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Why do we keep our watches?

by Jordan Ficklin

Been broken for about 14 years.  Has moved with me 6 times.  Why do I still have it?Open up your dresser drawer and you probably have some watches that have been in there for 10, 15, or more years. They’re probably broken, or maybe they just need a new battery. But, why do we keep them? I definitely have some of them. That Casio has been broken for at least 10 years and has gone with me as I have moved houses at least 6 times.

As I listened to Living on Earth this week they had a segment about the 1000 watch project. From their web page we learn a little about their project:

With the advent of cell phones, wrist watches
are dying a slow death. But it is difficult (if not impossible) to throw out your
old wrist watch even if it is broken. Is that because when it was worn it was almost an integral part of the body? Does it represent an important moment in one’s life?

I hear this all the time: the younger generation aren’t wearing wristwatches. The fact is that the wristwatch is more convenient than the cell phone. Here are some reasons I think the wristwatch won’t go the way of the pocket watch:

  1. When you’re in a business meeting it is easier to steal a glance at your watch than at your cell phone without being noticed, or making someone feel that you have something more important to do.
  2. There are not very many accessories a man can wear. He can put on cuff links, a ring or two, maybe a simple chain around the neck, he could wear a tie-tac or a lapel pin, but the watch is the most common and most accepted form of personal expression for a man.
  3. They mark time.

JFKThat last one might seem obvious, but just as people have a hard time throwing away their old wrist watches, they will have a hard time giving them up all together. We seem to be attached to our watches. Why can’t I throw away the $2 digital watch I bought in Peru? or the silver dollar watch I purchased in middle school? or my high school track watch I received when I was a Senior in High School? These watches mark time. Times in our lives, events, occasions, and they are cherished.

The thousand watch project is trying to preserve one thousand wrist watches and their stories. You might enjoy Watch 499, Watch 470, Watch 482, Watch 411, or Watch 395

Dig deep in your dresser drawer and find a watch you haven’t worn in years. Tell me about it, and if you feel so inclined donate it to the 1000 watch project, even if the wrist watch isn’t disappearing into the past.

P.S. if your watch is as nice as Watch 499 you can donate it to me instead and I’ll donate something from my watch box to the 1000 watch project. If you would like to see everything that’s in my watch box you can check out my facebook album.

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  1. S
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    i still feel sentimental about the watch I was wearing when I did my first research excavation.
    i totally agree with you. watches are totemic in a way that cellphones can’t be for some people. the watch is totally personal, as our lives and time is totally personal. A cell phone is almost the polar opposite. it reminds us of our place in the vast web of community.
    love the blog, 🙂


  2. Greg
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    My “drawer collection” is comprised of old watches that mean something to me. My dad’s vintage 1957 Longines and Omega Seamaster 120 were his and I think of him when I wear them. My uncles Wittnauer was a gift from me to him after he took me to California in 1963. Jack’s miltary WWII Wittnauer has a period Komfit band. I received my Gruen when I graduated from high school in 1965 and the Seiko I wore at my wedding in 1974. The only thing I have from my grandfather is his Illinois pocket watch. I have a few battery watches I wear traveling as their loss would not upset me. Cell phone? Probably won’t work when I need the correct time anyway.

  3. Posted June 5, 2009 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I have several non-working watches that have been in my jewelry box for years. The Swatch that broke it’s band, my mother’s slim white gold watch that is too delicate for my sensibilities, the Timex that took a licking and did not keep ticking…

    My husband has a Movado that he got for Christmas from his mother about 20 years ago. It stopped working 2 hours after he got it. He replaced the battery and it stopped working almost immediately AGAIN. He’s thrown it in a drawer and won’t even let me try to get it a new battery, not will he let me sell it. 🙂

  4. Chris Carrier
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Seem strange to even think about discarding a piece of your history. Liken it to a photo album or a class ring that you no longer wear. It is a little slice of life.
    I have been attracted to time pieces since the age of 8 or 9. May I lament further?
    I found myself constantly observing, and seeking out what others were wearing, as they walked by, curious to the point of obsession. Comparing the types and styles were the most fun and the person that was wearing which time piece. You gain much information about the person by the type of watch he or she wears.
    The watch that my father wore while I was a child made the biggest impression on me. It was a gold date manual wind Wittnauer in the mid sixties. I attributed this elegant watch to all hard working honest men.
    The watch that struck me as the most elegant was my uncle Rays Omega Constellation with a gold face to match the case.
    There is always a reason to keep an old watch. There are few things that a father can pass down to there sons that has a much meaning as something so cherished as dads watch.

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