The Times They Aren’t a-Changin’

Either he’s dead, or my watch has stopped. – Groucho Marx

There have been a few moments in my sartorial lifespan when strangers have been left dumbfounded by the impracticality of my choices. While most of these revolve around weather—wearing shorts in the midst of a snow storm, for example (I happen to find tights an acceptable substitute for pants, thank you)—there is one particular accessory that winds people up. In my experience, the wristwatch is an unmatched example of an object in which fashion and functionality are expected to keep perfect time.

My first encounter in this wristy business occurred just over a year ago, at an estate sale. As I handed over five dollars to the elderly woman behind the cashbox, she commented on how darling the white leather band and face of my watch was, and how it only needed a change of battery. “Oh, I don’t need it to actually work,” I replied to her disapproving frown. A year later, I was at an antique mall with my mother. By that time the charming white band is waiting in a wooden jewelry box to be repaired, and my wrist is bare. Among the cluttered shelves of collectables, I came across a carrot coloured watch box, with three delicate wristwatches inside, “Timex Electric” printed on the cream lining. Snapping the lid closed, I ran to show my mother, who couldn’t believe I had found three working watches for $6. “Oh, they don’t actually work.” I cringed slightly to hear myself reiterating the same speech. By the time we left the mall, the minutes I’d spent explaining that I regard the watches as objects of ornamentation and not utility almost outnumbered those on a Rolex.

In a world where our iPhones might as well be surgically implanted into our palms, and the twitch of a fingertip can tell you the time in Yakutsk—that’s in Siberia, F.Y.I.—what use do we have for a functioning watch if not for its jaunty addition to an outfit? Additionally, for the more sentimentally inclined there is something charming about a stalled second-hand. Like putting a photograph into a locket, our dead watches have, quite literally, the capability of freezing a memory in time. I regularly glance at the hands beneath the glass and think back to what my own hands were doing at that time yesterday, last week, or even a year ago.

While for tick-tock-less enthusiasts like myself, this argument may seem straightforward, when brought up to a panel of time-conscious Wornettes, the debate became divided. Many blamed the inevitable aggravation that would present itself when, for example, while waiting for your perpetually late friend outside Starbucks, you look down to your wrist only to be greeted by a blank face. While that’s an acceptable argument, I was surprised to receive this reaction from a group of people who spend hours drooling over the meticulous folds of a McQueen gown and have a library full of books lamenting the validity of fashion as an art. Why appreciate the beading of a vintage Dior gown that crumbles to dust if lightly touched, but disregard the craftsmanship of a time piece once its gears stop turning? Just because something loses its intended purpose doesn’t have to mean its beauty and the intricacies of its design are lost as well. Isn’t this aesthetic value enough to warrant use past the warranty?

text & photography by Casie Brown