On Watches

new watch, in the style of a pre-WW2 pilot's watch

I always wore a watch, until I didn’t.

I remember spending birthday money as a nine-year-old buying one of the first digital watches, Star Wars-branded, where you pressed a button to bring up the red-LED time. I wasn’t allowed to wear it to school because it was too expensive and precious. I think most of my young life was counted on a basic Timex with luminous dial.

I started going without a watch when featurephones and smartphones became small-size with an always-on or one-touch clock front. It’s the “smart pocket watch” thing – really, all we were missing were fob chains for our phones. I personally am prepared to hold out for fob chains, pinstriped waistcoat with a long phone pocket, and Google Monocle.

And then — I think for an article? – I got myself a Pebble Steel smartwatch. And not only did my phone’s battery life literally double because I wasn’t always taking the damn thing out to read notifications, but I got used to having that weight on my wrist again.

When Pebble threw in the towel, I caved and got an Apple Watch. Which is both far more functional – in terms of the number of things it can do — and far more poorly designed. Having to learn that weird arm-lift hitch-and-twist to get the watch to accept that you want to look at it and see the damn time. The “digital crown” that basically does whatever it fucking wants. But it does mostly succeed in keeping me off my phone and pushing the notifications and actions I need to my wrist when I’m in deep with the work.

A while later, I fell into an article about micro-brand watches. This one crew, Trifoglio, were selling a watch based on a Fiat 500’s speedometer, the Veloce. It was going on Kickstarter for something like a hundred and fifty American. The article was clear that something like that would usually go for 750, and in fact Trifoglio now sell it for $435. So I bought it. Just for the hell of it, really — if nothing else, it’d be a nice curio for a shelf, with its strange disc movement.

It sits on my wrist really nicely. It gives me pleasure to look at it. It’s unusual, the modernist styling amuses me, and Lush’s “500 (Shake Baby Shake)” goes through my head.

The watch pictured above arrived today. For a similar amount to the Veloce, I bought the Dan Henry 1939, which came with a leather-and-canvas watch roll for three devices. It’s inspired by pre-WW2 air and navy chronographs. I’m not A Watch Guy. I’m really not. I own three now, including the Apple Watch. And, don’t get me wrong, I love the powers of the 21st Century that the thing can afford me. But you know what? I’m at the point where I’m okay with putting the phone in my pocket and having a solid piece of art on my wrist that just tells me the time. I may finally have reached the point, here in my dotage, where just putting on a nice watch is a statement of escape from work.

(Also, inescapably, a statement of privilege, I know, I know,: just as owning the Apple Watch is a statement of successful capitalist embedding, muting the phone and putting on an analogue watch is a statement about not having to be always-on, fuck it, look at the nice watch some people made just because they think everything should be beautiful.)

(This is definitely more of a jotting-down. Never knowingly not not-fully-baked, here,)