Sunday read: An eye on the time

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I love watches. I love the fact that some minuscule gears, springs and rotors can be arranged to tell time to within seconds every 24 hours. I love the designs, though I tend to favor minimalism over the dinner plate-sized wrist weights that have gained favor in recent years. I don’t care that my phone, my pedometer and my tablet all display the time in easy-to-read numbers. I look at my analog wrist.

In this I have something in common with author Gary Shteyngart, he of “Absurdistan,” “Super Sad True Love Story” and “Little Failure” fame. (Gary, I’m linking to your publisher’s page because your own appears to be down. Update, 11:24 a.m.: It’s back up.)

In a recent New Yorker article, Shteyngart confesses his own fascination with watches. He started with a cheap Casio, progressed to a Seiko and Fossil, and then mentions the day in 2016 he walked out of a New York Tourneau store with a $4,000 Nomos on his wrist.

His story is my Sunday read.

Shteyngart, increasingly alarmed by the election campaign and looking for a way to spend his free time, finds himself investing in watches in more than just financial ways:

I was obsessed. And I had time to indulge my obsession. I believe that a novelist should write for no more than four hours a day, after which returns truly diminish; this, of course, leaves many hours for idle play and contemplation. Usually, such a schedule results in alcoholism, but sometimes a hobby comes along, especially in middle age. For us so-called W.I.S., or Watch Idiot Savants, all roads led to one Internet site: Hodinkee, the name being a slightly misspelled take on hodinky, the Czech word for “watch.”

Not only did he start hanging out with other watch aficionados, he also started spending more money on his new hobby. He bought a Rolex. He visited the Nomos factory in Germany. (This was, presumably, paid for by The New Yorker.) He pondered buying a special five-figure Vacheron Constantin.

It all makes for a rich tour down a particular rabbit hole. If you love watches and fine manufacturing, anyway.

Shteyngart and I aren’t in the same financial class, but even if I could afford a Nomos or Vacheron Constantin, I wonder if I would take the plunge. I’m a cheap bastard, so until I win the lottery, I’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than $300 on a watch.

I do own several (including a Swiss Army watch I got for my fifth anniversary at CNN that, unlike most indestructible quartz watches, doesn’t work anymore; perhaps a sign?). Aside from a Rolex automatic I inherited from my father, I doubt any of them is worth more than $500. But hope springs (pardon the pun) eternal: I’ll go on occasional eBay jags in hopes of finding a bargain.

I’m sure Shteyngart can relate. He recently purchased another Casio.

You can find “Confessions of a Watch Geek” here.


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