|TAG Heuer Formula 2000 watch|
It's a sign of age to have a receipt box that's overflowing - indeed, it's probably a sign of age to have one at all. These days most invoices are electronic, but I still keep the habit of filing the paperwork for those items I perceive to be of value. This morning, I spent a pleasant half-hour rooting through the records for bikes I bought thirty years ago, jewellery that's even older, and paintings from a lifetime of collecting.
But try as I might, I couldn't find the receipt for my TAG Heuer watch. I know I bought it sometime in the late Eighties, the first (and only) expensive one I've ever purchased. From memory, it cost me about a thousand pounds, but I think that must be wrong, which was why I was checking the file. It seems too much to have paid - a lot of spare cash for the time - I'd not buy a watch for that now?
And yet, for the last ten years it's languished in a drawer. The face has tarnished so the battery must have leaked; the diving bevel no longer turns and the strap could do with an extra link or two. All in all, it's in a rather sorry state. Which is a pity for an item that hold memories much richer than any receipt could record.
TAG Heuer watches were once all the rage among kayakers. Mine came with me on expeditions to Nepal (twice), Turkey and several trips to the Alps. It's been down more rivers and across more stretches of sea than any boat I've owned. I wore it when I was married and as a surprise wedding gift bought Jane a matching one that she still wears today.
I wonder if there's any other object that accompanies us as much as the watches we wear? A wedding ring perhaps, but they're essentially passive - whereas a watch is something we use, a party to the decisions we take. How many times did I check the face of my TAG Heuer; how many choices did I confirm - or cancel - on the turning of its hands? How much water did it witness flowing under the bridge of my life?
The model I have is a Formula 2000, which reflects TAG Heuer's sporting image. The company has been an official timekeeper at events dating back to the 1920 Olympics; they're a sponsor today of sports as diverse as football, sailing and athletics. It's all nonsense of course - part of their lifestyle branding - for in practice, any digital watch is more than accurate enough, and I doubt there's an athlete (or a kayaker) who'd still use a model like mine.
But precision's not the point anymore, just as it never really was. Watches - and certainly ones of this sort - have always been about more than utility. For many, they're a form of conspicuous consumption, as anyone who's passed through the arrivals hall at Geneva airport will understand. For others, they're about fashion and style, a statement of who we are - or more likely, who we'd like to be.
The strange this is, none of this has ever appealed to me. We need to be careful in assessing ourselves, but I reckon I don't risk a hostage to fortune if I say that I'm not a brash or bling person - nor for that matter a style guru. And as for sporting prowess, what little there was is now as dormant as my watch this last decade.
Which makes me think, it's about time I recharged the batteries. Coming to the end of this interminable standstill, there's something pleasing about the idea of its hands turning once more. Wearing it would be a symbol of new beginnings and times gone by - a reminder that all our days are precious.
So I'm going to send it to a specialist repairer. No doubt the cost will be more than's sensible, but maybe that's fitting. For its value lies not in money but in memories - and in the making of new ones. And that's an asset that takes time to grow.