Friday, January 17, 2020

The Ritual

a short story by Bill Adler

Gretchen leaned back against the cold, wet stone and shivered. She looked up at the gray sky and took Ekon’s warm hand in hers. She smiled. His skin comforted her.

She surveyed the roofless, tower that enclosed them. Some days they performed the ritual while the sun was streaming in, but most days the tower was dark and gloomy. She had heard that it was once part of a great building, a place where people and spirits had gathered and exchanged promises. Where sunlight passed through windows that were colored like the autumn leaves, making magical light roam across the floor.

Gretchen wondered if their ritual would bring back the colored light. Maybe if they tried hard enough and believed hard enough, it would. But no matter. The ritual would be performed regardless of anything that might come to pass. The ritual was the important thing.

The tower was the tallest structure in their or any village. There wasn’t much to look at, other than the stones out of which the four walls were made, a cross etched into one of the walls, and the words, “Notre Dame” chiseled into the opposite side. Gretchen and Ekon often talked about how such a place could be built, where the stones might have come from and how they’d been carried across a vast distance, and what might have happened to the makers. Some things were destined to be mysteries forever.

“Waiting is cold,” Gretchen said.

“Waiting is what we must do.”

“I know.” Gretchen looked into Ekon’s green eyes. “I’m just cold.”

Ekon slid closer so their bodies touched, his leg against hers, his tattered sheepskin chemise leaking heat that warmed her.

Gretchen sighed. “Are we allowed to touch this way?”

Ekon shrugged. “What does it matter? Only the ritual matters.” He looked up and watched the clouds race across the sky. “The makers didn’t allow touching inside the ruins, I think. But the makers are no longer here. This place's original purpose is no longer here. We have a new purpose.” Ekon tapped the disc strapped to his wrist. “The only rule is the ritual.”

Gretchen smiled and tapped the disc on her wrist. Hers was different, but still the same. Ekon’s disc was made of gold, Gretchen’s of silver. Ekon’s disc had spires that glowed in the dark, while Gretchen’s did not. Ekon’s disc had the word “Rolex” on it, while the lettering on Gretchen’s read “Grand Seiko.”

The others who would arrive when they had finished their work for the day wore discs that differed in similar ways. Some had pictures of the moon or sun on their discs, while other villagers had discs with three or four spires. Some discs were white, others black or faded green, blue or red. Some displayed numbers, while other discs did not. The meaning of these discs was unknown.

Snorting horses were the first sign that other people were arriving. Gretchen straightened her back against the wall and slid away from Ekon. Judging from the noise, some twenty people would be joining them. That was nearly double the usual number. Twenty bodies would warm the tower, so Gretchen wouldn’t be shivering during the ritual. But she was curious. Twenty? Why so many? She rubbed her hands together and blew on them.. She’d find out.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Grand Seiko Nicknames

Grand Seiko owners love to nickname their watches. From the classic Snowflake (the only nickname that was actually given by Seiko) to Ryujin, Blizzard, Chewbacca, and Red Flake, Grand Seikos are often known for their nicknames.

I've compiled a list of Grand Seiko nicknames, along with photos and reference numbers. This is a work in progress, with more to come. You can view this list here: Grand Seiko Nicknames.

Thanks to the Grand Seiko Owners Club for the photos and assistance.

Three examples are below.

Grand Seiko Glacier

Grand Seiko Red Flake

Grand Seiko Kiku

Please contact me using the contact form if you spot any omissions or errors. -Bill Adler

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Attractiveness of Anti-Magnetic Watches

I want to ask you a question and I’d like you to think about it for a few moments before reading on.

When was the last time you saw an anti-magnetic watch featured in a movie?

Me neither.

Dive watches are a mainstay of many feature films. The classic Bond movie, Dr. No, featured a handsome Sean Connery and beautiful women, but we watch nerds know the real star was the Rolex Submariner 6538 on Connery’s wrist. The 600 meter water resistant Omega Seamaster Planet played a co-starring role in another Bond movie, Skyfall. Ed Harris wore a Seiko 6309 in the underwater science fiction thriller, The Abyss. Martin Sheen’s Seiko 6105 is memorable in Apocalypse Now, and the Panerai Luminor on Sylvester Stallone’s wrist in Daylight seemed indestructible in that movie. Oh, and there’s the automatic diver, the Alsta Nautoscaph, that Richard Dreyfuss wore in Jaws.

