Pieces of Time

Do you wear a watch or use your phone to check the time? Watches are pieces of time but are they on the wane?


A recent supplement in the New York Times Sunday edition was a 66 page, full color advertisement dedicated to wristwatches.  Excuse me – I mean timepieces. 

It was an odd ode to time, very very pricey time. 

The unfamiliar brand names were no surprise but what did surprise me was the full throttle marketing effort.  Every page advertised watches.  There were no sidebar stories, just a slick catalog of watches. Some had very complex faces with dials inside dials, some were sleek minimalist faces and then there were those that looked one code short of launching a rocket. 

I thought the day of the watch was on the wane with cell phones as the replacement timekeepers.  I was wrong.  

My first watch was a First Communion gift from my parents – a silver-colored Timex with a metal stretch band.  It has a stem for winding.  I love that watch.  I remember the TV ad for Timex – “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  That small watch sits in my jewelry box to this day.  Why keep it? It reminds me of a precious time back in second grade. 

 And yes, it is still ticking (after being wound). 

 If someone would have told me then that a phone would replace the timeless timepiece a few decades into the future I would have laughed at the idea of a phone being portable and mutating with a watch.  The laugh would be on me.

 I used to marvel at my grandmother’s watch.  It wasn’t anything special but its face was so small that there was no room for numbers – only short lines and longer ones where the 3,6,9, and 12 should be. My seven year old brain could not understand how my grandmother knew the time minus those critical numbers.

And remember the Swatch watch? What a fabulous fad.  The serious timepiece received a fashionable update.  It introduced the idea of zany colored watches to accessorize multiple outfits.  Their soft plastic bands and bold hues were revolutionary.  Owning more than one watch became the norm.  The ever-colorful Swatch is still around moving from fad to strangely timeless.

Then the knock-off watches started showing up on city street corners and designer time became a commodity for everyone.

Several years ago my watchband broke.  I kept it in my purse as a reminder to bring it to the jeweler for repair.  It never made it there.  By then my phone – the new constant companion – was giving me the time of day.

 I felt deceitful to my pretty gold watch.  On my wrist it was always ready to do its job.  Lord knows the phone is not at the ready.  Rather it swims among the detritus in my handbag as I play a form of the Halloween game – Guess What’s  In the Bag? – while my hand fumbles through my purse searching for the rectangle timekeeper.  And yet I choose it over a wristwatch.  It doesn’t make sense.

I have never owned a digital watch -that was a bridge too far for me.  It is a generational divide.  As my kids learned how to tell time they were consistently tripped up by the expression of “twenty to four” instead of 3:40.  I might has well have been speaking in Klingon when telling that time.  A quarter to three? Forget about it. It was and always will be all digital for them.

Analog is the cursive handwriting of time.  Alas, no surprise that I love cursive handwriting.

My Uncle Frank, a soldier returning from Europe after World War II bought a cuckoo clock for my grandmother.  He stayed  overseas after the fighting ended to search for his kid brother, Pete, who was missing in action in Germany.  The clock was, in some way, a tangible metaphor for time marching on even when a loved one is gone before their time.

That clock was a constant tick-tock sound in my grandmother’s living room for as long as I can remember. When she died it became  mine and, even though I still lived in my parents’ home, that noisy cuckoo was anchored on my bedroom wall keeping time (as well as keeping me awake during those first weeks.)

 Today the little cuckoo bluebird (of happiness, perhaps?) peers out on the hour and half hour 67 years since my grandmother first mounted it on her wall  My nieces and eventually my kids as youngsters all marveled at that  tiny bird’s appearance.  They would keep vigil in front of the little door above the twelve waiting, waiting, waiting for a chirp of time.  It is a child magnet.

 I thought the overblown wristwatch supplement in the Times was cuckoo.  But it did give me an odd reminder of the enduring role time plays.  No matter the money spent measuring it, time continues as a constant, unstoppable known.

  I know that even as “Frankenstorm” fast approaches the northeastern US, my cuckoo clock and land line phone (sans answering machine) will defy electricity if we lose power.

Time is a bandit, whether it is tracked by a timepiece attached to my wrist, my wall or rolling around in my purse. The cowbell infused, anthem-like Chamber Brothers song says all we need to know about it –Time has come today – hey.


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Regina DiLabbio Klugh King October 28, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I still have my little Elgin faux gold wristwatch from my Godmother for my Confirmation in 1954! And the black-banded Timex she gave me for my graduation from St. Pat's in 1960. Priceless and Timeless! As an old scribe myself, I njoyed your article! Write more!
Rick Kephart October 31, 2012 at 11:55 AM
I wear a wrist watch. You can't replace that with a cell phone when you need to keep track of the time! And it's an analog watch; analog always beats digital with its immediate visual representation of the time. I just wish it were easier to find a wind-up watch these days instead of one with a battery. I used to use a pocket watch a lot, to keep from getting a sweaty wrist in the summer and because the chain looks nice. But I haven't used that for a long time because a wrist watch is more convenient. On my wall I have a radio-controlled, analog clock: best of both worlds. I also like cursive writing. Want to impress people? Write a letter with a fountain pen!
john October 31, 2012 at 03:20 PM
the time is posted everywhere now, plus we have our phones. no need at all for watches anymore


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