Friday, May 8, 2020

The Moon, Stars and Cat

From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.

Kinmo: I am the keeper of the moon and the stars.

Bill: You're just a cat.

Kinmo: I am the maker of light and dark.

Bill: You can't even open a cat food can by yourself.

Kinmo: We'll see.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Is That the Same Watch?

From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.

Kinmo: This is the same watch you took a picture of last time.

Bill: There's a pandemic on.

Kinmo: What kind of excuse is that? If anything, you have more time than ever to swap watches. I'm bored with the same watch.

Bill: I may have time, but I all I'm able to do is lie around and stare straight ahead, letting my eyes wobble out of focus.

Kinmo: You're becoming a cat.

Friday, April 10, 2020

When You're a Watch Nerd...

Dear English Language Study Group:

I want to apologize for my behavior as the guest speaker today at your English for Japanese conversation group.

I had intended to spend the hour reading my short story (which I did) and then answer your questions, so you’d have a delightful, informative, and educational time.

When somebody asked if I have any hobbies, and I said, “I collect watches,” I thought those three words would be the end of the matter, and that we’d scoot right back to talking about English.

How was I supposed to know that one of the group members was wearing a SBGA259, the Golden Snowflake? And when it turned out that this Grand Seiko wearer was the one person who was participating by Skype because he’s the captain of a Japan merchant vessel and currently at sea, can you blame me for wanting to spend a few minutes chatting about Grand Seiko and exchanging wristshots via Skype?

I apologize, too, for what happened after another group member asked, “What’s a Spring Drive?” I was duty bound to explain the Spring Drive movement, which, as you found out, also meant I had to explain the differences between mechanical and quartz watches. I’m sorry that I didn’t know the Japanese words for escapement, mainspring and crown. And I didn't mean to frighten anybody when the phrase “Quartz Crisis” slipped out.

I hope you enjoyed the close-ups of Captain Ito’s Golden Snowflake as much as I did. It’s hard to appreciate the Snowflake’s dial via Skype, which is why I suggested he hold his watch up to the camera for several minutes. Even with Skype, connected to a ship in the middle of the Pacific, the Spring Drive’s gold second hand flowed across the dial like a leaf in a gentle breeze. Wasn’t the live video of his watch’s open caseback stunning? I especially liked the part where he spun the rotor.

A Spring Drive is the perfect watch for a Merchant Marine Captain; it’s got accuracy, good looks, and no battery to run down. I was glad to learn that he also has a Grand Seiko quartz on board. That’s my kind of ship’s captain!

I’m sorry I was so easily distracted from talking about my story.

I am glad, though, that among the new words you learned today was “nerd.”

Friday, April 3, 2020

Buying Time

a short story by Bill Adler

“Wait, stop, please.” Perry bent over and pressed his palms against his thighs, breathing as if he’d just been submerged under water for a full minute. He thought he heard his beating heart echo off the alley walls.


Perry tilted his head toward Olivia and gulped air. She wasn’t winded. She was hardly breathing and looked as if she'd just finished meditating. Perry felt his hair matting from sweat. His shirt, too, was rapidly sogging now that the breeze that had accompanied their five-block sprint had stopped. “Thank you. My body’s not capable of one more step.”

“We’re far enough away. We don’t have to run anymore.” Olivia removed her sunglasses and Yankee’s cap. She took off her t-shirt and reversed the blue and pink sides.

Perry looked up and down the alley. They were alone. He followed Olivia’s lead, took off his baseball cap, reversed his green and red shirt, and tucked his sunglasses into his pocket.

“I liked it better last time,” Perry said, “because we didn’t have to run so far so fast.”

“But you remember what I taught you?”

“Every robbery must be different. We can’t duplicate the same MO ever.”


“And it’s not a robbery. It’s a mitzvah.” Perry examined the watch they had just appropriated. A Richard Mille chronograph, worth about a quarter-million dollars. The watch, rectangular-shaped but with a curved case displayed bold white hands on top of a skeletonized case and had four dials for the stopwatch function and date. The chronograph’s pushers jutted out boldly from the case. Perry rested the watch in his palm and raised his hand, noting the watch’s feathery weight. Titanium.

He handed the watch to Olivia, who didn’t even bother to admire its craftsmanship before dropping it onto the rough pavement and stomping on it. She lifted her foot and said,“You outweigh me. Your turn.”

Perry jumped and landed on the watch. Olivia kneeled on the pavement. She picked up the mostly intact watch. “Titanium.”

Perry nodded. “Yup.”

