Watch Curmudgeon: Watchamacallit?


Last summer, while waiting on an insanely long line at Starbucks, a guy asked me what kind of a watch I was wearing. Without giving it too much thought, I answered, “An old diver.”

As I walked home, nursing a rather uninspiring iced coffee, I thought about what I had called my watch. “An old diver.” Hmmm. What a demeaning thing to say about my decidedly cool, early 60’s Henex Sheffield. I should have said “Vintage diver.” Yeah, “Vintage diver!” That would have done the watch justice

But would I have been correct? How old does a watch have to be to earn a “Vintage” title? Is my 1980 Rolex Oyster a Vintage Rolex? How about my 1984 Submariner? Or my 1994 (pre co-axial) Omega Seamaster? If I could think of that as a “Vintage Diver” I’d wear it more often.

Better yet, I could call it a “Vintage Diving Chronometer.” Chronometer has a special quality ring to it, especially when describing a timepiece to someone who doesn’t know #@&% about watches. If you just noticed it, I used the word “timepiece” instead of “watch.”

Anything you slap on your wrist to tell the time is a watch. But if the watch is special to you, by all means call it a timepiece. “My timepiece is a vintage diving chronometer.” Sounds great. Now, let’s put it to the test.

Where would you rather shop? Binky’s Fine Watches? Or Binky’s Fine Timepieces? Obviously, you’d shop at the latter, especially if you wanted a chronometer. Connotation-wise, I, myself, would never buy anything from someone named Binky. But that’s beside the point.

So, you see how critically important names are. Here’s another example. People used to refer to chronographs as “stop watches.” How utterly blasphemous. Can you imagine some dude referring to his vintage chronograph chronometer as an “old stop watch?” My hand even cramped as I typed that! Eccch!

Question: What do you call that thingy that attaches your timepiece to your wrist? If you have the slightest respect for it, it’s a “strap.” But if it’s some kind of shiny vinyl, it’s a “band.” Absolutely no one with any sense would say “cordovan band.” And if your strap is metal, you should call it a “bracelet” unless it was made in China by a blind barber or something.

So, have I made my point? If you’re a timepiece victim, and you most certainly are, be careful how you talk about your cherished possession. But don’t get too carried away. Instead of saying something like, “Vintage Jump Hour Moon Phase Chronograph Chronometer Minute Repeater,” just say “Quite Expensive.”

by John Weiss

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