The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal is reputed to have written words to the effect that “This letter would have been shorter if I’d had more time to write it.” Perhaps if he’d had a reliable watch, a relatively modern invention, what short time he had wouldn’t have gotten away from him.
For years, I preferred pocket watches. So elegant, intricate, and beautiful. And many with a history. I have two, but don’t know much about them; my grandfather owned them. Unfortunately, we never discussed them.
I love taking the back off and looking at the gears and jewels inside. It’s more than the gears and jewels, however. There’s often a story etched into the case — either on the outside, or inside of the watch..
The one pictured on the right shows the name George Denton, and a date, May 5, 1927. Perhaps Mr. Denton lost it on an ill-conceived wager, like the oak table in our kitchen that my grandfather was said to have won in a poker game. There are also several sets of initials and dates etched in extremely tiny letters (too small to be seen here) in the inside of the back. I’m told these represent the identities of jewelers who serviced the watch over the years.
There’s no name inside the watch on the left, but there’s a florid “JFL” (my grandfather’s initials) engraved on the back. I’d like to think my grandmother got it for her husband; again “time has passed” and those who knew at one time can no longer tell us.
About once a year I’ll wear one of these watches. But I’m too hard on them, so, rather than running the risk of breaking them, I wear a stainless-steel Casio – battery powered wrist watch which syncs with the atomic clock in Fort Collins, Colorado. I take some comfort in the analog dial (I can’t stand digital), but I still miss the gold elegance of the pocket watch.