“It happens sometimes. Titanium’s a hard one to destroy.” Olivia pulled out a small torch from her back pocket. She opened the black plastic case and inserted a butane lighter. With a flick of her thumb she ignited the torch, letting the flame lick the Richard Mille watch. In less than a minute the movement, visible through the case, began to melt. When the crystal distorted and popped off the case, Olivia extinguished the flame. “The torch produces a 2,300-degree flame. I’ve yet to meet a watch it can’t annihilate.” She kicked what was left of the Richard Mille, which spun across the alley to its resting place, under a dumpster.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Meaning of Cat

From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.

Kinmo: Am I allowed to eat the Reese's?

Bill: No.

Kinmo: Am I allowed to use the Grand Seiko as a scratch pad?

Bill: No.

Kinmo: What's the purpose of my existence?

Bill: How about some tuna sashimi?

Kinmo: Now you're talking.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Wake Up, Your Watch Is Here

I'm not fully responsible for my mistake.

We had an apartment building meeting today — Sunday morning at the crack of 10 a.m. — which meant rise and shine hours before noon, the time at which rationality and wakefulness coincide.

After wearing out the snooze button, I kicked the blanket aside, showered, picked up the t-shirt closest to the shower door, put it on, gathered the rest of my wardrobe from the hamper's top layer, and ran for the door to get to the meeting before somebody nicknamed me “the late guy.”

Maybe it was because I was exhausted from hitting the snooze button so many times or because the sorcerer’s muck called sleep still crusted my eyes, but it wasn't until I had one untied shoe out the door that I realized I had forgotten coffee and my watch.

I didn't have time to brew coffee and set a watch, so I chose the watch. And then it hit me: A hi-beat. That's what I need. A Grand Seiko hi-beat promises to send your body and mind into accelerated motion, the way a tuning fork vibrates guitar strings, transferring its magical energy into every cell in your body. Pleased with my genius revelation, I dashed into the hallway, nearly tripping over my other untied shoe, and sent a secret message to the elevator, "hurry!," by Morse coding the elevator button.

But you know what? I looked like one of those bobbing head dolls for the next hour and a half. Apparently, I was wrong. Hi-beat doesn't affect the body of the person wearing the watch.

So here I am now, having my morning coffee at 3 o'clock on a November afternoon, my inner mainspring slowly, but finally, winding, the world coming into focus. Maybe next time I should wear a Spring Drive because that will make me spring?

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Seiko Moonphase

Leaves of poplars pick Japanese prints against the west.
Moon sand on the canal doubles the changing pictures.
The moon’s good-by ends pictures.
The west is empty. All else is empty. No moon-talk at all now.
Only dark listening to dark.

"Moonset" by Carl Sandburg

I've only had my Seiko Spring Drive moonphase for a little over 24 hours, but I'll tell you this. If I wasn't wearing the SNR017 tonight, I might not be writing this article.

You need a moonphase. And while you could buy another watch company's moonphase, would you really want to rely on something other than a Spring Drive?

Earlier this evening I was abducted by aliens (again). It was only for an hour, and I can't say for sure what experiments they conducted on me during that time though I have my suspicions, but thanks to my Spring Drive moonphase watch I was able to tell that I was returned to the real Earth and not some trickery planet. After the lights of their transporter stopped twinkling, I found myself in a park, on soft, green grass that smelled like it had been recently mowed. But was it home? I compared the moon on my Seiko SNR 017 to the phase of the moon in the sky. They agreed and I knew I was back on our planet Earth. Phew! While the aliens are far more advanced than us, they can't outwit a Spring Drive.

Most readers of this website will be familiar with how a Spring Drive works, but in short a Spring Drive is a watch movement that’s powered by a mainspring like an ordinary mechanical watch. Instead of the familiar escapement, Seiko uses fancy wizardry in its place: A tiny thinking machine, an integrated circuit, compares the movement of the glide wheel to a highly accurate quartz crystal eight times a second. If the second hand is moving too fast, the watch deploys electro-mechanical braking to slow it down. Spring Drives are accurate to a second a day. A Spring Drive is not a quartz watch; there is no battery or capacitor. You have to wind it (or let the rotor power the mainspring), just as with any other mechanical watch. Seiko calls its magic a “tri-synchro regulator.” Think of the quartz crystal oscillator in a Spring Drive as a reference you’d set an ordinary watch to, such as your phone, an atomic clock on the internet, a GPS watch, or some other precise time device. If it sounds like Spring Drive is a technology that was invented in the future, it probably was.

