Last Wednesday at 10:38pm (+ or – 3 minutes) marks the ten-year anniversary of my father’s death. It also marks the precise moment in which I realized that I am forever ensnared in the millisecond-clicking of tiny wheels.
To honor my father, I have decided to buy a watch. A serious watch. As I have obtained all of my watches (a tiny collection) from either my father or oldest brother, I’ve never actually purchased an exceptional watch. Over the last weeks, the idea of purchasing something expensive and symbolic got me excited and introspective and, well, critical. As I researched my pending watch purchase, I became fascinated with the stories of others’ watch purchases. I mean, true soul-searching watch purchases. And, in approximately eighty minutes, I’m about to have one of my own. Rambling and tedious as it is, I’ve decided to type it out and post it here on TZ. I have eighty minutes. What else am I going to do? Besides, TZ was a huge source if information for me in my search. Maybe someone will read it and be inspired. Or bored. Or better yet, post an interesting tale…
My father was, among other things, a lover of fine watches. Oddly enough, he never really owned a watch he deemed truly great. Or rather, because I showed an interest in it, he gifted his finest timepiece to me when I graduated from college. It was an 18k gold pocket watch manufactured by Patek Philippe for Hennegen Bates & Co. of Baltimore, MD. The production of the watch dates roughly to the late 1800’s. It is single-signed with “Patek Philippe & Co. No. 63808 Geneva” residing on the movement. I cannot remember how many times my father referenced the fact that although it was only single-signed, Patek Philippe manufactured some of the finest watches in the world. I appreciated it. I loved the watch, though at the time I didn’t know the difference between a mechanical movement or a quartz movement or a bowel movement for that matter. The watch has an ornate two-toned gold case which I think is amazing. Small beans no doubt to most collectors, but that Patek is the how & why of my appreciation for watches.
My father had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. And one night ten years ago, I was the one who discovered his body. The moments leading up to the discovery of my father have to some degree owned me ever since. Those particular clicks and spins of the universal watch movement have persevered in my head for ten years; they have caused me to evoke/doubt/question other adjacent minutes in time more than any other single moment in my life. I have spent many nights inspecting the turns of those springs and gears and wheels; oiling and adjusting them in the process so as not to forget some minute detail.
Suddenly that moment, a moment which -for me- defied time and distorted my presence within it, is ten years in the past; a fact which has me re-tracing the moments surrounding my loss and wanting to do something to commemorate or memorialize or honor my father and the maddening millisecond-clicking instant I realized I would never see him again.
His gravestone offers no comfort to me. But sometimes, that 18k Patek…
I got to thinking about why my father never had a Patek or a Vacheron or a Blancpain strapped to his wrist. I got to thinking about the Quartz Revolution of the 1970s and how it put some of the greats out of business. I got to thinking about the accuracy of electronics and the idea of a modern quartz movement with the ability to access data from an atomic clock and maintain near perfection of timekeeping… and the lack of “soul” inherent in such a process. Then I thought about the manual movements my father loved. I thought about a watchmaker sitting at a bench, hunched over and grappling with the passage of time and the miniscule clicking gears used in its measurement. I thought of myself hunched over my father’s old workbench, recalling some of the best and worst minutes of my life. Some of the minutes I wished he had seen. Some I am glad he missed.
Then I thought about selling some of my father’s belongings and thereby funding, totally from his property, a watch purchase which would have put a huge smile on his face. A metal mash of the most beautiful millisecond-clicking springs gears and wheels money can buy. Nothing pretentious or garish. Something that most people here in this town wouldn’t even recognize. But I would. He would. And he’d be proud to see it on my wrist. And he’d do freaking back flips if he knew that he had ultimately bought it for me. And if he were still around, I’d be buying it for him.
I’m sitting in front of my computer. There are a bunch of photographs of a Blancpain Leman Flyback Chronograph on the screen. New in the box. Good god I love this watch. I haven’t hit the “purchase now” button at the bottom of the screen yet. “Did you buy it yet?” my wife asks. “Nope.” Just below the keyboard on which I’m typing clicks the movement of an 18k Patek Philippe pocket watch. It is well over +5 seconds these days. I need to find a good watchmaker to service it. I’m watching it closely. Listening. Twelve minutes to go. I recently read an interview where Jean Claude Biver (managing director of Blancpain) said that every Blancpain is made from start to finish by the same watchmaker. I like the idea of just the two of us endeavoring to master these seconds which pass. Just the two of us… funny thought, no? 10:38pm. Perfect. No better time than the present. Click.