Time Out of Joint

November beeches

I have a watch, a very nice watch. A beautiful mechanical self-winding watch with a glass back so that you can see all the tiny parts ticking away inside. It needs no battery and will last for decades: the absolute antithesis of today’s short-term, throwaway society. There’s just one tiny problem. Every few years (technically every 3 years, but that’s never going to happen), if I want it to function as an actual working timepiece as opposed to a piece of wrist-borne kinetic sculpture, it has to be sent off to a specialist horologist to be taken apart by highly trained elves, cleaned in unicorn’s tears, and dusted with fairy diamonds (judging by the cost), a process which takes several weeks. Oh, and it also doesn’t keep very good time, but that might just be because I’m a bit slow to send it off to the elves because I could in fact buy a very nice watch for the cost of having it serviced. In fact, adding it up, I could have replaced the whole watch by now, but that would be a terrible waste.

For the last few months, my watch has been showing distinct signs of unhappiness and I’ve been vaguely meaning to do something about it, an intention reinforced by the fact that the strap broke and – thinking that I might as well get a new gryffon hide strap from the elves whie they were at it – I haven’t replaced it, instead wearing my watch rather precariously on a rubber wristband advertising a firm of cycle injury solicitors. Despite this, I hadn’t actually done anything about it other than think ‘I really must get my watch serviced’ at increasingly frequent intervals until Thursday when, being in Glasgow with half an hour to kill, I impulsively dropped into a watch place to find out if they could get it serviced. They could (they gave me back my wristband; I don’t think they were very impressed. I just hope I’m to be allowed to have the watch back…), and it is off to the elves for at least 6 weeks, leaving me watchless

Despite everyone telling me nobody wears a watch any more, that’s what your phone is for, I’m finding this quite difficult. I do like to know what time it is at any given moment in the day. I particularly like to know what time it is when I wake up in what might be the middle of the night and it’s dark out. The other half kindly lends me his at night, but it doesn’t have luminous hands so I would have to turn on the light to find out that it’s four in the morning and only half an hour since I last turned on the light to find out what time it is, which would probably get a bit old quite quickly for the other half. I could keep my phone by my bed but I’d rather keep it out of the bedroom because I’d only end up replying to emails or going onto twitter and forget to check what time it was. So either I have to find myself a cheap, ideally secondhand, watch with a luminous dial or I’m going to have to train myself to not want to know what time it is in the middle of the night.

A quick scout around the charity shops of Bigtown suggests that the latter is going to be easier. It seems watches do not come as standard with luminous hands. I find this baffling, to be honest. Am I really the only person who wants to be able to tell the time in the dark? Is it really such an odd thing to do? What do the rest of you do?

Oh and the photo? No reason, really, but even on a fool’s errand, a sunny morning in November on the bike is a pleasure that should be shared.


21 Responses to Time Out of Joint

  1. Paul M says:

    I’m still old-fashioned enough to wear a watch, and I have one of those which costs more change the strap than most new watches cost to buy – I only wear it for special occasions now, like jewellery.

    I woudln’t use a watch at night though. For that, I rely on our trusty Roberts clock radio. Big analogue clock face, self-adjusting when the clocks change, and it wakes you gently with the today programme.

  2. Renee says:

    I still wear a watch and miss it when it needs yet another battery! I’m afraid I do look at my phone to check the time at night since the radio alarm clock moved to Ad’s side in the last house move. Have you thought of one of those little travel clocks? They usually have glow in the dark hands I think.

  3. commuterjohn says:

    Go along with you entirely.
    My old watch finally gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago mid week, I couldn’t get a new one until the weekend so I tried the everyone uses their phone one – well it’s not for me is all I can say.
    I like an analogue watch with luminous hands and black / white face to give good clarity.
    Well, after hours of going around jewellers I realised that there were only handfull that fitted the bill and I was not going to get a cheap one either. So with new watch that you can see in the dark life carries on happily!

  4. velovoiceblogspot says:

    Have you checked Argos? That’s where I got mine when I started doing night rides – luminous dial when you press the thingy, water resistant, with leather strap. It was £25 IIRC.

  5. It’s not only lack of luminosity, I also found that hands on many watches lack contrast or are almost camouflaged by features on the face. I deliberately chose a watch with white hands against a fairly uniform dark blue face; even though the hands are not luminous they are still visible at fairly low light.

