Saturday, June 09, 2018

Saturday & Sundry Watchful Ways

Excerpts from a 2015 piece by Uri Friedman on the history of the wristwatch, followed by a borrowed answer from Quora offering a scathingly humorous opinion on the topic of expensive watches in the 21st century.

Alexis McCrossen, a history professor at Southern Methodist University and the author of Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life, traces the story of the wristwatch back to the spread of “portable clocks,” or large pocket watches, in the 1700s, when “people want to start carrying the time around with them; they’re not content just to look at the public clocks in whatever village or town they might end up in.” These watches were made progressively smaller and better-secured with features like chains or straps, and were often seen primarily not as a timepiece but as a reliable vehicle for investing personal savings. “If you look at pawn records from the 19th century in the U.S., about 40 to 50 percent of all pawned items were pocket watches,” McCrossen told me....

On July 9, 1916, The New York Times puzzled over a fashion trend: Europeans were starting to wear bracelets with clocks on them. Time had migrated to the human wrist, and the development required some explaining.... the wristwatch was a “silly-ass fad” no more. “The telephone and signal service, which play important parts in modern warfare, have made the wearing of watches by soldiers obligatory,” the Times observed, two years into World War I. “The only practical way in which they can wear them is on the wrist, where the time can be ascertained readily, an impossibility with the old style pocket watch.”...

By the 1920s, you have aviation, you have automobiles. The pocket watch was really intimately associated with the railroad. And so it seems very antiquated, it’s like something your dad wore. A modern man’s going to wear a wristwatch.” World War II, the pocket watch was obsolete.
In 2013, McCrossen wrote that, with the introduction of smartwatches, the “pocket-to-wrist cycle may repeat itself.” In recent years, she argued, the adoption of smartphones has made wristwatches less popular, particularly for young people who use their smartphones as, among other things, modern-day pocket watches. (Thus far, sales of wristwatches, especially luxury wristwatches, have actually remained strong during the smartphone era, though today they may be more associated with fashion than timekeeping.)

But McCrossen’s not convinced that Apple and others will be able to restore the Age of the Wrist—in part because of the privacy and security that the pocket offers for treasured phones, and in part because “time is embedded everywhere” these days, from car dashboards to coffeemakers to iPhone screens. “Maybe we’re so deeply saturated with the imperatives of clock time that we want to put it away,” she said. “Maybe we don’t want it on our wrist anymore. Maybe we don’t need it.”

One of the answers to this question on Quora recently:Do you think highly priced watches are a waste of money?

This answer is by one of my favourite Brits on Quora, Ian Lang. I trust that Mr Lang will not object to my spreading his scathingly amusing, invective-filled rant a little further abroad!

"Don’t get me started about this. Too late. A rant is forthcoming.
I wear a Timex Explorer. It cost £40 and came with a standard NATO strap that absolutely will not break no matter what I throw at it. Only today I saw a watch in an expensive jeweller’s window that I thought was a Timex because it looked almost exactly like mine.

It wasn’t though. It was being advertised by a picture of some sort of jet fighter. And it had a price tag of £6,500. It wasn’t the most expensive one. That was £22,000.

F**k off, you bunch of robbing w*****s. Twenty bleeding two bollocking thousand chuffing pounds for a watch? That’s more than some cars. I could get three nice motorbikes for that. Oh wait. It’s not a watch, it’s a precision chronometer is it? It tells the time. That’s all it does. It’s a bleedin’ watch and stop bigging it up to diddle people who don’t know any better out of a wad of cash, you bathtubs. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask andpoint a gun at you. Not only that, every bloody one of them came with those chunky metal straps. Chunky metal straps are not good news because when you get one caught it’s going to stretch and deform and then that’s another umpty jillion quid repairing it. And they dig in to your skin if you’re not careful.

Who in their right mind pays for this sort of bucket-of-arsery? Is there some sort of club where you wear your jacket sleeve just that tiny bit too short so that everybody can see you’re wearing an overpriced load of gears that says “Bolex” or “Fartier” on the front?

