Theromomixed Up, Part 8: The Wristwatch Edition
In the late-Ninties, after reading Dava Sobel’s Longitude I became semi-obsessed with the idea of owning a mechanical chronometer; that is to say, a watch that did not use a quartz movement that kept time accurately enough to be used for navigation. (Also, the walk between my apartment and my studio took me past the Tourneau store. That probably had something to do with it too.)
But after researching the purchase, I realized the that nearly any quartz movement watch was more accurate than even the most expensive mechanical movement, which left me somewhat stuck. I wanted the wrist jewelry, but all the fun had been taken out of it by the fact that the expensive mechanical watches, no matter how finely made, do not keep time as well as the less expensive watches.
But upon re-reading “Longitude” I realized that Harrison spent the latter part of his life working to make his invention more rugged, more accurate, and less expensive. My watch lust subsided, and I went to K-mart and bought a Garmin handheld GPS for about $100 and a Casio wristwatch for about the same price.
A few years later a box arrived from my father containing various sentimental nicknacks; his father’s pipe and level, his mother’s playing cards, a bronze dart off the swordfish boat we had, and other items of family memorabilia. Among them was a Rolex wrist watch; not the big chunky stainless steel oysters so popular today, but a more slender model on a black leather band.
The Rolex site offers no help in determining its age, or even what model it is. After scrolling through pages of [rolex precision] image search returns, I can’t find a single one that matches. Close, but no matches.
In fact, I think it’s a fake.
I think my father bought it in Japan when he was stationed there as an officer in the Marine Corps. I wonder if he didn’t buy it because other officers were sporting fancy watches, and he thought he ought to have one too. (My father is a Jersey City-raised son of Irish immigrants. It’s not hard to imagine him all of 23 years of age trying to figure out the right things to wear to be a proper officer.)
Anyway, it’s mine now. I wear it when I have “important” meetings. People notice it, partly because being so old it doesn’t look like what everyone else has, and partly because it’s marked “Rolex”. I just say, “Thanks. It was my fathers, but he gave it to me a couple of years ago.” That seems to be just enough ambiguity about whether or not I personally have the means and the taste to purchase such a lovely and expensive item. Wearing it makes me feel smug.
Last October the battery in my $100 Casio died. I was just about to leave on a sailing trip so I replaced it with a $25 Casio I bought at Walmart.
As it was several years later, the $25 Casio had more feature and was smaller than the $100 Casio. I was very, very contented with it, until, while doing research for this post, I came across this watch.
My watch lust, long dormant, returns.