    I’m much more bothered, however, that the hands/pointers on my Shimano gear shifter on the bike are not luminous, making them completely invisible on winter commutes. Furthermore, campaigning for luminous gear shifters is very impportant because it adds a bicycle perspective to this post.

  6. disgruntled says:

    Our life has got so much better since the radio (and the Today programme) was banished from the bedroom. I can only apologise to the other half for inflicting it on him for so long…

    The other problem I forgot to mention is that I kill quartz watches – they seem to last about three months on my wrist and I’d rather not buy something even if it’s cheap that’s just going to end up in landfill, hence the search for something second hand. Clocks are all right but they tick too loudly – the one we have has been banished even from the spare room.

    Sorry about the lack of a bicycle angle … I get complaints from the ‘lay readers’ if there is too much ranting about cycling

  7. bbooker7 says:

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your creative writing.
    Here is the perfect one for you!

    Press the windup button and the dial light up. “Just like that” …

  8. Martin says:

    I bought a very cheap Timex, push the switch where the winder used to be and it illuminates the whole dial, perfect in the dark!

  9. disgruntled says:

    Two votes for timex then! I might have to have a look at that.

  10. I too like a watch… and used to destroy them regularly… Now I have a military issue G10 (military surplus store purchase) with luminous hands. It survived 20 years in the military (even if it was just in the quartermaster’s stores – #my eyes are dim, I can not see…#) so hopefully it’ll last me a good few years too.

  11. Robert Littlewood says:

    I feel that wearing a watch is very like being shackled, and mostly I don’t really care what time it is. Oddly I’m rarely late, as there is almost always something around to give you the time if it matters (eg the sun if you don’t live in the south-west of Scotland).
    Unlike my wife, who does wear a watch but has the notion that all car journeys are instantaneous.

  12. velovoiceblogspot says:

    Mine well be Timex, too…

  13. Flighty says:

    An enjoyable, and interesting, post. I’m just the opposite. I have two mechanical watches which I haven’t worn in ages, nor do I use my mobile to check the time very often. The small clock in the bedroom is under the bed gathering dust. xx

  14. disgruntled says:

    Ha! Who knew a post about getting my watch fixed would trigger all these comments …

    I might check out military watches too – if I have to buy a backup watch I’d rather it was something robust.

    As for seeing places that tell you the time – there’s not much out in the sticks (I’ve never been able to do it from the sun even if we saw it), and even in town there are precious few places that have public clocks any more. Something that has long annoyed me,

    Maybe I should just join all you zen folk who don’t feel the need to know the time. It might be healthier

  15. Charles Lock says:

    Luminworks well, they do have either luminous hands or a small light and they do not make a noise or even pick up e-mail…ous watches you want to wear are few and far between. Plenty of sporty outside ones but they are chunky and therefore difficult to read when outside in a coat and you want to just slip your sleave back. Ther are things called alarm clocks, a quartz one with an analogue face

  16. Charles Lock says:

    i have no idea what the internet did to my comment, i know its early but I can string a sentence together, blame St Pancras wifi..

  17. WOL says:

    My dad was one of those people who have difficulty with wrist watches — his would always stop working for no discernible reason. must have been his magnetic personality . . . . Toward the end of his life, he had a collection of about ten that he would request to be gotten out for him (by then he was too blind to see them). This past summer, I asked him if I could have one, and he gave me the nicest one of the bunch. We lost him this past September. I have no compunction about wearing his watch. I treasure it.

    Maybe you should shop around and get you one of those bedside clocks that doesn’t have a lighted dial unless you press the button to see the time. Then the dial lights for 10 or 15 seconds, long enough for you to read the time, then goes dark again. I have one like that. It runs forever on a single AA battery. Then you will know what time it is during the dark of the night.

  18. disgruntled says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I have remembered I have a running watch (a digital with a built in light) which, when I get a new battery for it, will do just fine.

    One day I’ll discover whether there’s an actual scientific basis for the idea that some people are hard on watches. Magnetic personality? Or a face that would stop a clock?

  19. 2whls3spds says:

    A bit late to the polls…

    Timex Expedition series watches. Push the stem and the whole face glows so you can see what time it is. No other frills. Bands cost half of what a new watch does, batteries are plentiful and not too hard to swap out. Mine last 3+ years on average. They are waterproof to 50m (hope the ford doesn’t get that deep!) Not to expensive that if you lose or break one it is the end of the world. But not so cheap you would want to throw it away either.


  20. disgruntled says:

    I shall bear Timex in mind for next time. Clearly many fans here

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