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Style Guide

Soviet Wristwatch

Christopher Locke

There's a new battle happening somewhere between your wallet, your brain, and your wrist.  Watches have been around for 600 years or so, but their popularity has started to drop off, since everybody carries a cell phone, and the cell phone has a clock on it.

Recently, I had breakfast with a friend, and we were both wearing watches.  His was a funky old piece with neon orange hands and a band with chunks of wood in it.  He noted that my watch was the new Apple Watch (R) (TM) (BBQ).  I said "Yeah, my watch checks the weather, moon phases, text messages, email, heart rate, and stock report.  It makes phone calls, plays games, gives directions, remotely controls my camera, stereo, and television, and charges by magnetic induction technology.  And it was only $400."

He said "mine was free, and it doesn't even tell time."

Of course, I immediately demanded to know why he would wear a watch that doesn't tell time.  It turns out, it quit working, but he liked it, so he just set it to permanently display the time he gets off work.  Every time he looks at his wrist, it's quitting time.

So-called "smart" watches don't have that kind of brilliant soulful functionality.  But they can help you do all kinds of awesome things, like drain your bank account, distract you when you should be talking to someone important, or give you something to look at if you ever find yourself alone with your thoughts.  A smart watch will make you more aware of your surroundings, because you'll suddenly worry about bumping your wrist on something and cracking the screen, or snagging the band and dropping the phone into a pit of lava, or accidentally coming in contact with water, which may or may not void the warranty.  You can also look like a total dweeb everywhere you go.  You may even make a new friend, like the dork who holds his wrist near your wrist and says "watch buddies!!!!!!!!!"

By now, you're probably wondering how quickly you can get your hands on the biggest nerd trophy since the pocket protector.  But I may have a better suggestion.

For $20 on eBay, you can get a vintage Soviet wristwatch.  Most of the old watches from the USSR (or CCCP) wind up, so there's no magnetic charger or wires or batteries or plugs.  You set the time manually, so if you're chronically late (because you don't respect other people), you can set the time for 10 minutes ago.  That's a function your phone doesn't have.  Your daily watch-winding ritual can be paired with other things, like taking your meds, feeding your goldfish, or brushing your teeth.  That way, you won't forget to do those things.  If you do forget, your watch will run down, and that's a really convenient reminder.

These old Communist Block watches come in lots of styles, colors, shapes, and conditions.  So you can find one to suit any need, as long as the need is to tell time in a really classy way.  And for only $20, you can buy about 50 of them for the cost of a mid-grade smart watch.  Then when you get mugged, you'll laugh all the way home knowing there are 49 more watches waiting for you.

So before you spend your entire inheritance on a watch that will be obsolete by the time you figure out how to use it, try surfing some online auctions for a stylish piece of cold-war history.