Time Will Tell:
I have this thing about clocks and watches that sort of borders on obsession. If I lived alone my house would be like one of those creepy rooms you sometimes see in movies, where a slightly odd man lives with hundreds of clocks that all chime the hour in the middle of important conversations.
My fascination began early on when, to keep my childhood yap shut, I was given a big alarm clock to dismantle. Applying my screwdriver and pliers I realized that something as complicated as time was being counted by a very simple machine. It amazed me then. It amazes me now.
Time has always been a hot-bed of invention. The first mechanical clocks were expensive and huge affairs beyond the means of an individual. The oldest survivors, from the mid-1300s, still live in European towers. Personal clocks, definite status symbols, appeared near the end of that same century. About a hundred years later some der Besserwisser gave birth to portable clocks when (s)he replaced ungainly ropes and weights with the force of a metal spring.
Vertical escapements gave way to wheels, and clocks began to shrink. Wristlets, or wristwatches, initially considered feminine, grew popular for men in the trenches of the First World War where changing positions to pull a pocket watch could get your head blowed off. The first self-contained, battery-driven clock appeared in 1906. The "synchronous electric motor clock," analogous to the one your mom had in her kitchen, showed up in 1918. The first quartz-clock, in 1929. The atomic clock arrived 20 years later. A person doesn't think much about it, but I figure it could be argued that uber-accurate time-keeping is the basis of much of the technology that runs the world today.
A friend, who only recently discovered the joys of wristwatches, asked if I had a "dream watch."
I was childhood fan of the comic strip Dick Tracy, with his two-way wrist radio that was upgraded, in 1964, to a two-way wrist TV. I sure wanted one of those! Funny thing, now that we're closing in on what Dick Tracy and his crew took for granted I find myself rejecting the latest trends and longing for simpler days.
I own a number of wristwatches. None particularly valuable, but most far more accurate than I require. Really, why does a person need to track time within seconds a month? I have to admit that, more and more, the watches I enjoy most are those I wind by hand, like the timepiece bequeathed to me by my childhood neighbor, Virgil Paul Rizzo. It's a slightly beat-up, square-faced, 1920s, art-deco beauty that, acceptably enough, loses a few minutes each day.
Knowing the batteries for today's watches won't be available forever, I have begun the search for the perfect, above-average mechanical watch to pass on to my son, along with his grandfather's and great-grandfather's watches. I hope it'll be the seed of another generation's search for the perfect measurer of time.
Though, I'm considering having the minute-hand removed from my future dream-watch. I figure knowing the hour is good enough. Anything more precise is superfluous. Don't you think?
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