Grand Seiko SBGR077
Dive watches are so cool that Ben Affleck wore a Rolex Deepsea in the movie Argo, which portrays events in Iran in 1979. But Rolex didn’t make the Deepsea until 2008. Dive watches evoke sensations of exploration and risk. At the office, you glance at your Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and your mind quickly tiptoes away from the annual report you’re editing to dodging a torpedo 100 meters below the ocean’s surface.

Dive watches are icons. They exude adventure.

A diver is a timepiece you associate with navigating a sailboat across the Pacific or searching for undersea treasures. But an anti-magnetic watch? Isn’t that something worn by a guy who operates a magnetic junkyard crane that hoists cars husks from one pile to another?

When talking about divers, words and phrases like “helium escape valve,” ”Mariana Trench,” and “giant squid” crop up, but when you talk about anti-magnetism you have to use vocabulary like “Teslas” and “ampere per meter,” which do not make you the life of the party.

Dive watches get all the glory, but they should share their acclaim with anti-magnetic watches.

I own two dive watches, but I mostly wear them while giving my cat a bath. Rated to 200 and 300 meters respectively, my Christopher Ward Trident and Yema Superman look cool, but as far as water resistance goes — I’m not going to ever need that. Even in the most super of super typhoons, a mere 50 or 100 meters is more than sufficient. (I speak from experience because a 2019 typhoon dumped 7,000 tons of water in my Tokyo apartment building’s basement.)

In the real world, water pales in comparison to the magnetic hazards your watch faces every day, such as cell phones, fridge magnets, magnetic phone cases, magnetic shoulder bag clasps, airport metal detectors, televisions, duvet covers, kitchen cabinet doors, your kid’s science projects, doorbells, knife racks, microwave ovens, vacuums, and refrigerator doors. Virtually every metal is the enemy.

Magnetism affects watches by magnetizing the metal parts and depriving them of their ability to move freely, making your watch as on time as the cable repairman. The balance spring is particularly vulnerable to magnetism, like a rabbit is in a field of lions.

Enter the anti-magnetic watch.

Friday, December 27, 2019

New Memories

a short story by Bill Adler

“If I’d known you were going to be weird, I’d have gone to the party with Jimmy Howe.” Emma curled her lips into a half smile. She flicked her head to the side so her hair was no longer in front of her eyes. “You’re a nice guy, Ben, but you’re a little off.” Emma studied the window. She cupped her hands into the shape of binoculars, put her forehead to them and pressed her hands against the glass. “I don’t see anything.”

“You mean Jimmy Howe from Engineering?” Ben shoved his hands in his pockets. “He doesn’t even like parties. He’s not interested in that kind of thing. Besides, he dresses oddly. Pants too high, four pens in his shirt pocket. ” Ben paused before continuing. “What else did you say?”

“I said, ‘I don’t see anything.’” Emma tightened the space between her fingers to block any remaining light. She peered through the window of the 51st story apartment for half a minute, turned to Ben and shrugged. “Nothing.”

“It’s not like searching for Santa, who could appear at any random moment between sunset and dawn. We have to wait until exactly midnight, which is —” Ben scanned his Grand Seiko Spring Drive, a watch accurate to a second a day, a necessity if he was going to share the sighting with Emma, whose soft lips he desperately wanted to kiss, and whose green eyes enchanted him every time she looked his way. Ben had rehearsed asking her to be his date at their boss’ New Year’s party fifty times before working up the nerve “— in another seventy seconds.”

“If Jimmy Howe had been my date —” She held out her palms. “I know, I know. He wasn’t ever going to come to a party. But if he had, he would kiss me at midnight like normal dates do, instead of slinking off to the bedroom to stare through the window.” Emma sighed and shuffled her feet against the thick carpet, cracking sparks of static electricity. “I don’t know. Maybe I should go back to the living room and find somebody to raise a glass of champagne with in —”

“In twenty seconds,” Ben said. Ben squeezed her hand gently and to his surprise, Emma squeezed back.

“I haven’t believed in Santa since I was six.”

“This isn’t like Santa.” Ben lifted his other hand and glanced at his watch. He returned his gaze to the window and focused his eyes on the sky. Emma tracked Ben’s eyes, looking where he did. A far away fluttering caught her attention. White wings mostly, though some were blue, green, and yellow. They carried themselves quickly but silently. They were flying up and north, forming a giant V against the night sky. But birds don’t fly at night…

As if reading Emma’s mind, Ben said, “Those aren’t birds.”

Cheers of “Happy New Year!” and the sound of corks popping zigzagged through the apartment to the bedroom.

“What am I seeing?” Emma pressed her nose to the window, fogging the glass as she spoke. “It looks like...magazines?” She wiped the window with her fingertips.