I searched for a Seiko moonphase for a long time and when this one arrived yesterday from a seller in Greece I did a combination of somersaults and handsprings. (From Japan to Greece and back to Japan this watch traveled.) Manufactured in 2008, the SNR017 deploys a 5R67A movement, and as with all Spring Drives, the second hand’s fluid journey across the dial is a delight for the eyes.

The SNR017 is a gorgeous watch. Like the moon, this watch's beauty is immortal.

Friday, February 28, 2020

A Cat and a Moonphase

From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.

Kinmo: I like your moonphase watch.

Bill: Thank you.

Kinmo: You know what a moonphase tells you?

Bill: The phase of the moon.

Kinmo: No. When the moon is out, you're supposed to feed me my favorite snack.

Bill: What about during a new moon?

Kinmo: I don't appreciate trick questions.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Rules of Love

a short story by Bill Adler

“I shouldn’t even be talking to you.” Noelle let Oliver’s hand slip from hers. She stepped back to enjoy a full view of him.  He was gorgeous, the likeness of somebody painted on the cover of a romance novel. Thick chest muscles bulging through his half-unbuttoned white shirt, flowing blond hair, wide, joyful eyes. On better days, Noelle saw the two of them painted onto the same book cover.

She was no wallflower herself, but she felt like a B-leaguer in his presence.

Oliver’s heart was as picture-perfect as his body, which made her words especially hard to say. “Our parents would never approve. Nobody will approve.”

They stood on the old stone bridge between their two islands. The scent of hibiscus from Oliver’s island and the aroma of plumeria from Noelle’s intertwined, dotting the air with bubbles of fragrance that spontaneously popped. Oliver was a coffee farmer, whose morning to dusk labor endowed him with an Olympian’s physique and a perpetual golden tan. Noelle owned a flower shop, which is why she always smelled like alyssum and rose.

“I don’t care.” Oliver recaptured her hand, sending a delicate current of electricity from her fingers to her head and toes. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a moment. “I want to marry you more than anything in the world.” He started to unfasten his Rolex Deepsea. The metal clasp’s unclicking sounded like a sigh.

Noelle wrapped her hand around Oliver’s watch. “Don’t. Please don’t.” She sniffled. The first tears rolled down her cheeks. Oliver kissed them but couldn’t stop her from crying. Her lungs heaved. When she regained the ability to talk, she spoke in whispers, choking on her words. “You’re a Rolex clan. You can’t give that up, not for me, not for anyone.”

Oliver brushed Noelle’s lips with his as he patted her watch with his fingertips. “Would you give up your Grand Seiko for me?”

Noelle cried harder.  She wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. Forcing a small smile, she said, “Good thing it’s waterproof, right? I’d have to ask the clan for another watch if I ruined it.”

Now it was Oliver’s turn for a tepid smile. “You’re not going to ruin a Grand Seiko dive watch with just a few tears. It’s good down to 200 meters, and your tears are no more than 100 meters deep.”

Noelle chuckled faintly. “And your watch, good to 1,220 meters.” She leaned into him, wrapped her arms around him, pressed her breasts against his muscular chest. “See, my love, they’re not even compatible. You can dive into the darkness with your Rolex, but I can’t follow.”

Oliver kissed her ear and she moaned. “What would happen if we tossed our watches into the sea?” he said. “Right here, right now?”  She shuddered, sending a chill cascading down her body. He held her closer, trying to steady her shaking.

“We can’t,” she said. “It goes against everything. We can’t marry because you wear a Rolex and I wear a Grand Seiko. And shedding our watches won’t change who we are, where we come from, and what’s expected of us.”

Friday, February 7, 2020

Your Watch in the Movies

a short story by Bill Adler

So I'm taking a wristshot and this guy in an expensive wool suit walks up to me and says, "Your watch is exactly what we're looking for to put on Brad Pitt's  wrist for a scene we're filming for World War Z II.  We're shooting a couple blocks away and I can have your watch back in no more than an hour. May I borrow your watch as a prop?"

I reply, "Of course." I'm feeling lucky!

How cool is that? My watch is going to star in a feature film. I could probably now sell my Grand Seiko for ten times what I paid for it, assuming I ever wanted to sell it, though I might not even want to ever take it off afterwards.

He gives me a receipt. I wait at the nearby coffee shop for five hours until it finally and painfully dawns on me that there is no movie, no Brad Pitt, and I'd just had my watch stolen by a con man who preys on innocent watch owners. Lesson learned.