The Worst Part of Having My Fancy Watch Stolen
In 2007, I bought myself a really nice watch. It was the Mark XVI pilot's watch by Swiss watchmaker IWC, and it cost about $5,000, a significant portion of my life savings at the time. The Mark XVI (a nearly identical predecessor to the current Mark XVIII model) is a perfect object: It doesn't disguise its function. It isn't gaudy. It's easy to use (the greatest virtue of any pilot's watch is readability – that's why they look like airplane gauges). And it is straight-up beautiful. "I think that watch is nicer than you," said a colleague at the time.
I loved that watch like I would later love my children, who are also nicer than me. It was like having a cooler, better-looking friend – one who, amazingly, was genuinely supportive and made me feel super confident.
Love you, pal.
Wherever you are.
You see, in 2012, the watch was stolen by one of four men employed by a moving company my wife and I hired when we relocated from downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn. I'd hidden the watch in a small bag, along with a few other things I wanted to be sure to keep track of during the move, and placed it in a corner. This was immeasurably stupid. If you want to make certain your movers don't steal a precious object, put it in a box marked CRAWL SPACE #3 or COOKBOOKS – MACROBIOTIC. Or if it has a strap, then, oh, I don't know, put it on your wrist?
At some point that day, I looked in the bag and the watch was gone. The ensuing hours involved an awkward farewell to the moving guys, a demoralising interview with the police, and a profane conversation with the moving-company owner. (He denied his employees stole anything.) The watch wasn't insured, so I couldn't get money for a replacement. I didn't fork over for another one because by the time the watch was stolen, I had a 6-month-old son. Do you realise what a new parent can do with $5,000? How many AA batteries and tubes of Desitin that will get you?
Still, I think about the Mark XVI all the time. I think about it when I check the time on my iPhone. I think about it when I look into the cockpit while boarding a flight. I think about it when I encounter anything Swiss: chocolate, a chalet.
Mostly, I think about it when I look down at my wrist at either of my current watches, a $138 Timex + Todd Snyder Blackjack or a $75 Swatch Black Rebel – both the colour of grief. Those watches are emblems of style and function, too! They’re just way, way cheaper. I thought about my watch as I tried the new watch-sharing service Eleven James. They have my old model in the rotation, but it’s popular. So they sent me an IWC Pilot’s Chronograph, which is basically the Mark XVI, but with additional dials on the face – complications, as the horologists refer to them. (“Horologists” are how watchmakers refer to themselves.) It’s a thrilling thing to get to wear a piece like the Chronograph for a few weeks. It’s a thrilling thing to open the box, be surprised by what’s in it, and to put it on. But it's like fostering puppies. You grow attached and then: "So long, pal."
So why do I care about this thing so much? Why do I mourn it? For the same reason I'll never buy myself another one: my kids.
There's a scene in Pulp Fiction in which Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) tells a young boy about the odyssey of a gold wristwatch that the boy's great-grandfather bought during World War I. It is one of the funniest, weirdest, most jarring scenes in movie history. And for me, it's deeply moving. Tarantino understood why I was inspired to buy a watch that I couldn't really afford – so I could give it away!
That watch, which is still out in the world somewhere, is a brilliant feat of engineering and an understated piece of jewellery, but it is also the ideal future heirloom: valuable, useful, transferable, and (in a pinch) hidable.
One of those dudes stole my watch. But he also stole a sappy moment that I'll never get to enjoy with one of my kids. The only solace I have is the hope that my old Mark XVI still gets passed down someday – if not to my children, then to someone else's.
Actually, scrap that. Maybe I can sue.