“Not magazines.” The flock was fading into the distance like paper lanterns carried away by a river. “Calendars. Those are the discarded calendars of 2019. It happens every New Year's, but most people are too distracted to look.”

"Where do they go?"

Ben shook his head. "Wherever our memories dwell, I guess."

Emma’s eyes opened wide. “It’s awesome.”

“It is."

Emma stepped to within a breath away from Ben. “Now kiss me.”

Friday, December 20, 2019

Do I Look Good?

a short story by Bill Adler

“How do I look with this watch?”

It was too late to duck into the bathroom and pretend to have something urgent to do. Mom, who often calls at the most random moments, chose not to call now and save me. There was nothing on the stove about which I could declare an emergency, and the dog had been walked.

It wasn’t possible to ignore Tom, because he was hovering two feet in front of me, his breath minty from just having brushed his teeth. Tom tapped his watch crystal twice. “Do you think this watch goes with my outfit?”

I tried not to appear as if I was seeing his watch for the first time. I tried to hide any hints of surprise or novelty in my face by diving deep into a distant memory of when I scraped my knees in the playground falling off the jungle gym.

I narrowed my eyes and focused on Tom’s watch, a blue dial something. I must have seen it before. I willed my shoulders into spa relaxation mode so I wouldn’t shrug and give away my ignorance, a gesture which could easily be interpreted as willful neglect.

I don’t recognize that watch. They’re

I squinted so I could read the dial without bobbing my head forward like a pigeon. I narrowed my vision into that netherworld between where distant objects appear in sharp focus and they vanish entirely. I inhaled a hopeful breath and said, “The Grand Seiko.”

I paused. If I’d gotten the brand wrong, Tom would have said something even before the final vowel departed my lips. “I like it. Your Grand Seikos are my favorites.”

Wait! Tom’s got more than one Grand Seiko? Right? I tried to manually light up neurons, but even if I could hunt down the answer in my brain, it was too late. I’d already said, “Grand Seikos,” plural. I paused again, chilled ice replacing the red blood cells in my veins.

Silence. Okay, I’d gotten that correct, too. Tom has more than one Grand Seiko. I wonder if there are others? That’s for another day.

I felt like I was in one of those horror movies where the victims are coerced from room to room, each space containing a more hidden and deadly trap. Molten lead that drops from the ceiling, oxygen that’s sucked out, a trap door opening to a piranha filled moat, arrows that fly out of the walls, a giant lizard with blood-stained, razor-sharp teeth that pops into existence from out of nowhere.

I took a mental step forward. “I like the way the blue dial goes with your eyes.” I sensed my pores opening, sweat leaking out.

“My eyes are brown.” Tom was a statue except for his arm, which swiveled up to his head and then rotated so that the watch’s dial was positioned like a third eye.

“I mean I like how the glacier-blue contrasts with your hazel-brown eyes. The watch’s blue is too gorgeous to play second fiddle to any other blue.” Tom was wearing black jeans and an orange golf shirt. I could see his black socks peeking out from on top the gray New Balance sneakers.

Tom’s lips morphed into a smile.

I’m doing okay. Should I stop now? Is that all I need to say? Is liking the color sufficient? Should I be complimenting the mainspring or something? Think Sally, think!

“The metal strap accents your muscles.” I nodded. “That’s a good choice for a BBQ.”

Tom’s smile rose higher. His cheeks flushed. “Thanks. It’s band, actually. Metal band, leather strap. Just terminology.”

“Gotcha.” I resumed breathing.

“I was thinking about wearing my Grand Seiko GMT. You know, the steel case watch with the gray, chrysanthemum dial. It’s got a sporty, outdoors look that might be better for a garden party. I'll get it and try it on for you.”

My eyes darted to the clock on the night table. When I saw the time, my heart ramped up to half second beats. 12:13 p.m. We’re already running late. No time to change watches.

I clasped my hands together. “This one’s perfect. It’s a daytime party so a blue dial watch goes with the sky. Wear it. I can’t imagine seeing you in any other watch today, my handsome husband. You look sexy and stunning.”

Tom rubbed his watch. “Great. Let’s go!”

Friday, December 13, 2019

Danny, the New Barista

sung to the tune of “Rudolph. the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Danny the new barista
Had a very shiny watch
And if you ever saw it
You would say it’s not a Swatch.

All of the other baristas
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Danny
Join in any barista games

Then one blacked out New York night
The manager came to say
"Danny, with your lume so bright
Won't you time my coffee tonight?"

Then all the other baristas
Went to the Seiko boutique
Tried on some superluminova
The lume so bright they couldn’t peek.

