My wife bought me an Apple Watch for Christmas. She’s had one since they were released, back in 2015, and loves it.
I had held off – I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to watches, I love the classical face of a ‘proper’ watch. But, month on month, I followed progress as the usefulness of her watch grew,… and finally decided I’d give it a go. I’m very happy with it. I like the way you can tailor its functions and add ‘complications’ to each face, giving you fast access to digital services such as reminders, alarms, weather and even phone calls on your wrist. Then there are the health ‘apps’; a whole world in themselves.
It’s also beautifully integrated with Apple’s laptop computers, and we’ve had those for decades. I no longer need to logon to my Apple technology, the watch does it for me.
It made me reflect on how far watches have come, and that took me back to a time in childhood when I got my first one…
The small watch with the battered black strap lay on the ‘repair’ table, illuminated by the diffuse light from my father’s old table lamp. The lamp had a tattered and bent pink shade that betrayed its bedroom origins. Its base was surrounded by the screwdrivers, long tweezers and strange clasps of my father’s favourite hobby – watch repairing and restoration.
He was quite good at it and it brought in a small, secondary income to supplement his pay as an engineer for a fire alarm company. He was better at fixing watches than televisions; a fact made evident by the many dusty TV sets to be found In the darker corners of our home, most of them in various states of part-repair. I remember many of the neighbours calling to ask exactly when their sets might be returned… He was not a man to be hurried, my dad.
He gave the child’s watch a final examination and passed it to me. It had been one of a bundle that a friend had given him for spares. In this case only the strap was broken, and he’d just finished adding a new one. As soon as I saw it, I badgered him for it to be mine. The fact that it actually worked was a major attraction, too.
“It’s not ideal…” he said, giving me a look I’d seldom seen. Later, I would recognise it as an adult running out of appropriate words. Back then, I just skipped off with my new watch, and its shiny new brown strap.
I was seven years old and about to return to the village primary school after the Christmas holidays. I think I ran all the way to school, despite the icy pavements. The Lancashire village of Ainsworth was on top of a hill and its roads and paths were seldom gritted. As I entered the playground, I made sure to wave my arm a lot, displaying my new possession, proudly.
Miss Crompton got us settled in for the new term. She was a good teacher, but like many spinster ladies of the time, was rather severe. It was the early 1960s after all, The world was a very different place, back then.
“Miss, miss!” Jennie Barlow cried, holding up her wrist. “I’ve got a new watch for Christmas.” This was followed by Amanda Johnson doing the same. “Mine’s a Minnie Mouse watch!” she cried, gleefully.
That was my cue. Proudly, I stuck up my left arm and said, “Miss, mine’s a Minnie Mouse watch, too..”
Miss Crompton gave me a passing version of my father’s strange look and said, “Don’t boys normally have a Mickey Mouse watch, Stephen?”
I was, of course crushed. It hadn’t occurred to me that boys had to have a male character watch. In that shamed moment, the meaning of my father’s enigmatic expression was made plain – as was his undoubted dilemma in letting me have this one. I turned to look into a sea of hooting boy faces.
“Tanham’s got a girl watch!” they laughed. Miss Crompton did not correct them. I never wore it again.
But there’s a final twist to the story.
Apple have thoughtfully provided a whole string of optional faces… one of which is a choice of Mickey or Minnie Mouse. So, when I want to brighten up a more serious moment or bring a smile to one of my monitored yoga or ‘walks with dog’ exercise periods, I flick the screen to my saved watch faces and me and the girl mouse smile at each other, conspiratorially.
They’re not laughing now!
©Stephen Tanham, 2021.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, A journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being.