WoB Talk

May 7, 2012

Kari Vs. the Watches

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 2:51 am

I often Rant about my long, futile struggle to find a computer that works and doesn’t hate me.  I spend less time complaining about my problematic relationship with watches.  I expect I’ve done a Rant on this relationship (or bits and pieces of it) at some point, but if so, it was long enough ago that an update may be in order, especially in light of recent development.

I’ve always been, for want of a better phrase, a “watch person.”  I do remember stretches of my childhood during which I didn’t wear a watch, mainly because it was summer vacation and I didn’t need one.  However, I did get my first watch when I was just a kid, and if you discount those summer vacations of yesteryear, I’ve worn one more or less steadily ever since.  I love watches.  Actually, I love clocks of all kinds.  There’s something about the idea of this intricate machine full of delicate little cogs that just makes me happy.  For that reason, my watches have rarely been digital.  I know a lot of people can’t read clock faces any more–my students are often sheepishly puzzled when they ask me the time and I automatically show them my watch–but I prefer them.  I think it may be because I’m one of those strange people who think of time as having a shape.  When I picture the months of the year, for instance, I see them going around in a sort of wonky elipsis.  The hours of the day have a shape too.  The clock face mimics that shape.  A digital clock is easier to read but divorces the sense of time from the sense of space.

Despite my fondness for watches, I have a hell of a time with them.  I’ve owned a ridiculously large number of them.  I seem to be very good at making them not work.

My childhood $30 Timex was actually a decent watch that worked properly for years.  It lost about half a second a day, but I just had to remember to fix the time every once in a while.  I wore it into my twenties.  Then I graduated with an M.A., and my long watch-based nightmare commenced with a graduation gift of a Tissot.

It was a lovely watch.  An automatic, it ran without a battery and didn’t need to be wound.  It was just too bad that it kept time so badly.  Swiss watches are, of course, supposed to be the best, but my Tissot lost far more time than my Timex per day.  It wasn’t a regular amount, but it was often around a minute.  Sometimes, it would simply stop, then start again later.  Automatics are wound by movement, and I don’t think I was moving so little that the watch was winding down; I tend to move a lot, even when I’m supposed to be at rest, and I swing my arms enthusiastically as I walk.  My parents and I took the watch in for repairs something like three times.  No one could figure out what was wrong with it.  The final time, it was out of warranty, and it cost far too much to “fix.”

The thing is…I hate not being able to trust my watch.  The Tissot was the least trustworthy watch I had ever owned.  Sorry, Tissot makers.  I’m sure your products are usually very nice, but mine was a dud.  I still have it, and it’s still very pretty, and it still keeps absolutely appalling time.

I eventually gave up on the Tissot.  I would have gone back to the Timex, but my parents had moved in the interim, and the Timex had vanished.  I made do with a gift watch that was too small for me and hurt my wrist, but when its battery gave out, I found another cheap watch that was relatively accurate.  The really bad watch times had begun.

The new watch worked fine, but the band was one of those faux-leather things, which never last for long.  The band eventually broke, and I got another one, which was itself on the verge of breaking when the watch went from “working fine” to “rather resembling the Tissot.”  It didn’t seem to be the battery that was the problem; the watch itself was breaking down.  Fortuitously, this happened shortly after I found a Timex Ironman in the middle of the street.  The Ironman is a digital watch, but a good one.  My wrists are surprisingly skinny, and the Ironman, which was made to fit a man, could barely be cinched tight enough.  I managed.

I’m not sure how long all these watches lasted.  I think I had the Timex for at least ten years, the Tissot for maybe six, the too-tight gift watch for one, the watch with the cheap strap for four or five, and the Ironman for maybe one and a half.  Then its strap broke too.  I replaced the watch with a cheap Shoppers Drug Mart watch, which I told myself was good enough.  It ran for a few months before stopping.  Again, it didn’t seem to be the battery; to this day, it runs sporadically for a few minutes at a time.  I found myself making do with a wind-up steampunk pendant watch.  It was a cool watch, but it wasn’t the sort of thing you wanted to wear every day.  It was the middle of the marking period, and I had no time for watch-hunting, so in desperation, I found another Shoppers watch.

