude in engraving and machining, slight wavers of line and imperfect roundings, visible perhaps only to the loupe-aided eye: this is sabi. Only by effortlessly balancing these two elements can any product of artistry or technical design be virtuosic. Chagall was wont to include a single chink or misaligned pane in his stained-glass opuses; thus did he enhance the inimitable impeccability of the remainder, so too did this artifice bring the work closer to reality, something  all who have experienced it must avow is many things, but never flawless. This is the reason Wright incorporated the unreplicable elements of unfinished stone, raw wood, and even moving water into his designs. Contrast this with Thomas Kinkade’s saccharine cottage mise en scenes; not a blade of thatch or ray of melodramatic light is out of place. Chagall and Wright have undergone an apotheosis, while Kinkade’s work is consigned to greeting cards, hotels near interstate freeways, and maiden aunts’ parlors.

I was understandably startled to discover that the $30 Freestyle Shark Clip watch embodies this complex wabi-sabi concept. Whether by design or by accident, a digital watersport watch that has been on the market for several decades strikes a deft balance of pared-down minimalist purity and the optimal amount of misanthropic nonchalance. 

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The Shark Clip’s ideal purity of function is evident immediately upon purchase. Having owned several digital watches I had girded my loins for a protracted battle with inscrutable multifunction pushers, byzantine menus and submenus, and a poorly-translated manual of Tolstoyian girth. Consternation followed bemusement as I sought for, but failed to find, any such tome secreted in the included plastic stand. Turning trepidatiously therefore to meet my foe, I gingerly pressed several of the rubberized stubs.  In less time than it takes to tell it I had mastered the control layout and set the day, date, and time. An intuitive digital watch, truly this is a wonder of prescient design and user-friendliness. This is sabi of interface.

The next logical step was to put the watch on. The nylon strap is smooth and glossy enough to permit near-instant, facile adjustment. A quick slide through the thin plastic bracket and I had sized it. The onomatopoeitic “click” it produced will be familiar to any plastic model hobbyist: it is the sound created by the male portion of a plastic armature when it becomes locked in place by a corresponding female portion designed expressly for that purpose. In this instance sabi is haptic and auditory.

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The digital readout itself rides the crest of visibility, leaving the troughs of squinting minisculity and gauche oversizedness well to its aft and fore, respectively. Two time zones and two dates can be cycled through the depression of the singular neon yellow button. A stop watch, two alarms, and pair of surfing competition heat timers complete the readout options: all basic contingencies for the intended purposes of daily wear and watersport competition are provided for. Notably absent is any manner of superfluous metastasizations that ever threaten to overburden digital watches: the Shark Clip is sans barometer, calculator, altimeter, as well as all similar tumescences. “Night Vision” is prominently touted on the watch case, which, although does not vouchsafe an ability to view the infrared spectrum, does turn the face into a backlit negative image for three seconds. Painted lume fades after several hours of darkness, tritium capsules tend towards dimness, but this facilitates instant visibility for the life of the battery.  Regarding the display, sabi of legibility is evident.

The archetypal expressions of such a liminal balance are the floral vignettes arranged by practitioners of ikebana. No simple bouquets, these arrangements generally include, as the bulk of the work, flowers and boughs conforming to standards of ideal natural aesthetic: a simple, unreplicable refinement. However, to accentuate these forms, it is standard practice to include misshapen fronds and buds, throwing a spotlight of contrast onto the balance. Furthermore, the wilting petals and cracked branches serve as a constant reminder of the temporality not just of the display, but of human lives, works, as well as all beauty. So too do this Freestyle’s faults garner it accolades.

The yellow rubber patches stitched to either side of the strap serve no purpose but to serve as a constant reminder of make and model, a function that is unnecessary at best, crassly commercial at worst. But paired with the black and muted teal of the rest of the watch, it is more akin to a jauntily askew homburg set atop an otherwise immaculate ensemble than to the screaming skyrockets of some brandings be it Rolex’s YACHTMASTER II, or Ralph Lauren’s shirts depicting an increasingly true to life-sized polo player. The stitching on the strap’s gusseting is sewn sturdily enough, but with frayed microthreads of nylon left swaying free. Rather than finding this irksome, I recall to mind examples of kintsugi. Tea cups of great beauty, when chipped or cracked, may be repaired with powdered gold; this practice serves to highlight rather than hide fractures. The Freestyle’s frayed aspects do likewise.

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Thus the Freestyle Shark Clip deserves ardent admirers in two realms: those who relish it as a practical appurtenance to their water sports of choice, and those who covet items that exude the delicately-flawed balance of wabi-sabi. For three sawbucks, it is an absolute winning proposition.

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