Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heads or Tails #71 -- Watch

The theme of today's Heads or Tails is "watch." However, Barb didn't tell us what to watch... and I'm feeling literal today....

Requiem for the Writstwatch

For nearly my entire life men have worn wristwatches. Getting a watch was a rite of passage for young people, another step on the road to maturity... sort of like one's first cell phone now, I suppose.

Getting that first watch meant we were old enough to be trusted with a complicated (and expensive!) mechanical device... mature enough to remember to wind it every day.

That was the theory, anyway. In my case there was a serious dichotomy between theory and practice: I'd overwind the watch, or forget to wind it, or otherwise scramble the poor thing's innards. I went through a couple of watches, at least, before my parents found me a self-winding model: Not a battery-powered model, but one that wound as you moved.

I was so sedentary the watch often stopped.

I don't think I knew anyone who actually wore a pocket watch. But we saw them in the movies. Old people wore them, especially rich old people. We knew the character on the screen had a pocket watch because we could see the chain leading to a vest pocket. And who but rich people wore vests anyway? At some point, the plot would require the actor to remove the watch, with elaborate ceremony, from that special vest pocket. If he had a long speech to deliver, winding the watch gave him something to do with his hands. If it was a really long speech, he'd polish the watch, too.

Pocket watches were symbols of retirement. Maybe John Cameron Swayze got a wrist Timex for 25 years' service. If you remember John Cameron Swayze you've probably taken a licking or two in your own life but kept on ticking. My grandfather, who died 10 years before I was born, had a pocket watch. It sits on the mantlepiece of my fireplace at home.

Pocket watches were manly; at one time, wristwatches were considered women's wear.

Then came World War I. Officers in the trenches found wristwatches easier to see and harder to lose. Soldiers needed their hands free for weapons and things.

But the day of the wristwatch has just about wound down. My kids don't wear them. I think they'd still get that weak old joke -- what time is it? a hair past a freckle -- but I'll bet their kids won't understand at all.

It dawned on me that watches were passe the night we moved into the Undisclosed Location. It had been a long afternoon and the evening was certainly well advanced. And we were paying the movers by the hour. One of my colleagues asked one of the young movers for the time. He reached into his pocket and consulted his cell phone.

"I remember when people looked at their wrists to tell the time," I said, to no one in particular.

Timex watch picture obtained from this source and edited to fit the space.


Dave said...

I was talking about the watch, car clock, cellphone, computer evolution the other day.

I got the rite of passage (Expensive!) Hamilton as a kid which was stolen out of my gym locker. We went to Timexes; and I did see JCS on a black and white TV.

I still wear a watch (graduated to Seiko as an adult) but often don't look at it as time is everywhere. As I type, it's in the lower right corner of the screen. If I look to the left of the screen, it's on the phone. In my pocket on the cellphone.

Too many sources of time.

Steve Skinner said...

Dave is right, every where you look you see the time. How come some people are still always late?

With digital time pieces, no one ever says that it’s about a quarter after. You always get the exact digital readout.

Skittles said...

Once again you shine with your magnificent story telling. Hubby, who works for Ford, is home on an extended layoff so I read the post aloud. He laughed and nodded in the same places I did.

The person pulling a pocket watch out reminds me of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird and the scene where he told his daughter it would someday belong to his son while she would get her mother's pearl necklace.

Thank you too for shining a new light on my thoughts in my post. Although I have always thought they don't read my blog out of any real interest, but more like a "wtf is she saying NOW kind of thing. ;)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I think people look at their phone to tell the time now.

Tumblewords: said...

Enjoyed the read and the memories. My last watch, now about 20, doesn't get worn much - time doesn't mean a great deal and the cell phone is available when I'm away from the puter...

Shelby said...

"He reached into his pocket and consulted his cell phone."

This is what my son does. He's 19 and will not, will NOT, wear a watch. I've tried everything.

His response - why do I need a watch when the time is on my phone.


Rob said...

I thought the watch's time was up too. I told my wife that watches were no longer anything more than a fashion accessory, jewelry that even the most rugged of men could wear with total social acceptability.

Then the svelte Skagen wristwatch that my beloved had gifted me several years ago broke and I was without it for about 2 months.

Sure, I always have my cell phone and usually the work-mandated pager on my belt. And sure, both of these - along with practically every other digital device around - tells the time and does so with more accuracy than my wristwatch. But old habits die hard...

Even without a watch on my wrist, I found myself glancing at my left arm to quickly get a time reference.

My son is only 2, but he tries very hard to emulate me and does have a little plastic toy watch (which doesn't even have hands) that he likes to wear. When he's a little older, I'll proudly present him with a watch and encourage him to always wear it. That's for, if nothing else, just for the sake of passing on a tradition. And it'll be an analog watch too - telling time the old-fashioned way is still a valuable skill.

Ellee Seymour said...

Hi Curmudgeon, Happy New Year wishes to you and your family. Take care.