Time. It happens.

Date:12 April 2010 Author: Alan Duggan

Here’s a potentially damaging confession: I use my watch only to tell the time. Although it’s equipped with six hands, I generally use only two of them, and manage to work out the time of day by noting where they’re pointing.

Don’t get me wrong; I admire the craftsmanship and technological prowess evident in fine timepieces (witness PM’s recent feature on some of the world’s most elegant and advanced chronometers), but the fact remains that these beautifully engineered machines are designed primarily to record and display the passage of time.

At least, that’s what I to think. It seems watches are regarded by some as symbols of social status, professional standing, masculinity, sporting ability and even sexual prowess (although the rationale for the last remains unclear). I know a slim-wristed man who insists on wearing a bulky and heavy diver’s watch that makes him look utterly ridiculous. I know another man who wears a fake gold Rolex with nary a hint of shame, fondly imagining that the people around him assume it’s real (they don’t). I know yet another man who can induce coma in a group of alert friends simply by describing the multiple functions of his utterly tasteless wrist ornament.

All of which leads me to a new concept by Yanko Design known as the Stocking Watch, which sells in the US for about R700. It displays the time by using two circles filled with smaller circles; the time is indicated by the smallest circles. The merchant describes it thus: “Initially, reading the time may seem a bit confusing, but it’s actually quite simple.” Er, yes.

Another inexplicable invention is the Binary Watch, which we actually had the effrontery to showcase in PM a few years back. As its name suggests, this watch displays time in binary format, using LEDs. The watch face contains 10 blue LEDs that indicate the numbers of the binary sequence (that is, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32), and the values of the lighted LEDs are added to determine the time.

There are two rows of LEDs: the top row is for the hours and the bottom row for the minutes. Says the vendor: “With a little practice, you can learn to read this time format easily. Won’t it be fun the next time someone asks you ‘what time is it?’ and you can enjoy their bewildered expression when you flash your wrist emblazoned with glowing binary?” (This is rhetoric, by the way.)

The Free Dictionary defines time as “a non-spatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future”. Exactly. So let’s not stress about it.