Bit o’ Honey ~ the little things that please

The little things that please . . .

Ode to the Wristwatch

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My beau, Mr. Baker, received a gift from his mother on Saturday, a cool old Swiss Army wristwatch.  The watch was given to her by a friend, now in his fifties, who bought it when he was sixteen.  Fortunately, it didn’t fit Mr. Baker and he passed it on to me.  I liked it immediately.  It had a handsome leather band, a simple design with a bold face and hands to tell time.  And it was forty years old!  Do they still make watches like this?  


I was in second grade when I learned how to tell time.   I remember sitting at my desk in the front row staring at a big round clock on the wall while the teacher tapped at the face with her rubber-tipped pointer. Within days the confusion of numbers incrementally began to settle into a strange, calculable order.   It was like breaking a code into the grown-up world, the best thing I’d learned since the alphabet.  I thought it remarkable that twelve numbers could represent, at once, sixty minutes and twenty-four hours.  And the multiple ways of translating and expressing time I saw as a game of words and numbers.  Twelve could be midnight or noon.  Two-fifteen was a quarter past two.   A quarter to five was 4:45.   Thirty after the hour was a tidy “half past”.  Even without a watch I came to mentally refer to a watch face and hands marking the hours as I went through my day.  


Eulas and Viv, circa 1949

Mom says Eulas was wearing his favorite purple pants and pink shirt in this photo.  What a hep cat!


For my fifteenth birthday my mom gave me her sterling wind-up Bulova wristwatch.  It had been a Christmas gift from her boyfriend, Eulas, in 1950.  At that time the watch was nearly thirty years old.  Ancient in my eyes.  The original double strap leather band was still attached but badly worn.  The next day we drove to McRae’s department store in Jackson and bought a silver band to replace it.  That band lasted about ten years.  I bought another one just like it and it’s lasted ever since.  I wore the watch like a fine bracelet, always careful not to snag the little safety chain that hung in a loop.  I put the watch away when I started working with my hands.  That I haven’t lost it after so many cross-country moves is a miracle.  I take it out now for special occasions.  It’s delicate and utlra-feminine, like wearing a strand of pearls on my wrist.


This watch is over sixty years old, and still ticking!


I smugly attempt not to be ruled by the latest technological gadgetry.  I’m one of those old school hold-outs who prefers knobs to buttons on electronics and glass to plastic for just about anything.  Since I don’t have a cell phone, a wristwatch makes sense for me.  I subject my hands to all sorts of knocking about and toxic chemicals so the new/old Swiss Army brand is perfect.  I figure, if they work for the Swiss Army then I should have no problem.    But wearing one makes me wonder if I don’t peg myself as being from a particular generation.  I started noticing who wore watches as I strolled the sidewalks of my home city.  Lots of people of all generations were without a watch, but it seemed to me that ones who did wear them were well over thirty.  Cell phones and Iphones are coming to replace wristwatches for many people, but let’s not overlook the benefits of consulting a wristwatch to tell time.  First off, you can carry it on your wrist.  How convenient is that?   It doesn’t ring.  (Hallelujia!)  No one asks to borrow it.  It makes a romantic gift.  And I assure you no one will be holding on to their beloved cell phone waiting for the right time to pass it along to their son or daughter or friend.  This makes me even happier to have my watches.  Without even trying, I’m already retro.  There may be a day when people start buying up wristwatches like they do record albums.  There’ll be a whole sub-culture of collectors hoarding their stash in basements and trading online at three in the morning.  Prices will soar on Ebay.  But I’m not selling.


Written by Janie

July 2, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Vintage

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. What an amazing essay. You really have a gift. Great flow– just the right combination of memories and your current reflections. Beautiful watches too. It’s amazing how so many old things are so much higher in quality than the new. So much stuff made in this technology age is total junk.


    July 3, 2008 at 1:55 am

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