Watches for Christmas

Art Buchwald

December 17, 1992|By Art Buchwald

YOU have probably noticed from the newspape advertisements that the only items available for Christmas this year are watches.

There are Swatch watches, sport watches, $25 watches, $15,000 watches, moon watches, deep sea watches. There are Gucci watches, Swiss Army watches and, if you walk down Fifth Avenue, you can see miles of card tables displaying fake Rolex watches.

Why all the watches, when presumably most of us already have a watch?

Norman Lear, a watch merchant, told me, "People no longer wear a watch to tell the time -- they wear it to make a statement."

"What kind of a statement?"

"They are saying to the world that their watch speaks for who they are, and what they stand for, and how much time they have to spare."

"With all due respect, I have all the watches I need."

"Bite your tongue. Do you have a watch that is certified to dive 120 feet underwater?"

"No, but then again I have no intention of diving 120 feet. The truth is that I don't plan to dive 20 feet."

"You say that now, but one day you're going to be on a boat and someone will put on an oxygen tank and say, 'I wonder what kind of mollusks there are on the bottom of the ocean?' Because you don't have a watch that can stand pressure, you will be forced to stay on board."

"OK, so I can't deep sea dive. What else do I need a watch for?"

"You do a lot of flying, don't you?"

"Only as a passenger."

"It doesn't matter. You should never go up without a chronograph strapped to your wrist."

"I'm not going to fly the plane."

"Suppose the pilot and co-pilot pass out? You'll never land without a chronograph strapped to your wrist."

"You still haven't told me why American merchants expect to sell so many watches."

"The reason is that people are now wearing more than one watch at the same time. Kids especially have one on each wrist. The price of watches has dropped so fast that almost anyone can afford to buy them. Nobody goes out specifically looking for a watch. But they nearly all end up with one because people can't pass up a bargain. Here is an alarm watch, and this model you can talk into, and this one talks back to you. This one tells the time in eight zones. Over here is a cuckoo watch. The cuckoo is voice-activated."

I said, "I realize that watches play a part in our gift-giving, but why are they the only items available this Christmas?"

"Because it's the only present you can give and then check up later to see if the person is wearing it."

"If there are so many watches, why are American people still late for their appointments?"

"You can't blame a timepiece for human error. Some people wear a watch and never look at it at all. Others stare at their watches for hours and they still don't know what time it is. That's what makes this such an unpredictable country."

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