Now all the baristas loved him
And they shouted out with glee
"Danny the new barista,
We love our Grand Seiko GMT.”

Danny, the New Barista is a かえうた, kaeuta, which is the Japanese word for song parody.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Winding Lounge

by Bill Adler

When I walked into the century-old building near 64th Street (they’ve asked me not to reveal the exact location) with its rusting fire escape and crusty brick exterior, my expectations of a wonderful experience evaporated. The lobby was a landscape of peeling paint and burned out incandescent bulbs that smelled of bleach and insecticide.

But when the door to the Winding Lounge opened, I understood that what I had seen was camouflage. Like Shambhala, the Winding Lounge wants to remain hidden. I’m fortunate that I know someone who knows someone who knows the where and how of this place — and that I could get an invitation.

I was greeted in silence by a god and goddess, a man and woman in their mid-twenties, both blondes with coral blue eyes, who motioned me in. He was wearing a Credor Eichi II, a sublime contrast to the black t-shirt and jeans that clung tight against his muscular body. Strapped to the wrist of the female greeter’s flawless body was a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute with a burgundy dial and deco tones that made me feel as if I was wandering through the 1920s.

I showed them my Grand Seiko Red Flake, which was my sole identification. The man with the Credor examined my watch, then consulted his iPad. After the woman nodded to him, they wordlessly escorted me to a plush, velvet chair with expansive arm rests and deep cushions. I was expecting leather, but as soon as my body melted into the chair I realized the Winding Lounge selected soft fabric furniture rather than leather because leather squeaks. The room reminded me of my Snowflake’s dial, a hushed vista devoid of sound other than slight wisps of snow flowing over a snow covered field. The room’s subdued lighting came mostly from hidden floor lamps. A thick, cerulean carpet with an enigmatic Asian pattern covered the entire floor.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Plot to Destroy the Watch Industry

a short story by Bill Adler

The plot was as devious as it was destructive — or would have been except for a brave whistleblower at Nation Shield, a cyber security company.

The whistleblower, Anthony Gardner, will tell his story exclusively on 60 Minutes. Here’s a preview:

In late 2019, major smartwatch companies, including Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, and Xohi conspired to introduce a computer virus into the photo storage services operated by Google, Dropbox, Flickr, SmugMug, Imgur, and, ironically, also Apple. The virus was designed to replace images of wristwatches with black circles. Using AI, the virus could adapt to recognize all watch brands so that no image would escape its wrath. Only the watch would be affected; the rest of the photo would remain unaltered.

Gardner informs 60 Minutes this virus was created to decimate the mechanical watch industry, boosting smartwatch sales. As Garder tells our correspondent Halli Patel, “If people can’t take wristshots, why would they buy watches? Almost nobody takes smartwatch shots, but virtually the entire watch collecting community lives for mechanical watch photos. No wristshots equals no more traditional watch sales.”

Gardner came forward because, as a watch collector himself, he believed this virus would annihilate the watch industry. “I’ve got a Rolex Pepsi, two Grand Seikos, a Spring Drive and a 1960s model, a vintage Bulova Spaceview, an Omega Speedmaster, plus another dozen or so watches. I try to give my watches equal wrist time, even though nobody at work notices them. The women I’ve dated don’t notice my watches. Restaurant hosts don’t care about what I’m wearing and usually seat me near the kitchen no matter what’s on my wrist. Airline flight attendants don’t bat an eyelash at my watches and never upgrade me, even if I’m wearing my Rolex. I was audited once and the IRS agent noticed, but he’s the only one.

“My watch buddies like seeing photos of my watches, and vice versa. Sharing photos is one of my favorite evening activities. Some evenings it's all I do.

“I have my eye on a JLC Reverso moonphase, but wouldn’t consider buying it if I can’t post a photo of it online.

“So, yeah, when I found out about the plot to destroy the watch industry by negating watch photos I blew the whistle.”

Friday, November 22, 2019

Why Calvin Hughes Suddenly Left the Grand Seiko Owners Club Dinner

a short story by Bill Adler

“How do you know all this?” Calvin Hughes continued the conversation he and Alberta Singer started online. Alberta had been explaining to Calvin and ten thousand other members of the Grand Seiko Owners Club the logic behind Grand Seiko’s serial numbering system. “Not only how do you know, but how do you remember?”

