Saturday, April 30, 2011

Telling Time

I've been away from the blog for a couple of weeks due to parental illness. It is easy to imagine things are going to stay the same forever, but time marches on and both ourselves and the ones we love get older and wear out a little more.

As it happens, just before my father became ill, I had ordered a new watch to compensate for my own fading eyesight. As time has gone by, even my long arms haven't always been long enough to read my watch. I wanted something bigger, with bigger numbers and hands, to make it easier to see at a glance.

I could have gone digital with 3/4" numbers and a bright back light, but I've typically preferred the traditional analog hands and dial.

The search for a bigger analog watch led me to a strange place, Russian watches. Traditionally, Russia has used analog watches for it's military and for aviation, a large watch with an easy to read dial is key. For the most part, Russia never made the switch to quartz movements, so most of them are traditional mechanical movements.

The reason we all changed to quartz or digital movements is that they are cheaper, but far more accurate. Those of you that know me know that I am often a few minutes late and have never worried about the exactness of time. I have always loved the detailed mechanism and craftsmanship that come with mechanical time pieces. I have 3 mechanical clocks in my house that make lovely noises and need periodic winding. When it came to a watch, I was happy to trade accuracy for size and uniqueness.

The watch is a Moscow Classic Aeronavigator with a 31 jewel Vostok automatic movement. Automatic means that it has a little pendulum inside that winds the watch as your arm moves. There is even a little window in back where you can watch the pendulum and all the little gears. It is a modern watch in the style of Russian military aviation watches and is decorated with a WWII bomber on the face. Yes, that is Russian Cyrillic writing on the face.

In this choice, I realized an interesting contrast to my father. He has always been interested in watches and clocks, but from the viewpoint of technology and accuracy. In the 60's he had a Bulova "tuning fork" watch which was unique method for keeping time. Since then, he has graduated through quartz movements to "atomic" movements that look for a radio signal from an "atomic" standard clock and correct themselves to be accurate to the second.

A couple of years ago, he and I went to visit family in New York. I remember him asking the hotel for a room that faced west so that he could put his clock in the window and make sure that it updated it's accuracy overnight. Even almost 30 years after he retired and needed to be someplace on time, he still wanted to know that his watch was accurate.

So here is a picture of my new, inaccurate Russian watch with my old watches. The watch on the left is a cheap Sharp that I use when I travel. The watch on the right is my old TAG. Both are "normal" size watches for men. I'm hoping the new watch ages gracefully and that I do too. I'm also hoping my father gets better and we can have an interesting conversation about what is important in keeping time.

1 comment:

  1. Jac, you should have posted this on May 1st. Nikita K. would be proud.