My Father’s Watch: Measuring The Time That Remains

My father was a strange man. I may never come to understand him. We were not friends. Our time together was always strained. While most people enjoy the company of others, he preferred to tinker with mechanical objects on a tiny scale. He repaired calculators, photocopiers, computers, and circuit boards for a living. The living he made was small like the objects that he manipulated through a magnifying lens. When I began to study at McGill University, I brought him home a model train for Christmas as it reminded me of a moment he enjoyed when I was a child. For years, he assembled, and dissembled, old model trains in the basement. When he could no longer smoke cigarettes due to his health, he abandoned the basement for his room. The trains went on sale. He turned his attention to old watches. My father was a strange man.

Rolex Trench Watch

Norman rambled on about his Rolex watch. He was so proud of this alleged find. I simply took it as his bargain hunter pride, hoping to eventually strike it big by sifting through other’s piles of junk at yard sales on a Saturday morning. His Rolex was a tiny watch. He searched and searched online to find information, but he never found more than fragments. The myth of Norman’s Rolex annoyed us. I knew the value and characteristics of a Rolex watch, and my father’s watch resembled a children’s toy. At one point he had insisted that he had two of them, and ran about the house with one on each wrist. Any interest I might have shown for his finds, as delusional as they might be, quickly left after this display of insanity.

My father died. We all die. One of my jobs after the funeral was to sift through his belongings to help my family collect items for the trash or an eventual yard sale. Most of what Norman owned was junk. Junk collected from other people’s junkiest junk. Broken power tools one would only use if they wanted to risk permanently maiming themselves, artworks based on religious paintings but done in a paint by number style, and a myriad of metal objects; my father loved to exclaim: “But THIS, don’t you see, they do not make things like this anymore! This is made of METAL.” Sadly, much of his metallic alloy junk still went to the heap, despite its clear metallic leanings.

I took the watch. In fact, I took all of the watches in his drawer. My mother and brother wanted nothing to do with the watches he had spent his final years pulling apart and cleaning with WD-40. The Rolex also came into my possession, as it was the most hated of objects. Back in Toronto, a year later, I took out his watches from the brown, wooden box. I had decided that I should start wearing a watch if I wanted to be taken seriously as a productive, serious man. Time is of the essence. Time is money. Time, Time Time look what’s become of me.

As I pulled off the back of the watch to adjust the stuck crown winder, I clearly saw the word I dreaded to see: Rolex. My father had clearly been right. He had also been unable to communicate how he knew he had a valuable timepiece in his possession or where it had even come from. Upon this realization, the winder snapped and the watch ceased to run. Typical. I can only hear the cursing that Norman would have offered me, his son, as I had heard it all before when I had broken, scratched or ruined anything that belonged to him or me.

The end of the story becomes this: I found a watch repairman in Toronto through a friend’s father who dealt in expensive gemstones. The watch could be repaired with genuine Rolex parts. The cost would be around $400 for the repair. It would take one month from start to finish, which is not bad considering all of the WD-40 and twisting of metal that my father would have tossed at the timepiece over time. Today, the Rolex has now become a key piece of what I can pass forward should there ever be anyone to give such an item to. What remains is a part of my family’s historical record, and I am simply content to be the caretaker with the means to be able to repair an object that has passed through the hands of other men probably greater than me.


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