A leading watchmaker has disappointed the street with its latest financial results. Why? Watches aren’t doing so well. Unsurprisingly, an offer is currently on, says a hoarding, of up to 40 per cent discount on some watches.
Our children, who are in their early twenties, seldom use watches. Out daughter acquired what seemed a hugely costly one some years ago by pooling all the money she got for a particular birthday. Then she told us more recently that her watch was passé; she had been wearing it for too long. For obvious reasons we have not taken the hint and bought her another, even more expensive one. The price index for fashion goods climbs faster than that for more mundane fare.
Our son refuses to use a watch at all. I have darkly averred this is a reflection of his sense of time, but he is not easily intimidated. I get by quite well without a watch, have never missed an appointment because I don’t have the time on me, he has argued, and declared that watches are really non-essential.
I suspect he does not wear a watch precisely for the same reason that our daughter would like a new contemporary one. He also thinks it is a fashion accessory. I have pointed out to him that he is inconsistent. He didn’t mind when we presented him with a pair of stylish chamois leather shoes. He has simply replied, shoes are a different matter.
That is why for the last 10 years or so I have been happily using one after another the string of watches he won in debating competitions through high school and college. I have been wearing one of them, with a black dial and no numerals but strokes, for several years now. When the casing faded, I took it to a showroom where they changed it for a price and it was as good as new.
There are now several new men’s watches at home which I have not been able to do justice to. Prominent among them is a nice-looking one that the office gave me when I retired, and that wasn’t really yesterday. I suspect that I will eventually have to find someone to bequeath some of them to, since the automatic recipient, our son, does not care about them.
Come to think of it, I have hardly ever bought a watch in my life, though I have happily used a succession of them. My first watch was a present from a rich aunt just before my school-leaving exams. It was thin as paper, bore a Swiss name and was both smart and accurate. It finally gave up after more than a decade of yeoman service. When I got married, there were several watches from which to choose. And by the time that crop ran out, our son’s presents were there to pick from.
The wife’s attitude to watches has been somewhere between the two generations, ours and our children’s. She wore her wedding watches while they lasted and thereafter a costly one that I presented her for one of our marriage anniversaries. Then she started needing reading glasses — and to do justice to a watch she would have to wear glasses constantly. That was the effective end of her tryst with watches.
Nobody cared about his watch as much as my father did. Ever since I can remember, he wore one with the markings in Roman numerals. He took it off before dinner and it lay in grand display on his work table till morning. We children knew it was costly, and something important that grown-ups used, and was not to be touched. Had it been around today, it would have been prized for its antique look.
His next, and the one that he wore till the end of his life, was one of the earliest from HMT, called Janata, which cost less than Rs 100. After he passed away, my mother gave it to our old retainer, who treasured it. To the earlier generation, watches defined the man. If you could afford one – and it had to be imported – you had made something of yourself. Then the developmental years were marked by the modest, workmanlike ones from HMT which the middle class used happily. A judge, my father would not dream of wearing something flashy from Hong Kong or an excessively costly Swiss-made one.
Today, the practical need to tell the time is satisfied by the display right there at the corner of the laptop screen I am staring at now. At other times, it is the mobile phone or the clock on the car dashboard. The advent of quartz technology has even removed the need to set your watch every few days. All this is a pity since a wristwatch is the one accessory that a man can display on himself without appearing bejewelled and effete.