Back in early 2009, as my transition was getting under way, I made two very expensive purchases. One was a TAG Heuer ladies watch. The other was a Prada handbag. The watch cost £950. The handbag cost £910. I never bought anything else so expensive as these two items. But they met an important need. Both were props to shore up my battered self-worth and self-confidence. The bag especially attracted attention of the right sort from interested women, and led to several positive conversations that boosted my morale. They also said to anyone who saw them that I had money (which I did, at the time), and that I shouldn't be casually dismissed as yet another tranny living on benefits, someone to laugh at and perhaps punch in the face. They made people pause, and see me as an individual. They bought me space when I most needed it.
Of course, the price tags were outrageous. But these luxury accessories did the job. Nobody ever laughed at me. Nobody punched me in the face. And gradually I learned to walk through my new world without brandishing a shield.
I still use the Prada bag. Actually, more than ever - because it's the only posh bag I have that will swallow (a) my Sony tablet, and (b) a change of shoes and a light raincoat. It still looks good, and I still carry it proudly.
The TAG Heuer watch has been less successful. It's too understated to get the same attention as the bag. To remind you, this is what it looks like:
The day after I bought this watch in January 2009 in Watches of Switzerland at Brighton - spending that £950 - I went into Argos at Burgess Hill, and bought a cheap backup ladies watch, this Timex:
Guess how much for the Timex? It cost only £11.75. And yet it had in many ways nicer styling, its simplicity and plainness giving it as much elegance, in its own way, as the vastly more expensive TAG Heuer. The Timex's black strap was made of leather. Both watches had the same type of electronic movement. Both used a battery. It made you wonder what was the difference, apart from such superficialities as the brand name, type of strap, and the exterior finish.
To be sure, the TAG Heuer was, externally, the more impressive, and better suited to a posh occasion. But it sacrificed a lot to style, and possessed a silly flaw: the date window was so small that you couldn't make out what the date was.
In the end, both watches did no more than tell you the time. Both seemed equally accurate. But I thought the
Timex won hands down on clarity.
So when the TAG Heuer's second battery in three years expired, I did some thinking. The cost of a replacement battery would be around £70. Why? Because the watch had a fancy seal that made it totally waterproof, not only in the shower but a long way under water. As if I was ever going to stroll around on the sea bed! But every time the watch was opened, a fresh seal had to be fitted. That meant sending it away for at least a month. So I faced a long wait, a big bill, and the same thing again every two years. It was time to put the TAG Heuer quietly away, and turn to the still-pristine Timex, whose battery had just expired after lasting three years.
It was all done in less than five minutes at H Samuel. One new lithium battery popped in for £9.50.
One Timex watch up and running.
One giant step for mankind.
My particular Timex watch is still made, but it now costs about £25 online, or £30 if you get it from Timex's own website. But most watches in their range cost rather more. It's still an inexpensive brand though. You can pay a couple of thousand for a snazzy big-name timepiece that has the same electronics inside. And if you want a wind-up Rolex or similar, you are talking silly money. The joke is, nowadays nearly everyone carries a mobile phone, and that will give you the time. So what is that thing on your wrist really for?
And what is the point of having a watch at all, when nothing is punctual, not trains or buses, not Big Ben on the digital radio, not other people, and least of all yourself? Watches, however fancy, have never made me run on time.