A watch isn’t just for telling time

My fascination with watches began as a very small youngster in the Depression. My mother had an old gold ladies wristwatch from Italy that did not run. I begged her to let me play with it. She permitted me to take it apart, and that’s the way it remained, apart.

I received my first wristwatch at graduation time. In 1942, we bought it at Pugh Bros. on the square. It was a beautiful rectangular, pink, gold-filled “Benrus”, with my initials inscribed on the back of the case.

I went into the U.S. Navy in 1943 and left the watch home and bought a military type Wyler watch. This round stainless steel watch traveled with me many thousands of miles on the land and sea.

We became attached to watches, because they were attached to us. After the war I decided to wear my graduation watch again and treat it with kid gloves.

In 1959, I decided to general contract my own home and bought an inexpensive Timex, which seemed to be indestructible. Banging it against walls, pounding nails, etc. seemed to have no effect on it.

In the old days, we had these wind-up type watches, which had to be wound every day. Then the automatic or self winding type came onto the scene. Now quartz watches have taken over, which you can “set and forget.”

Today, watches range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. They can be analog, digital or L.E.D. and accurate to within seconds. I would venture to say that most people have more than one wristwatch, since most of them are very affordable.

I like some of the old men’s wind-up watches of my era, such as Hamiltons, Longines and Omegas. There aren’t many left, since most of us have thrown them away when they quit running. I admire watch repairmen or watchmakers, because it is becoming a lost art, especially with the advent of the less complicated quartz movements. In the old days, the number of jewels seemed to be a barometer of a watch’s worth. The 17-jewel movement was common, while the 21-jewel was a step above.

Going steady and giving a girlfriend a gift of a watch went hand in hand, whether it be Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc.

I gave my wife-to-be a white, gold-filled, 17-jewel Bulova in 1951 and it still runs. The only problem as we grow older, we need magnifying glasses to see the time, because the old-time ladies watches were so small. Imagine the stories each watch could tell, if they only had a memory and could speak like human beings. These mechanical marvels could talk about proms, engagements, weddings, graduations, vacations, wars, etc. because they were there.

Michael J. Lacivita is a Youngstown retiree and member of the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

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