16 July 2008

On the Wrist

I've been buying (and selling) stuff on eBay for nearly a decade. It was a slog back in the days when I still had a dial-up internet connection, so lunchtime surfing became (and still is) a regular part of my workday. My long-term relationship with eBay came about because of my long-term interest in old watches. Not pocket watches (though there's nothing inherently wrong with those), but wristwatches, primarily mechanical watches from the 1960s and 1970s.

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved watches. I got my first one when I was in first grade; I think it was a Christmas present, but memories from that far back are getting a little fuzzy. It had one of those striped ribbon-type straps, and a piece of plastic surrounding the watch face that was supposed to resemble a saddle. (I was six, and didn't know any better, but that would change.) In ninth or tenth grade I got what was then a bold new bit of technology, an LCD watch. Never mind the LED models; I skipped right over those. But by the time I graduated from high school, I had a renewed appreciation for watches with hands.

These days, many people don't bother to wear a watch; when they want to know what time it is, they look at their cellphones. But to me, a watch is much more than a utilitarian object; it's a bit of style as well as a bit of substance. A well-chosen watch shows that you pay attention to the details. The best of them are little pieces of art that you attach to your wrist and carry around with you all day. I often look at my watch not to see what time it is, but just to appreciate the craftsmanship and style of it.

(I like modern watches too. A $30 quartz Timex will keep better time than a 40-year-old wind-up mechanical watch, even an expensive one, ever could, so I appreciate them for different reasons.)

Before the internet, I rarely came across old watches for sale, except for the occasional find at a flea market or antique store. So the discovery of a vast marketplace largely free of geographic limitations was a joyous occasion. The first item I ever bought on eBay was a watch. The most recent thing I bought on eBay was a watch, which leads me to what I was getting to all along: for the first time since I started using eBay, I received the wrong item.

According to the seller, the item was in its original packaging, and he did not look inside the box before shipping it to me. The watch I received was similar to the one shown in the listing (I'm guessing he used a stock image from the manufacturer's web site), but different enough to matter, to me at least, so I've returned it. As someone who has sold items on eBay, I question his explanation, but it's not worth making an issue of it, as long as he refunds my payment. I'll just have to keep looking, and the searching is at least half the fun of it.

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