Shamed into not taking the Ativan by the retired firefighter, I looked down at my wrist. I was wearing a new watch, the first mechanical watch I had ever owned. A brief primer: Since the late nineteen-seventies, most watches have used a quartz movement, which is battery-powered and extremely accurate. Mechanical watches, by contrast, are powered either by hand-winding or, in the case of an automatic watch, by the motion of the wearer’s wrist, which is converted into energy by means of a rotor. Mechanical watches are far less accurate than quartz watches, but often far more expensive, because their bearings are more intricate. All contemporary Rolex Replica Watches, for example, are mechanical. The difference between quartz and old-fashioned mechanical is that your child’s Winnie the Pooh watch will likely keep better time than a seventy-six-thousand-dollar Vacheron Constantin perpetual calendar in rose gold. A quick way to tell the two kinds apart is to look at the second hand. On a quartz watch, the second hand goose-steps along one tick at a time; on a mechanical watch, it glides imperfectly, but beautifully, around the dial and into the future.
Looking at the smooth, antiquated mechanical glide of my watch’s second hand, I felt, if not calm, then ready for whatever happened next. As the conductor’s radio flared on and off with promises from City Hall (my rescue train never came), as the passengers around me discussed my fate, I wondered: Can you hold your own world together while the greater world falls apart? The visible passing of time, second by second, seemed to provide a kind of escape route, even as my body remained within the metal shell of the stricken N train. Three seconds, inhale. Three seconds, exhale. The watch was a Junghans, from Germany, derived from a design by the Bauhaus-influenced Swiss architect, artist, and industrial designer Max Bill. I had bought it at the moma shop for what in my early, innocent watch days seemed like the astronomical price of a thousand dollars. Its no-frills, form-follows-function shape evoked civility in a time of chaos, a ticking intelligence in the face of a new inhumanity. The train slowly moved again. The Polish woman smiled at me. We shuddered into Times Square and I was, for a few moments in time, safe.
But by this time I thought of myself as a writer, and, for a writer, the money you make can be traded in for your creative independence, hence one is permanently building a rainy-day fund. I have always tried to keep on hand enough cash to cover at least two years of expenses in case the public stops being interested in my work, while plowing the rest into low-cost index funds. Thrift was comforting; material goods uninteresting, bordering on gauche.
And yet on April 12, 2016, I walked out of the Tourneau TimeMachine store, on Madison Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street, with a receipt for $4,137.25 and a new Nomos Minimatik Champagner on my wrist, the sales clerks bidding me farewell with a cheerful cry of “Congratulations!” By the standards of luxury cheap rolex watches, the amount I spent was small indeed (an entry-level Rolex is about six thousand dollars), but by my own standards I had just thrown away a small chunk, roughly 4.3 writing days, of my independence. And yet I was happy. The watch was the most beautiful object I had ever seen. After my panic attack on the subway, the urge for another Bauhaus-inspired watch had become overwhelming, and I compared many brands. The winner was a relatively new watchmaker called Nomos, based in the tiny Saxon town of Glashütte.