After many years of faithful service my beloved Bell & Ross BR 03 – 92 timepiece has gone wrong. It’s decided to choose random moments of the day to display meaningless times, which for someone as punctual as me is a nuisance. I guess I’ll have to buy a new one or just succumb to the Fitbit Ace 3 active tracker thingy-majig that everyone wears now, to tell them you’re not a bit fit.
Part of me wants to get it mended, but the last time this was done it was traumatic to say the least. Not having the provenance and receipts from twenty years ago, I was questioned, interrogated and challenged by the smug jewellery shop owner to prove it was genuine. Only after pleading ‘one owner from new’ did he begrudgingly accept, with a warning that if it arrived at the Bell & Ross Service Department in Paris and was fake, there would be severe repercussions and they’d retain it. Thankfully it was the real deal and for the privilege of getting it going again, I received a bill for £500, holy moly!
The month my faithful watch was enjoying the wonders of Paris, was frightful, for punctual old me. I only had the moon to tell the time and this was like going out with no trousers.
Of course I did have a backup. A rather charming vintage Longines as it happens that I received for my eighteenth birthday. But sadly my eyes are so old and weary that I can’t read the face properly. Fashions have also changed and it sadly looks very small and feminine in-situ. You know that old man watch look, with a tiny slim dial, fat wrist and blood clot inducing strap, tighter than the Scottish. This ultimately led to me turning up late to meet friends and that for me is worse than vomiting in a taxi.
This also brings me on to the biggest problem in my quest to find a new timepiece. There’s a world of choice out there but everything is unbelievably expensive and fitted with a whole host of features no one could possibly ever need.
I’ve flown all over the world but at no point did I think ‘Damn, I wish my watch had an altimeter because then I could see how far off the ground I am’ particularly as the inflight TV system displays this from take-off to landing. Similarly, when I was diving off the Great Barrier Reef I didn’t at any time think: ‘Ooh I must check how far below the surface I’ve gone’. Thoughtfully God fitted my head with sinuses that do the job very well and quite honestly remind us of why we should never be under the water in the first place!
I JUST WANT SOMETHING THAT TELLS THE TIME.
You might think then, my demands are simpler. I don’t want my watch to open bottles, diagnose my car or track my body and I don’t want it to double up as a laser, Bond style. I just want something that tells the time, not in Bangkok or Los Angeles, but, here, now, clearly and robustly with no fuss. The end.
But it isn’t the end, you see someone in Adland (that’s me guiltily) has decided that the watch says something about the man. Having the right timepiece is just as important as having the right hair, car, or the right names for your children. I remember at a dinner party once, an acquaintance leaning over to a perfect stranger on the other side of the table and proclaiming ‘Ooh is that a Monte Carlo?’ It was, apparently, and soon enough everyone was cooing and nodding appreciatively. Except me, I had no idea what a Monte Carlo was and I’ve even been there too, huh?
Where does one start to buy a new watch with so much societal pressure it seems to get it right at dinner parties? Do I want to be Breitling Bentley Bend it Like Beckham or Buff Brad Pitt Tag Heuer ‘what are you made of?’ – talk about purchase intent insecurities.
INTERESTING FACT (To use at dinner parties if your timepiece doesn’t measure up).
Did you know that nearly all watch advertising has the hands at ten past ten and has done for years? This apparently is the optimum position to showcase the analogue aesthetics and any of those gadgets you really don’t need. Grab a magazine and check it out, if you don’t believe me, and David below is no exception.
YES A COLLECTION, CAN YOU BELIEVE?
A colleague of mine also had a large collection of watches he coveted too. So large in fact it needed a dressing table contraption to keep them all wound up and ticking, analogue agitation I guess its called. But despite all this he still had the need to spend thousands of pounds on just one more, a new Bremont. Now I know roughly what he earns and therefore I know what percentage of his income he’s just blown on this watch and medically speaking he must be completely potty. It is however rather nice and comfortingly hand assembled, just up the road from me and again is a brand enriched with the legacy of Biggles and vintage aviation.
It turns out though his Bremont, in the big scheme of things, is actually quite cheap. There are watches out there that cost tens of thousands of pounds. And I just can’t see why?
Except of course, I can. Timex can sell you a reliable watch that has a backlight for the visually impaired, a compass, a stopwatch and a tool for restarting stricken nuclear submarines, all for an Argos best of £39.99. And that’s because the badge says Timex, which is another way of saying you have no cool, no style and you probably drive a Kia Sportage.
To justify the exorbitant prices watchmakers charge today they all have to carry absurd names like Audemars Piguet or Girard Perregaux and they all claim to make timepieces for fighter pilots and space-shuttle commanders and people who parachute from outer space into waiting power boats for a living. What’s more, all of them claim to have been doing this, in sheds in remote Swiss villages, for the last six thousand years. I don’t know about you but I also find the more you pay for a watch the harder it is to even just read the time on the face.
How many craftsman in the Swiss mountains are there, millions perhaps? This is why the trains all run exactly to time and let’s be honest the Moser-Baer railway clock face designed in 1944 by Hans Hilfiker, a worker on the Swiss railways is a masterpiece in design and to date never been beaten. Breitling even bangs on about how it made the instruments for historically important old planes. So what? The Swiss also stored a lot of historically important gold teeth and famous artworks. It means nothing when I’m lying in bed trying to work out if it’s the middle of the night or time to get up.
Shameless Adland and watch companies still serve up all this active lifestyle guff and show you pictures of Swiss pensioners in brown ‘Open All Hours’ store coats, painstakingly assembling the inner workings with tweezers and then try to flog you something that is more complicated than the engine management system of a Bugatti Veyron. Or which is bigger and heavier than Fort Knox and would even look stupid on the wrist of Puff Diddly. It’s ironic really that every watchmaker it seems, is also visually impaired, as they always have WW2 style focal contraptions strapped to their eyes.
TIME HAS A WONDERFUL WAY OF SHOWING US WHAT REALLY MATTERS.
Perhaps I should follow the path of a dear friend who went to find his inner self in Bali for six months. He returned so humbled and liberated, he kicked the can of conspicuous consumption so far down the road, he wrote a wonderful book on compassion and empathy in life and business. He was happy now to just to wear a hipster rubber wristband thingy. From that day on he relied on his garden sundial to keep him in sync with meetings for the day. His collection of expensive watches never saw the light again.
On reflection then, I think I’ll just get the Bell & Ross repaired, with a feel good eco-warrier hint of repair, refurbish, and reuse, assuming I can convince them its genuine. The bright and breezy blurb that goes with my watch claims it’s made in Switzerland by pensioners (craftsman) using German parts, by a company that supplies the American military. It also shamelessly alludes (just like Breitling mentioned above) to the innovation and inspiration in and around Spitfire cockpit dials. Who cares if it doesn’t get any worthy recognition at dinner parties, the Battle of Britain sure does. My watch is analogue all the way (just like me), it’s very simple, has big numbers, and looks like it belongs on the hairy arms of someone in the mining industry, who blows up mountainsides (not Swiss) with dynamite.
Anything that’s linked to the Spitfire, the best fighter plane ever made, is more than enough for humble old me. Now where did I put my trousers, it’s time to scramble, chocks away and for once be on time again.
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