Times They Are a-Changin'

October 16, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

There were several empty seats when I got to class yesterday, so I asked the students if it was still early. A couple of them flipped open their cell phones.

Doesn’t anybody have a watch? I remembered all those mornings when my son went off to high school, and I would see his wristwatch lying on the dresser. “Aren’t you taking your watch?”


So I took a survey. How many of you don’t wear a wristwatch? They all raised their hands (and bare wrists) except for one student, and even she wasn’t wearing hers that day. It’s all cell phones. “The new pocket watch,” said one student. I suggested he ought get a chain and waistcoat.*

It looks like the wristwatch is another generational marker, soon to go the way of the typewriter.
But a wristwatch isn’t just for telling time. It’s jewelry, it’s conspicuous consumption. A friend who worked at Canyon Ranch (an expensive spa) told he had witnessed a small misunderstanding there. One client (rancher? camper?) had mistaken another as an employee. The one who felt he’d been slighted thrust out his arm at the other man. “That’s a five thousand dollar Rolex,” he announced.

Cell phones are democratizing. Yes, some cost more than others, but the top of the line phone, the best phone, the iPhone, is within reach of most people. The most expensive model I could find online today costs $750. And the cheaper iPhones look just like the expensive ones.

Watches, on the other wrist, have limitless potential as status markers. That Rolex would be put to shame by even a low-end Patek Phillipe, like this $16,000 model (which looks strikingly like a Timex I used to own.)

Or this De Bethune with a MSRP of $95,000.

But why not get something really good like this Blancpain? It’s only 250,000 (the website didn’t say whether that was dollars or euros. If the latter, multiply by about 1.5. But if you have to do the math, you probably can’t afford it anyway.)

*I also told him of the line I heard Woody Allen use on the Johnny Carson show ages ago. Woody took out a pocket watch as if to check the time, and Carson admired it. “My grandfather,” said Woody somberly, “on his deathbed,” he paused, “sold me this watch.”

1 comment:

Angie Andriot said...

I'm seeing a resurgence of wristwatches on the horizon. There was a booth at the last art fair I went to selling fancy handmade ones. It'll be the new retro chic. I've always wanted a wristsundial, myself.