In the film To Kill a Mockingbird Gregory Peck explains the legacy of pocket watches passed on from father to son, and I thought how unlikely it will ever be that someone inherits a smart phone inscribed, “with love to my darling Atticus.”
Watches are not the essentials they used to be. The cell phone generation considers them relics from another time, quaint but unnecessary. I disagree.
I’d been without a watch for weeks after my latest timepiece pooped out. The face tarnished, the strap fell apart. It was a souvenir watch of a famous pretty picture, bought in a gift shop in a Paris museum that allowed me to look at it and say, “half past a water lily.”
Without my watch I could still function, but I missed it. It goes with my left wrist. Like my wedding ring belongs on my left hand. Sure, I could look at my cell phone and tell the time. But it’s not the same thing.
I pulled up my sleeve and looked at my naked wrist in the same way I automatically checked the carved antique clock on the bookshelf long after its pendulum stopped. I did find a German clockmaker who got the pendulum swinging again. And now I also have a new watch.
Get, this. It’s a good old Timex, which has gone sexy. Mine is shiny black with multicolored roman numerals and a second hand that goes tick-tick-tick.
My timepieces and I are throwbacks for sure. The clocks and the watch had to be advanced one hour for daylight savings time but unlike my cell phone clock I was in charge. The cell phone clock sets itself. Springs forward and falls back without my telling it which way to go. Crosses into mountain time before I even know we’re in Colorado. There’s something spooky about a clock with its own mind. I prefer one that will work with me.
When I met my friend Terry for happy hour and showed off my new watch she said, “Some say that wearing a watch dates you.” I pointed out that there are plenty of clues to my vintage before you get to the Timex, but I did notice that she was wearing only silver bracelets on her ageless wrists.
How ironic that a watch could be guilty of making a person look old as if it spoke in terms of years and not in simple hours and minutes, as in 30 minutes to cocktails.
Actually, my watch, which is the analog variety, with a clock face and numbers – not digital which is so precise, so lockstep – would indicate it was more like 30-ish minutes. Time passes more gently, there’s more give and take, when you don’t do digital. I like knowing that it’s a bit after 4:30, not a stern 4:33 and 17 seconds.
Having said that I will add that I also strive for punctuality. I hate being late. I certainly beat Terry to happy hour. And one reason is that I set my timepieces a few minutes fast. To give myself a few extra wiggle minutes. You don’t get wiggle minutes on a cell phone clock.
There are other things you don’t get if you are not a watch wearer. People are not going to spot you in a crowd and come up and ask, “Do you have the time?” By asking this it is pretty clear that they are probably one of you, checking the wrist first. It’s a good way to start a conversation and pretty soon you’re talking like old friends. Really old.