Monday, October 09, 2006

Not On My Watch

I am looking for a new watch. My parents gave me some money several months ago as they wanted to get me something special when I got my MA. And now that the strap on my 15-year old watch has broken it is time to go out and spend it. I think that a watch is a lovely idea for a gift, and one that will always make me think of them.

Wrist-based timepieces seem to have changed a lot in the past decade and a half though. Back then, if you didn’t want a digital one your choices were pretty much silver/gold and numbers/Roman numerals/just little lines where the numbers would go. Now there is a bewildering array of shapes, sizes and different coloured dials. This is bad news for someone like me who is not very good at making decisions, and even worse news for the poor jewellers of Oxford Street who will have to serve me.

“This is an automatic watch”, says the pretty young assistant in the first jeweller’s, showing me the billionth watch in her shop. “It doesn’t need a battery – it just works from the movement of your wrist.”

The desire to make a joke is overwhelming. Something like, “It would probably run quite fast then. Haha.” Or “I could use it in the summer as a fan. Haha.” This does sound like a great way to harness this untapped energy source though, and one that could solve all our global warming problems. And if you got caught in a compromising position you could just say “I was boiling the kettle”.

By the time I have been in the fifth jeweller’s for half an hour I am beginning to get an idea that I want quite a classic design. A bit like my old watch really. The assistant bends down and reaches into the cabinet. I see his hand heading towards a tray of more modern designs which I don’t like. But I have been dithering a lot in here, and I want to save him the bother of bringing out a tray of watches that I know I won’t buy, so, trying to help, I say “I don’t like the black faces”.

The assistant’s head appears over the top of the counter again. Yes, he is black.

“On the watches!” I yell shrilly, even though I am sure that he knew that that was what I was referring to. “Though on second thoughts those ones look really nice”, I say, overcompensating wildly as I would if a suspicious-looking man that I had accosted outside my flat was, on closer inspection, Nelson Mandela leaving a freshly-baked apple pie on my doorstep.

He gets the tray of black-faced watches out, and I try several on, cooing over them in an exaggerated fashion, just about managing not to say “Those second hands have got really natural rhythm”.

We both know that I am not going to purchase one of these, so eventually I point back at the tray of watches I first looked at. I buy a very nice Tissot, though every time I look at it, it’s now not my parents who first come to mind.