We began talking about watches then, and their associations with status and practicality. The great and less-than-great-but-adequate names in watches, like Rolex, Omega, Longines, Bulova, Wittnauer, Timex, Swatch, Casio...and watch advertising that is as irrelevant to its product as fragrance advertising is to its. When I think of front-page advertising in newspaers (the WSJ and the SCMP) it is always about watches. Time is money, they say. The advertising is selling something fleeting, indescribable, and, well, priceless. (We both, the Wizard and I, have vivid memories of advertising in Star Ferry terminals in Hong Kong, one for a Ted Lapidus perfume called Creation, a big surreal ad that was on the wall in the waiting area in the now gone Central terminal for years and years--and another, a working clock actually, for Longines, as you pull into the Kowloon dock. I think it's still there.)
To say nothing of watch time: in most watch advertising, it is always ten past ten, or possibly ten to two because it is the most aesthetically pleasing, those balanced hands. (Really, look the next time you see a watch ad, I bet it will be ten past ten. Or secondarily, ten to two. Or possibly 20 past 8, if the watch is in a certain position in the display. If none of these times, the ad designer is clumsy. Though the few exceptions prove the rule.) How we present digital time is more puzzling. I like the idea of 1:11 or 11:11. Or 12:34...or any number of numerologically meaningful combinations I notice when I wake up in the middle of the night and look at the digital readout on my Bose radio.
I have a nice conventional Wittnauer, a child of Bulova, that my mother gave me when I graduated from college, engraved with my initials and the date on the back. It is very similar (but maybe a generation advanced in style) to her own delicate Bulova that now occupies a place on a very personal charm bracelet. Neither of them actually work well. You must remember to wind them, assuming that the mainspring is still functional. Does anyone remember the caution against "overwinding"? My Wittnauer's mainspring is still intact; the Bulova's is long seized up. Visits to the watchmaker to "clean" them used to be routine, like visits to the dry cleaner or hairdresser. Now we just buy a new Swatch. (I bought a great Swatch in Korea, in the airport, when I realized in a timely fashion maybe it would be a good idea while traveling in China to have a watch; I really rarely wear one.) Or maybe we acquire a Philippe Patek, which, according to its advertising, is not really for you, yourself, but to pass on to a next generation. (I do not mean to suggest that I actually bought one of these. Or would. We say time is money, but I don't really think so.)
|Mother and Daughter: Mom's Bulova, at left, eternally ten past ten; my 43-year-old Wittnauer, paused at a quarter to four.|
We give such meaning, such attention to these devices that measure something that isn't really real. What is time anyway? My Bose clock radio mostly tells me, without an alarm, that I wake up at more or less the same time every morning. It confirms that I am ready to go to sleep when I feel sleepy. No clock has ever changed my arrival or departure time, has ever granted me more time to accomplish something. Although the Wizard has that odd habit of setting the clocks ten minutes fast to deceive himself, he who is bothered by losing a few seconds now and then. Odd for an IT guy who should have a sense of "real time."
He is in the market for a new Accutron.