There was one that said it was an aviator’s timepiece. No it bloody wasn’t. Just down the way there’s a shop that sells the kind of watches that fighter pilots do wear. At about £600 a go. With a proper unbreakable strap on them.

Oooh, it’s Swiss is it? Well so is a bleeding Toblerone but they don’t want a year’s wages before they let you sink your teeth into one of those, do they?

Ooh, it’s got 22 jewels has it? Well that might be nice if it’s a bloody crown. It’s not though. It’s a watch. You wear it on your chuffing wrist to let you know what the time is, not your head to let other people know you can have their heads chopped off if you’re upset by them.

One had three little dials on the face. Balls to that because I couldn’t see where the (gold) hands were pointing and if I can’t see that then how am I meant to know what time it is and if I don’t know what time it is what’s the point of wearing this overpriced piece of tatmongery?

Another had an intricate artwork on the face. Again, bollocks to that. If I want to look at art I’ll go down the Tate, not my wrist. Just give me a proper clockface and some hands that go round you bunch of shitepansies. I want something that, when I’m out in the middle of bloody nowhere and it’s dark, has a light that comes on if you press the winder in. I don’t care if it’s accurate to a billionth of a second every geological epoch; I just want it to keep to a minute a week because I’m going to synchronise it twice a week to the pips like I always do.

Gold hands. Gold is bleeding squishy. I drop that and the hands bend, how much are you tatmeisters going to charge me to get them straightened? Glass that looks as though it’ll break if you sneeze on it. I’ve actually dropped a hammer on my Timex whilst it was on my wrist. I’m jumping up and down shouting “Oh Jesus, that bloody well hurt!” and the Timex is there going “tick,tick, tick” and the face isn’t even scratched. It’s been dropped down the toilet twice and didn’t notice and let’s see your pretty little chronometer survive a collision with the porcelain and then a full immersion and a hot water wash afterwards and still keep going.

Expensive watches, just f**ck right off. And take those overpriced sunglasses with you. Arsenuggets."


Twilight said...

RECEIVED BY e-mail from the UK, from "JD"

That was a wonderful rant from Ian Lang, very funny!

My watch tale: bought my watch mail order in 1972. Cost me £27 I think, and it is one of those that Mr Lang rants about but..... it still has half of the original leather strap so I keep it in my top pocket but I had stopped wearing it on my wrist anyway because the bezel around the face was shredding my shirt cuff! But it has worked (like his Timex) for 46 years and has survived immersion in the Persian Gulf, a sandstorm on the shores of said Gulf, being dropped on the floor more than once etc etc When I bought it, they sent me another watch a couple of weeks later. Mail order was as disorganised then as it is now. I sold that second one to a colleague at work.

Now that work has given me up, I no longer need to know what time it is; my stomach tells me things like that. But my favourite tale of time comes from my years of living and working in Madrid. I have never known a place with so many clocks; there are time/temperature signs everywhere but ironically it is a place where everybody is always late for everything! Meetings in offices are usually an hour late in starting, cinema never starts their films at the advertised time, the football never started on time although that has changed unfortunately because of the TV schedules (another reason to hate telly!)

Time? What's that?

Twilight said...

JD ~ Thanks muchly for your personal watch stories! And thanks too for those wonderful links.
I don't know if folk this side of The Pond will 'get' the first two - I guess you really had to be there - and I was - and I loved Dave Allen and the Goons too! Those were the true comedic years. Don't know what has happened to comedians these days - can't stand most of 'em.

Wisewebwoman said...

OMG I'm howling at Ian's rant. Perfect. I can't remember when I last wore a watch. I have an excellent time sense in my head - which BTW everyone can access if they drop time obsession - and I'm never late for anything.

If in doubt I check my phone but truly don't need to.

Those overpriced watches are like a joke on humanity.

Pathetically sad to see poor sods buy them.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ We don't really need watches, it's true - time is everywhere these days. I do still wear a watch, more as a bracelet really, also, mine holds certain nostalgic memories, and I think of it as a kind of lucky charm.