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Watch Curmudgeon: Overheard At a Swatch Store

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Series | The Watch Curmudgeon | 12.24.2012

Every few months, I make an effort to visit a Swatch store to see what’s new. This has been a ritual of mine for many years. During what I affectionately refer to as the golden era of Swatch, you’d find loads of excitement and innovation, including numerous automatics that I was “forced” to buy. But that was the past and decidedly not the point of this story. So bear with me while I get back on track.

2 Swatch automatics from the early 90's

Last week, during my most recent visit, I was carefully examining a rather compelling Irony chronograph. It really caught my interest and so did a conversation that took place right next to me. Two late 20’s women, both decked out in Uggs, black tights and puffy jackets, were stealthily approached by a salesperson.

Did I go into an eves dropping mode? You bet your &%# I did. Now don’t condemn me for this. We’re all guilty of earnestly listening in (monitoring, if you like) to loud conversations that happen right in your face. So here’s how it went, as accurately as I can remember. I’ve chosen names for the women that seem appropriate.

“Can I help you?” asked the broadly smiling sales person.

“Sure,” quipped Samantha. “I’m looking for a Christmas present for my father.”

“I noticed you were fiddling with a cool green Swatch Touch,” remarked the salesperson.

Rolling her eyes, Samantha quirked, “Oh, not that one! That’s certainly not his style.”

“He’s a way too conservative guy,” added Zoe.

“Then let me recommend something that a lot of guys from his generation like,” advised the salesperson.

“Sure,” said Samantha with a tight little smile.

The salesperson led her targets to a display area on the other side of the store. Out of curiosity and boredom, I followed.

“How about one of these,” she offered. “They’re Swatch automatics. I’ll show you a popular one.”

   “Automatic?” queried Samantha.

“There’s no battery,” said the salesperson.

Zoe piped up, “One of my boy friends has one of those. He says it’ll run forever on sunlight. Cool!”

“No, that’s a solar watch,” responded the sales person. “This is an automatic. It winds with the movement of your wrist.”

“I’m sooo lost,” said Samantha in a hushed tone.

Zoe nodded in agreement and rolled her eyes.

“The watch is powered by a spring that’s wound by the motion of your wrist,” said the still patient salesperson.

With her face all scrunched up, Samantha wheezed, “What are you talking about? This makes no sense. I’m sooo lost!”

“Here, let me show you something,” said the still patient sales person. “Turn the watch over, and look at the back. Shake it a little, and you’ll see a little, nearly circular disc moving around.”

Shaking and staring, a very confused Samantha looked at Zoe, then back at the slightly flustered salesperson. “I still don’t get it.”

Pointing at the rotor, the slightly pissed salesperson continued, “That moves every time your wrist moves. It winds the spring that makes the hands move.”

Zoe, in a eureka moment, offered what she thought was an insightful observation, “But if he stops moving his wrist, the hands will stop. What good is a watch like that?”

Before the very flustered salesperson could blurt out an answer, Samantha had her own eureka moment. “Wait a second. I get it. I know how this automatric works. It’s ingenious!”

“Thank God,” gushed a perspiring salesperson.

“What a cool gadget. When did Swatch invent this autometric?” inquired Samantha in a tone of sheer amazement.

The very relieved, grinning salesperson proudly answered, “They invented it in the mid 80’s. Now let’s look carefully at the watch’s dial. You can see some of the exposed gears.”

“G e a r s?” asked a thoroughly astonished Samantha.

“G e a r s?” echoed an equally perplexed Zoe.

   At that point, I quickly departed the store because my suppressed laughter nearly had me soiling my pants. If any of you are interested, the watch they were looking at was a $170. Swatch “Dark Sky” Irony automatic. Daddy dear would have probably loved it, but would have gotten tired from constantly moving his wrist.

  • http://URL Joshua Munchow

    I love your articles and this one takes the cake! I don’t like to think of myself as a watch snob but overhearing that conversation would have been incredibly difficult not to chime in! From one curmudgeon to another, bravo on your restraint, keep up the good work.

  • http://URL Matthieu Vallée

    To be frank, I had a similar reaction when I met my first automatic watch: the concept of something working without electricity was quite foreign for me at the time.

    We have reached a point in time when even Quartz watches are old technology: they were “replaced” first by digital watches, which are now being replaced by cellphones for many teenagers or even people in their twenties. It is quite possible that those two girls have never even worn a watch.

    At the very least, we should be happy that they know watches make good gifts. :)

  • http://www.nadimelgarhy.com Nadim Elgarhy

    Haha! This is gold!

  • http://URL Nick

    And what would happen when he went to bed? Maybe Swatch could invent something to keep his arm moving all night as well?

    What’s the Swatch on the right in the pic at the top of the post? With the offset hour ring?