Friday, July 04, 2014

Time Machine

“How did it get so late so soon?” 
― Dr. Seuss

Elgin made in 1927

How I cherish this family heirloom. It was my father's watch. He purchased it in 1927 and probably pulled it out of his pocket to check the time at least 15 times a day for the rest of his life.  

It got him to the Church on time to marry my Mom.

It got him to work on time each day.

He kept checking it while waiting at Mercy Hospital for my sister and then, me, to be born and finally 21 years later at that same hospital he checked it for the final time on Christmas Eve 1957.

Unfortunately, I don't believe I'll be able to pass on anything as personal and meaningful as that to my children.

My Timex just won't cut it.

The thought of wearing a wrist watch never even crossed my Dad's mind.  To him, and his generation, it would have been the equivalent of wearing a dress.  A wrist watch was something women wore.

It took a world war to change that attitude.

A great article in the June SMITHSONIAN magazine explains that,
WW1 Pilot
"... during World War I. Officers began using wristwatches to coordinate the new style of attack: opening with a barrage of gunfire to stun and destabilize the enemy, followed immediately by an onrush of soldiers.“You’d want the soldiers to be alert to the fact that the guns were about to stop, and be ready to spring,” says David Boettcher, a British horologist who has researched wartime watch-wearing. This required precise timing, and officers fumbling around in the dark for a pocket watch wouldn’t do. To make the wristwatches easily legible in battle, watchmakers fashioned them with large, round faces that had prominent dark numbers set off by a white porcelain backing and coated in radium that glowed brilliantly in the dark."

And Suddenly, wrist watches became Manly!

Men began to realize that it was difficult to reach into your pocket to check the time when you were "on the go," such as riding a bicycle, a horse or driving a car.  Besides, it was dangerous. Men might have figured this out earlier, but there was no TV back then of course, and radio PSAs (Public Service Announcements) had not been invented yet, so they had to figure it out on their own that ..."watching?"...or "timing?" while driving, or whatever some ad agency would have eventually called it, could be hazardous to their health.

PSAs on radio didn't exist until the government started selling War Bonds during WW2. 
By that time 90% of American men were wearing wrist watches. So no ad agency had to figure out a clever name for "pulling your watch out of your pocket."

Fashion Statement
Those watches of the early 1900's, like my Dads, did more than just tell time. They made a statement. As Alexis McCrossen of Southern Methodist University wrote, "You were a modern person, a timekeeping person, a regular person."  He pointed out that a 1913 Hamilton watch ad described the watch as a tool for moral improvement. "The Hamilton leads its owner to form desirable habits of promptness and precision."

A new word for a person like that found its way into the dicti0nary:  A "Stemwinder." someone who habitually wound his watch.

But Don't be surprised if before long watches start going back into pockets or maybe even drawers.

The battle for the prime techno real estate on the human body is heating up and the head ain't it.

Although,  people who wear a computer on their head
are also making a statement, which, in my opinion is "I am a freak!"

But mark my word, it won't be long before we'll be saying goodbye to the wristwatch and hello to some form of the computer whose first name will be wrist.