At Large: High-pressure selling

At Large: High-pressure selling

Not being fans of this column, some people won't give Matthew JC. Powell the time of day . . .

I generally regard myself as a pretty relaxed sort of guy, not too worried about trivial matters like what time it is, and so forth. Other people around me, though, seem rather more touchy about such things. The production editor of this publication, for instance, makes it a habit to drop into my office around noon on a Tuesday just to share with me his views on what time it is - a friendly interaction, usually accompanied by the query "and where is your @%! column?"

Given that I work with such time-focused people, I decided a couple of weeks ago to lash out and purchase a wristwatch. Usually I rely on the clock on my computer screen, or wall clocks in prominent places, or the kindness of strangers. During the day, I can get an idea of how close it is to morning or evening by the length of my shadow, and I can tell whether it's before or after lunch by the width. But this doesn't work at night or in movie theatres. I decided the time had come when I should know, for myself, what time had come.

Now, a wristwatch is an unassuming beast. It must tell you what the hour is, and what minute within that hour has been reached. If you're obsessive with detail, it can tell you how much of each minute has passed, down even to the second. For "bigger picture" people (and those given to binges) a wristwatch can be relied upon to tell you the day of the week, the date and even (depending on how enthusiastically you binge) the year.

About time

Some wristwatches, I understand, are more "accurate" than others. Which is to say, their deviation from the accepted norm of "what time it is" is minimal. The fact that the norm is fairly arbitrary, and at best a good guess based on your position on the Earth's surface relative to the sun, doesn't enter into it.

Such accuracy isn't important to me. I just want to have a rough idea. I am, however, a gadget freak, so I wanted to have lots of goodies. I want a stopwatch (or a "chrono" as they say in watch-marketing land) to time how long it takes me to, I don't know, do stuff. I want multiple time zones (because I'm a jet-setting type of personality, or at least I wish I was). I want a little light, so that I can tell what time insomnia has grabbed me from my slumber. I want multiple alarms, because they're cool. I'd like an alarm that plays a tune, so I can set it to go off during movies. Cheaper than a mobile phone.

I was impressed by one watch that offered all of these features at a reasonable (although not cheap) price.


I noticed that it was "pressurised to something-or-other bar" ( I don't remember the number), and asked what that meant exactly.

The sales fellow told me that meant it was waterproof down to 100 metres. I thought about it for a bit, but was unable to recall the last time I was 100 metres underwater. In fact, I don't really see myself having any reason to be 100 metres underwater any time soon. Should I drop my watch from an ocean liner, and it comes to rest on a volcanic ledge 100 metres below the surface, I don't anticipate trying to retrieve it. Should my enemies in the underworld fit me with cement boots and throw me into 100-metre-deep water, I suspect I won't much care what time it is when I hit bottom.

What it means in practice, according to the sales fellow, is that I can wear this watch in the shower without risk of damage. My shower, dear readers, is not 100 metres underwater. I like a bit of pressure, but let's not get silly. What's more, I like to emerge from my shower fully buffed and polished, not with a grubby watch-shaped patch on one wrist.

Furthermore, my ablution ritual lasts through all five verses of The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle and maybe a few Motown classics if I have to wash my hair - no more nor less. No need to monitor a clock.

The clincher, though, is that there's another watch, similarly featured but only waterproof 50 metres down, that sells for $50 less. The extra waterproofing, whatever that involves, costs a buck per metre.

In short: it's frivolous, it's irrelevant to my needs, and it adds disproportionately to the final cost of the unit.

As many of you know, this is exactly what a gadget freak looks for.

I'm sold.

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