Friday, March 22, 2019

You'd Better Watch Out

a short story by Bill Adler

"I’m sorry. We tried everything we could. We used all our skills, training and knowledge, but in the end we couldn't save..."

His somber voice trailed off. Daniel tried to look him in the eye, but didn't have the energy to raise his head higher than the man’s chin. It didn't matter, though, because Daniel's thick, salty tears clouded his entire world.

Photo by James Marien
"Did you..."

"Yes,” he said, as he removed the loupe from his eye, letting it dangle from his neck by the metal ribbon. "We tried an ETA transplant, but your Grand Seiko rejected it almost as soon as we inserted the movement."

"It's a Spring Drive, so—"

"That was one of the problems. We didn't have any Spring Drives available for transplant. Perhaps if we did, things would have turned out differently, though it’s impossible to say given the risky nature of a movement transplant. Even when the parts are perfect, the success rate still hovers at around 20 percent. You should know that as soon as the ETA failed, we tried a Caliber 3285, but it was also eventually rejected. Your Grand Seiko ticked for almost ninety seconds with the Caliber 3285 inside. Be happy that life was restored, if only for a minute and a half.

“There are a million reasons movement transplants fail. Sometimes the beat rate isn’t compatible, sometimes the watch reacts to the alloy used in the transplanted mainspring, sometimes the patient is rusted or brittle, or sometimes the escapement resonates wrong inside the patient. Often we just don’t know why; the souls of the transplant and the transplantee just aren’t compatible.”

The watchmaker paused, waiting for Daniel to reply.

Daniel scratched his chin and surveyed his shoes.

"Caliber 3285. Rolex's next generation GMT Master II movement. You know it?

“Yeah, of course.” Daniel shuffled his feet.

Photo by Josh Mintz
“The 3285 incorporates the new Chronergy escapement patented by Rolex, which combines high energy efficiency with great dependability. Made of nickel‑phosphorus, it is also insensitive to magnetic interference. The oscillator, the true heart of the watch, has an optimized blue Parachrom hairspring, which is also up to 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks."

Daniel was certain the man was parroting a passage from a Rolex brochure. Daniel didn’t know if that was supposed to make him feel better, but the words weren’t comforting in the slightest. "Oh. And it didn't take?"

"As I said, the 3285 was rejected." The watchmaker clasped his hands together. "I'm sorry to bring you more bad news, but unlike the ETA, the 3285 isn't covered by insurance, so you're going to have to pay for that movement out-of-pocket." The watchmaker rubbed his thumb and forefinger together.

"I see." Tears flowed from Daniel's eyes, like the parted waters of the Red Sea. The air Daniel gulped was devoid of oxygen. Daniel’s legs wobbled, the room lightened like an overexposed photograph. Daniel grabbed onto the watchmaker’s stool. As his vision swirled, Daniel saw the watchmaker’s face hardening, the muscles surrounding his jaw tightening, like he was t from human into zombie.

Daniel wiped his face with his sleeve. "May I see my watch? It's a Glacier." It was so beautiful. I hope I can take it home and keep it in a watch box with a glass top.

"I'm afraid not." The watchmaker’s lips twitched. He watchmaker tugged on his immaculate, white, starched lab coat with a gold clock in the shape of the Prague Astronomical Clock stitched over the left breast pocket. He fitted the loupe back over his left eye.

He doesn't have to hit me over the head with the cyclops look. He's already said I'm going to have to pay for a Rolex movement. Anger swelled in Daniel's belly, displacing his melancholy. I get it.

“Your deceased watch is now evidence.” Daniel’s brow grew fleshy lines. The watchmaker continued. "We performed an autopsy, as required by law.” The watchmaker stomped his foot, causing his instruments to bounce on his workbench. A spring bar tool and micrometer fell to the floor. “How could you? Damn you." The blood drained out of the watchmaker’s tight fist. A fingernail inside that fist broke like a brittle twig. Daniel retreated a step backwards from the impending punch to the belly.

"How could I what?" Daniel asked. “Just say it. There's nothing else you can say that would make me feel worse than I already do.”
Photo by Kaozie De Wolf

"You didn't screw down the crown before taking a shower, did you?" His sentence didn’t sound like a question at all. The watchmaker's brown eye loomed at Daniel through the loupe, a prehistoric dinosaur peering from the past. "We see that sometimes. It's easy to spot, unambiguous. You were negligent, Mr. Wells, grossly negligent."

"I don't think so. I'm supremely careful with my SBGA387. It's my favorite watch, a limited edition. I've always treated it with kid gloves. I take care of all my Grand Seikos beautifully; I have five you, know. I even carry a cloth to keep the crystal clear and the case fingerprint-free. Daniel retrieved a beige microfiber cloth from his pocket, which he waved like a flag of surrender. "See."

The watchmaker stiffened his spine, flung his arm high, and snapped his fingers. When the footsteps were in hearing range, Daniel spun around. Two boulders wearing New York City Police uniforms clicked feet in unison as they walked like they were in a parade to where Daniel stood. Visions of escape flashed through his head. Images of spending his remaining decades free on a South American beach, surrounded by bikini clad women with their gold Credors and jewel-encrusted Daytonas sparking in the sunshine filled his mind for scant seconds, until two iron arms locked onto his arms, shattering his daydream.

"Nooo! This isn't fair! I didn't do anything." Daniel’s feet flailed as the men in blue lifted him off the ground.

"Negligent water damage. That's twenty years to life. And you deserve it."

Daniel’s vocal cords paralyzed. He mouthed, “no, no, no.”

"You'll have your day in court, Mr. Wells. But it's going to end badly for you. Justice will be served." The watchmaker spat at Daniel as he was dragged out of the shop.

Photo by Samuel Chan

Thanks to everyone on the Grand Seiko Owners Club for their great photos. 

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