Thursday, February 16, 2012

One more, and he'll have a flush of (flushed) watches!

I was amused to read of a street cleaner in England who's found no less than four extremely expensive wristwatches in the sewers of his town. The Daily Mail reports:

He was already in line for a five-figure windfall after finding a Rolex watch in a drain.

Now contractor Arron Large could treble his money to £60,000 [about US $95,000] after discovering three more expensive watches.

The 28-year-old spotted the first timepiece while jet-washing a roadside drain a week ago.

Rather than quietly pocketing it, he handed it in to police who told him he could keep it if no one claimed it within 30 days.

The day after speaking to the Daily Mail about his good fortune, he found an identical watch in a drain 100 yards away.

Hours later, another two watches turned up in the same place where he made his first lucrative discovery. Experts say the four watches would cost £60,000 to replace.

Mr Large, from Rayleigh, Essex, said: ‘I told my colleague, “You’re not going to believe me but I’ve found another one”.

‘He said “Shut up” but when I took it out and wiped it off, I realised it was another Rolex. Then I found the other two. It’s quite amazing.

'To be honest, it’s baffled everybody. Perhaps they were stolen and hidden there. Or maybe someone had a guilty conscience and dumped them there.’

. . .

A [police] spokesman said: ‘We are keeping all lines of inquiry open, and these include the possibility that these watches may have been hidden by a criminal looking to dispose of stolen goods.’

There's more at the link. Here's a video report about the find.

I've never understood the fascination of very expensive timepieces. To me, a watch is a utilitarian item. I buy it to tell the time - not as a piece of jewelry or an ostentatious display of wealth. Still, for those who can afford them, I'm sure they get a lot of satisfaction out of owning masterpieces like these four watches. I'd love to know whose they were, and how they ended up in the sewer! Kudos, too, to Mr. Large for handing them in. Honesty like that is all too rare nowadays.



Old NFO said...

That it is... and those ARE nice watches!!!

Sevesteen said...

From the link:

Essex Police have established the first Rolex was made in Singapore and bought in Hong Kong. It has not been reported stolen.

I'm 99% certain that the Rolex is a fake, worth well under $100. A real Rolex would be made in Switzerland rather than Singapore, and would not have "ROLEX" engraved on the back as the one in the video did.

Douglas2 said...

When I was working on digital radio broadcasting I attended a broadcast engineering convention. I saw many pocket protectors and calculator watches, but the spookiest thing was the top of the hour, when there was only one rather diffuse simultaneous "beep" from all the watches worn by the hundreds of OCD engineers attending the lecture.

Once upon a time, it took a near mechanical marvel to have a reliable watch accurate to within seconds a day, sized to fit on your wrist.

Also, such a product in such a hostile environment would need to be protected from corrosion and scratches. So accordingly the crystal was, well, glass crystal, and is lately often synthetic sapphire. And the case is corrosion-free (and reasonably allergy free) gold.

So to spend the money required for such an exquisitely engineered and crafted item made from precious materials indicated that time was of great value to you. I suspect for some it was (the association of watches with railroads..) For others, a mark of status or conspicuous consumption. Rather like a top digital SLR camera today, I would think -- for some, the best is what they want because it will be an advantage to their craft, other people just want to be seen to have the best, or hope that by having the outward trappings of the most skilled photographers, that is what they will be perceived t be.

We have other markers of "I'm important enough to need the latest technology" today. One of the primary ones in my adulthood has been the various generations of smaller and smaller mobile phones., and then bigger and bigger multi-role smart phones. Lately perhaps it is the ipad or other touchscreen tablet computer -- I see colleagues drooling over them and conspiring to come up with plausible purposes why one must be requisitioned for them.

I've got the Swiss automatic watch given to my favorite grandfather when he retired in the early '60's. It is a wonderful artifact of the most advanced miniature mechanical engineering of the time, and also an item of jewelry. And it is a burden. I can neither let it just sit in a box, nor wear it when I might be in humid places - either would be detrimental to its continued functionality. I must periodically get the movement cleaned and lubricated, and as it is a "difficult" model it usually ends up getting posted back to Switzerland by the local watchmaker.

As late as 30 years ago the ubiquitous Seiko or Swatch style inexpensive quartz analog watch was still a fairly expensive item, and the common American wind-up watches that sold in discount stores for under $50 were really pretty awful in terms of accuracy and longevity.

Anyway, some of the residual prestige and glamour associated with fine watches still exists -- remember that Ian Fleming put in a lot of detail about a character's wristwatch, and he woulnd't have done so if he didn't think that it would convey meaning to the reader. Hence, there is still a marked for the jewelry/tech-marvel/status-marker type of wristwatch.
And they are still little marvels of mechanical engineering. Which reminds me, I've always intended to pick up one of those $60 Seiko self-winding watches, when it's the end of the world as we know it, I can tell time.