That was the nadir of my Great Watch Adventure.  The second Shoppers watch lasted for three days.  It kept time well, but the last straw came a few days ago, when I rode my bike down to the university.  It was a fairly humid day, which meant that perspiration happened, and the perspiration triggered an allergic reaction to the watch.  I don’t know if it was the cheap acrylic band or the (assumedly) nickel buckle that was to blame; I know I have a nickel allergy, so it could have been either.  That was the day I decided I needed a real bloody watch, damn it.

I have a decent watch now, or so I hope.  The band is stainless steel, so I’m not allergic to it, and it isn’t likely to break.  The watch is keeping time well so far.  I really hope it lasts.  I do like watches a lot, and I am tired of not being able to keep one for more than a few years at a time.  If my new watch outlasts my new computer, I shall declare victory.

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6 Comments »

  1. I love watches and clocks too! Every time I buy a new time piece – for wall or wrist, I ask myself just how many places do I need to be able to quickly check the time. Like, the kitchen currently has two and I felt I needed to get a third one shaped like a teapot, from Value Village. There are three clocks in my bedroom. I have a few ceramic “art” clocks put away till I have the time to repair them. And I have made watches and clocks – well the watch bands and clock faces – by the dozens! I totally agree Kari!

    Comment by jewels10 — May 7, 2012 @ 3:29 am

  2. Jewels10: I miss the clock I made in shop in grade 10. My parents are about to move again; maybe I’ll try to find it once they’ve unpacked. I’ve got an IKEA clock (a simple but quite neat one) on my living-room wall; the clock in my office says “Don’t freaking plagiarise” on its face (needless to say, I designed that one). I used to love our grandmother clock when I was growing up. Someday, I would like a nice mantle clock (I have no room for one at the moment). I don’t know why clocks are just so freaking cool.

    Comment by Kari Maaren (@angrykem) — May 7, 2012 @ 3:42 am

  3. Ah, I got a stunningly beautiful Swiss automatic watch from my parents for my 25th birthday. The sort of thing I would never have been able to afford myself. I love it to pieces. Before that I had a pretty nice Longines (quartz), but one has a completely different relationship with an automatic. I guess it’s a matter of priorities, but for me aesthetics, craftsmanship and tradition beat a small loss in accuracy every time. These days we are so focused on accuracy anyway (mobile phones, computers, etc.) that I find a little imprecision cannot hurt now and then. I also have tiny wrists and find even ladies’ watches huge these days (apparently it’s the fashion right now) but mine is relatively small. For some reason a very important thing for me on a watch is Roman numerals. I love Roman numerals.

    And seriously, you know people over 10 years of age who have a digital watch? I haven’t met any myself. Where I grew up it was rare even among kids – I got my first Flik Flak at 5 and was shocked when I found out in second grade that some kids couldn’t read the time yet.

    Comment by Roeslein — May 8, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  4. The problem was that my watch didn’t have a “small” loss in accuracy. It would sometimes lose about a minute a day. It would sometimes GAIN about a minute a day. It would stop for twenty minutes and then start up again. I couldn’t trust it at all because it was completely unpredictable. My dad and my sister both had automatics as well, and neither behaved like mine.

    I know few people who wear a watch any more, actually. Most people use their phones to tell time.

    Comment by Kari Maaren (@angrykem) — May 8, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  5. Kari; those Ikea clocks are the best for creativity. I once saw a clock in an office that had a blank face with all the numbers heaped on the bottom around the 6:00 point (graphics) and I made one for my mom for a Mother’s Day gift. It was so easy! At 90 years old the time doesn’t matter quite so much to her.

    Mimi (Jewels10)

    Comment by jewels10 — May 8, 2012 @ 8:54 am

  6. What you need to do is just start thinking of time as a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.

    Comment by husseinnur — May 21, 2012 @ 6:24 pm


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