JUST WATCH ME!

In a world where no one wears wrist­watches, Gre­gory But­ler stands alone

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - Gre­gory But­ler lives in Ottawa.

Ispent a lot of time ag­o­niz­ing over buy­ing a watch, sev­eral years in fact. But be­fore I tell you about it, let me tell you why it was such a dif­fi­cult choice. Watches are some­what im­por­tant in my fam­ily. My grand­fa­ther, when he was alive, would of­ten tell me that he never bought a watch in his life. They were all gifts. I’m the ex­act op­po­site. I have al­most never been given a watch. I’ve had to buy nearly all of mine. I’ve never had a re­ally good watch. The clos­est I came were two Vic­tori­nox Swiss Army watches. The first got left be­hind, never to be seen by me again, when I left for Ed­in­burgh to do a mas­ter’s de­gree. The sec­ond, I bought when I re­turned. But af­ter a few years of wear, the num­bers started to fall off the dial as the glue gave out. That was when I re­al­ized that $200 spent on a watch pro­vided no cer­tainty of a life­time of value. I be­gan to set my sights a lit­tle higher up the price range.

You are prob­a­bly think­ing at this point, “Why does this guy even want a watch? Doesn’t he have a phone?” I do have a phone. It’s sit­ting in my pocket. It’s only a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience to pull it out at meet­ings to check the time. I doubt that peo­ple won­der too much about whether I am find­ing their pre­sen­ta­tion bor­ing when I look at my phone, but the thought al­ways crosses my mind. It’s also prob­a­bly a bit snobby of me to think that James Bond would never look at his smart­phone to find out the time, but I am a frail and fallen crea­ture and sub­ject to van­ity. In short, I don’t need a watch but I want one. If you don’t wear a watch, I will slightly judge you for the de­ci­sion, but I am work­ing on my char­ac­ter flaws.

Hav­ing de­cided long ago that I wanted a watch, I be­gan to think about what watch I wanted. I went through a silly pe­riod when I thought I wanted a Rolex. Ac­tu­ally, I thought I could set­tle on a $5,000 Rolex as a con­ces­sion to my deeper de­sire for a Patek Philippe watch. I live down­town and I don’t drive a car, so why not spend the equiv­a­lent amount of money for a nice car on a nice watch? I had many dark nights of the soul greed­ily lust­ing af­ter a watch like this. I watched YouTube videos, I read re­views and read watch-en­thu­si­ast blogs. I tried to con­vince my­self that a sin­gle beau­ti­ful watch and a few other care­fully cu­rated ob­jects could be part of a min­i­mal­ist life fo­cused on qual­ity over quan­tity.

Along the way, I con­tented my­self with an in­no­va­tive smart­watch that was made by ro­bots and was com­pletely me­chan­i­cal and self-wind­ing. We had a happy two years to­gether, but the watch would lose a cou­ple of min­utes a day and I of­ten found my­self show­ing up late for meet­ings. As much as I liked it, I just knew that it wasn’t my “for­ever watch.” If you think I use the term “for­ever watch” with­out shak­ing my head at my own ridicu­lous­ness over the time and ef­fort I have given to think­ing about this watch, then you can­not read sub­text.

Even­tu­ally, I re­al­ized that spend­ing $5,000 on a watch was not con­sis­tent with my val­ues, although I am not re­ally out of the woods on this one. There is a com­pletely man­ual Le­ica film cam­era which, I am con­vinced, would help me take pictures of stun­ning beauty and win me last­ing fame as a pho­tog­ra­pher.

I be­gan to turn my thoughts to high-qual­ity quartz watches. I thought about a Bulova per­pet­ual watch. Bulova has a soft spot in my heart since the fa­ther of one of my best friends grow­ing up worked for them. He al­ways had snazzy watches and I was a lit­tle jeal­ous of them com­pared to the Ca­sio watches I wore at the time.

But, deep down, I re­al­ized that I didn’t want an Amer­i­can watch or a Swiss watch. I re­ally wanted a Cana­dian watch. I wanted to ex­press my pa­tri­o­tism in my watch. Sadly, the few watches I did see were com­pletely not to my taste. I wanted a sim­ple but el­e­gant watch that looked like it would be worn by a First World War ace, but who am I kidding? I wanted a watch that a re­tired com­man­der in the Bri­tish navy, who now worked in MI6, would wear – only a Cana­dian ver­sion. This was clearly an im­pos­si­ble quest.

And then I found it. Hid­den among Birks’s in­ven­tory of nice watches is a line of Cana­dian-de­signed (but still Swiss-made) watches. They even had a me­chan­i­cal one de­signed as a pi­lot’s watch. It’s beau­ti­ful, and be­fore you think this is an ad for Birks, I have to tell you, I think my watch is now sold out. If it is an ad for any­thing, it is for Cana­dian de­sign and Cana­dian prod­uct sto­ries. This is me do­ing my lit­tle part.

In the end, I got a great deal on the watch as part of the store’s clear­ance of the model. I ut­terly failed in pur­chas­ing a high-priced global sta­tus sym­bol, even­tu­ally spend­ing barely 10 per cent of the price of a Rolex for a watch that no one will ever ask me about. On the pos­i­tive side of the ledger, I am com­pletely to blame now when I show up late for meet­ings and I can check out the time with­out fear of judge­ment.

More im­por­tantly, I got a good-qual­ity prod­uct for a rea­son­able price, and for one of the rare times in my life, I am fi­nally a sat­is­fied watch cus­tomer.

I went through a silly pe­riod when I thought I wanted a Rolex. Ac­tu­ally, I thought I could set­tle on a $5,000 Rolex as a con­ces­sion to my deeper de­sire for a Patek Philippe watch.

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