A man's world

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IN SOUTHWOLD, Suffolk, last week I stood on the beach and pitched my automatic watch into the seething sea.

It was about 9pm when I did this, although my watch said 8.15 or something equally irrelevant. Its tendency to keep stopping was, in an oblique way, the cause of its own undoing. Looking at its display of the wrong time, I had decided there was time for a walk along the beach before my evening engagement. There wasn't; and when I realised that my watch had let me down again, the North Sea seemed just the place for it.

As I trudged back up the beach there was some regret. The watch had a seductive golden lustre and delicate luminous hands, the colour of greenfly. Once a woman said to me, "Your watch has a beautiful face", and it was the nearest anyone's ever come to telling me that I have a beautiful face.

I bought it a year ago from a second-hand shop in what I'd better call North London. It was 25 quid. The vendor was perfectly straight with me: "Any problems over the next four weeks, you can bring it back and I'll refund you." Rather suspiciously, the watch worked perfectly for exactly four weeks. Then it started stopping.

I had bought it on the recommendation of an older friend, something of a role model of mine. "The only real watch for a man," he explained "is an automatic." I asked why, and he gravely introduced the scenario of my becoming stranded on a desert island, or some other locale where branches of H Samuel are unknown. In that situation, he pointed out, an automatic would keep going ,whereas a battery powered watch would stop as soon as the battery did. "But hang on," I pedantically countered, "watch batteries last a good two years. I'd be sure to be rescued before then.'

He patiently explained that he had been speaking metaphorically, his aim being to convey the self-contained elegance of automatic watches; and the manliness of them, powered as they are by the movements of one's own body; one's inherent dynamism. Obviously, a wind-up watch would keep going too, but only if you remembered to wind it up and there is, of course. something effeminate about actually remembering to do anything.

No, my friend, was adamant: it had to be an automatic. "But they're the most expensive watches," I observed anxiously. He shrugged, as well he might with his enormous income, and explained that a chap in his mid-thirties, surrounded as he is by the day-glo plastic debris of childcare, ought to have some artifacts of quality and longevity.

Everything he said struck a chord with me. I know watches are the lifestyle fetish objects of the moment, criss-crossed endlessly over the pages of the men's magazines, but they are important. They're the only accessory you wear all the time. And with a good watch you can get away with frayed cuffs and a five o'clock shadow. At the moment I can't afford a new, good automatic. But having made my views on watches known to the wife, I await Christmas with excitement.