Around the time my last watch began to lose the hour and fail even with new batteries I realised I didn’t really need it anyway. I carry my phone with me everywhere, and it tells the time perfectly. I’m at a desk most of the day: the time is shown on my computer screen and a wall nearby. The street is filled with people carrying the time who would be happy to help me if I needed to know it. I don’t need to wear the time on my own wrist too.
Some people like to wear a watch as an item of jewellery. They like the design and the things it says about them. I’m not really bothered. Some watches are handsome, but a watch is just an extra bit hanging off me that I don’t need, like the clumps of hair that grow out of my nose. I just get rid of them.
I remember having a conversation about all this with my parents some time last year. My mum especially thought I was strange for having these views. She seemed to say that a watch is just an item a person ought to own, like a toothbrush. She didn’t understand my argument that I carry the time on my phone and that I don’t need a shiny, heavy handcuff pulling me down. I don’t need to wear something like that just so a person at a party will say, “Nice watch” and we’ll have something to talk about. I can’t imagine anything more boring than talking about my new watch at a party.
But I am wacky. And I am wrong. So my parents gave me a watch for Christmas.
“I just think a watch looks nice on a man,” said my mum.
I wore it for Christmas while I was with them. And I’ve worn it when I visited them recently for the first time since Christmas. The leather strap is still newly stiff. The back of the watch still has the clear plastic protective sticker. It is a lovely watch, smart and elegant and mass produced. I guess it cost them around £50.
But I don’t wear it. It would serve no purpose in my life—except maybe when my phone battery is dead and I’m in a field and there’s no one around except cows and I need to know if I’ve guessed right that the sun has passed its zenith. Maybe if I got kidnapped and had my phone taken from me and I was pushed into a darkened bunker and was kept there for days and I needed some hook on reality—maybe then it’d be good to follow the time. Maybe then my watch would also keep me hopeful that I’d be saved because the kidnappers who let me keep my watch must be pretty thick.
I guess I can’t think of many more situations when I’d need a watch. Since I’m a man, many watch manufacturers think I need to do extra things with a watch than a woman does. Have you noticed that men’s watches have more extras than women’s? Men’s watches often have chronometers, rotating bezels, waterproof coating, in-built stopwatches, calculators, calendars… all sorts. Either men need more reasons for wearing an item of jewellery or men are far more likely to need to be able to know the date while they time themselves diving underneath their yacht to fix something. Women’s watches tend to just look pretty. They are the Barbies to the men’s Action Men.
Since men’s watches are packed with all these extra abilities they are often thicker and heavier. Even men’s watches that don’t have the extras are bigger than women’s. A man can’t wear a dainty watch even though we can pack a mechanism into a tiny space these days. Does the strength to carry a watch around all day prove that you’re a real man?
I do sometimes think, when I see a relatively wealthy man wearing an expensive watch, that he wants me to know it. It’s got to be true, right? His watch says, I can afford this snazzy gadget handcuff thing and I am hoping that this makes you think I’m rich and powerful and a good person. Maybe he just likes a nice watch? No. I don’t buy that for a second. He could pick up a nice watch for a couple of quid, probably mass produced by a low-paid worker in the developing world down the road in a similar factory to the fancy one.
And my mum says she just thinks a watch looks nice on a man. Is it part of being a man, I wonder? Am I less of a man because I don’t wear a watch? With a bare wrist I am not the man my mum wants me to be. I can live with that. But I’m also now living with a watch. If you want to buy a nice watch, comment below.