YEARS AGO, I bought the 1929 Elgin art deco watch pictured above. Recently the crystal fell out and the minute hand caught on my jacket sleeve and was pulled off.
Off I went to the neighborhood repair person, an old-school Eastern European who I’ve done business with before. Our conversation went something like this.
Me—I need a new crystal and hour watch hand. Here’s what the original hands look like if you can find them.
Repair guy—Very hard to find.
Me—I understand. Well if
Watch repair guy—They are hands. Hands, all the same. Doesn’t matter. I get hands, you’ll like. Just hands, no difference.
Now, my no-nonsense watch repair guy is 100% correct that any watch hands will do at performing the watch hand function. I get it. It’s not like the hands that came with my watch were special-made to detect and measure the unique time-space dimension of my Toronto West neighborhood. Hands, all the same.
However, the hands were a major reason why I bought this watch. I like how they look—particularly the minute hand. They are unusual and remind me of the art deco era, that period covering roughly the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. These watch hands clearly do not agree with the idea that they should just point to stuff and pay no heed to silly things like aesthetics. After all, they are art deco hands. The hands my watch repair guy has in mind are, by contrast, from the era of design known as Who gives a rat’s ass.
I’m not even going to attempt explaining my delight in art deco watch hands to a man who likely grew up in a Stalinist dictatorship where writing a poem got you assassinated by the Stasi.
Look at this Soviet-era watch.
See what I mean? Just to make a point, the Communists have put these fancy painted luminescent watch hands behind bars, for nothing more than being fancy.
Last time I was at the repair shop I asked for a brown watch band, like the one in the picture. All the repair man had in stock was a very dark brown watch band which looked black to me.
Me—Do you have something, I don’t know, more tan?
Watch repair guy—This one is brown. It’s very nice, you will like.
This got me thinking about my watch repair guy. Could it be that he was once an agent of the eastern European secret police—the man Headquarters sent out to enforce timepiece regulations? My first clue was that you have to ring a buzzer to be let into the store. At first I thought this was to keep people out, but maybe it’s to keep them inside until they submit. “Take this second hand. YOU WILL LIKE.” Buzzzz.
When I got home I went looking for replacement watch hands on eBay, because there’s no way I’m letting the secret watch police win this critical life-and-death struggle for beauty and freedom and happy watch hands. Think of this as the Sony hack, except with my neighborhood watch repair man and not Kim Jong-un. And instead of a hack it’s watch parts. I don’t know if I’m Seth Rogen or James Franco, or some combination of them—but it’s probably not Seth Rogen, since I’ve gotten this far without making either a fart or penis joke.
It’s harder than I thought to find the exact parts I’m looking for, but who said freedom comes easy? In fact, freedom comes in many shapes and sizes and with several payment options including PayPal. In the 1910s onward, watch hands and numbers were covered in radioactive paint so they would glow in the dark. This means that radioactivity is actually one of your freedom options, and how amazing is that?
Theoretically I could buy a vintage watch and put it on my nightstand, and a spider could sit on my nightstand and become radioactive. If that radioactive spider then bit me, I would be Spiderman, the ultimate Freedom Fighter.
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