Calvin rested his frothy beer on the table. He lowered his voice to within a few decibels of the din inside Calvin’s Cottage (no relation), an expansive restaurant serving burgers and similar comfort foods. The group of twelve watch collectors had selected Calvin’s Cottage because it offered large, round tables, suitable for conversation and displaying watches. Alberta brought three watches, a Grand Seiko Spring Drive with a blue blizzard dial and matching strap, a classic 56GS, and a diver, also a Spring Drive, that despite its substantial diameter didn’t look large on Alberta’s thin wrist. Alberta Singer was the first person Calvin had met who owned a dive watch they actually scubaed with. Calvin imagined Alberta in a wetsuit, an image that pleased him.

As Calvin and Alberta chatted, the other ten group members were busy biting burgers, passing watches (thoroughly wiping the grease off their hands first), drinking beer, and having the kind of nerdy fun that watch collectors enjoy when they breathe the same air. A cacophony of colors reflected off the watch dials.

Alberta clasped her hands together. Her cheeks rose as she smiled. “I know it seems hard, but didn’t trigonometry seemed hard when you first learned it?”

A pain poked Calvin’s brain. “Trigonometry is still hard.”

“Let’s dial it forward in small steps, shall we?”

“That sounds like a good idea. You’re the teacher, I’m the pupil and I’m all ears.” Despite Calvin’s jocularity, he was serious about learning everything there was to know about Grand Seikos, especially if that meant spending more time with Alberta.

“In 1966 Seiko started using six-digit serial numbers on their cases, except for when they didn’t. Before then, they always used seven digits, but there’s overlap, so some years you’ll see both six and seven-digit serial numbers. This is just for the caseback numbers; there’s a different system for the movement numbers.”

Calvin’s headache returned.

“But you don’t need to know it all to make sense of what Seiko’s doing. Think of the numbering system not as a code that somebody’s using to keep a secret. Instead, think of the caseback numbering system as a way Seiko communicates with you. It’s not classified; it’s an announcement. Once you think of the numbers that way, that Seiko wants you to know what they’re up to, it becomes easier.”

“Gotcha.” Calvin waved to the waiter. He wanted to have another beer on standby.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Day History Will Remember Forever

a short story by Bill Adler

Aimee Morrison walked from the bar to the table, balancing her beer like she was a living gyroscope. She sat down on the tall stool while simultaneously lifting the fully filled glass to her lips and drawing a long, satisfying drink. “How do they get this stuff?” she asked. “The beer is amazing.”

“Right,” Harlan Ellis replied. “I guess this is what happens when you have an Irish bar owned by a Japanese couple — anything is possible.” He raised his glass high, confident that gravity would keep the beer in his now half-emptied glass from spilling out, no matter how fast he moved his beer arm. “There’s no better place in town to relax after a long day.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Peter Kam added. And he did, downing half a pint in under ten seconds. “Man, my dogs are killing me.” He glanced around the table at Aimee, Harlan, and Davenport to his immediate left who was scarfing down a plate of fish and chips.

A pleasant hum filled McKenna’s Pub. Although every table was occupied, the decibels didn’t stifle conversation. While there was a television above the bar, a requirement for all pubs, the sound was muted. There was no music blaring from overhead speakers. The only extracurricular noise came from the dart game to the bar’s far side. A cacophony of barley, corn, rye, and wheat aromas filled the air with hypnotic scents.

Davenport Green looked at his friends, his face bearing a sheepish look, and said, “You guys probably got fed by your owners, but my owner is on the go all day, like a perpetual motion machine. She doesn’t eat, so I don’t eat. I’m famished. Go ahead and order if you’re hungry.” He resumed attacking his fish and chips.

“I was saying,” Peter continued, “I thought all your masters were office bound, but it’s good to know that there’s at least one other person in our drinking circle who’s on his feet all day.” Peter looked across the round table at Davenport. “Remind me, your master’s a —?”

“Comedian, if you can believe that.” Davenport juggled talking while eating. “When she’s not performing, she’s writing, and she writes while standing up. So I have to stand up, too. And when she’s not writing, she’s bouncing in between television stations and theaters. Siobhan O’Donnell.”

“I’ve seen her on TV. She’s hysterical,” Aimee said. “You’re lucky your master isn’t a dull businessman.”

“At least he’s in one place and probably has few deadlines. Mistress O’Donnell snaps at me if she isn’t where she needs to be at least five minutes before the scheduled time,” Davenport said. “And worse, she insists I wear an indie brand, a Konstantin Chaykin watch with a joker face, because she’s convinced it helps with her image. Have you ever tried to service something like that?”

“Never heard of Konstantin Chaykin,” Peter said.

“My point exactly,” Davenport replied, his hand cupped over his watch to protect it from beer spills or an off course dart.