Friday, 13 July 2012

Cheap wins out

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.


  1. I run on time and I don't even use a watch...

    Perhaps ebay for the tag...

  2. I'm the same as Caroline. In fact I cannot get a watch to work on my wrist at all. Many years ago I had seven watches at one time and they all gave up after less than twelve months. They were mechanical watches. I decided to buy an electronic watch and that one faoiled after a short time too! The only watch that I have ever been able to wear without any problems was a gents watch (long before my transition) and I am at this moment trying to remember the make but I was able to dive down to 100 feet should I have needed to. As it happens I took it down to 70 feet on numerous scuba-dives without any problems. It was also a watch that could indicate the ambient temperature either whilst it was being worn or when it wasn't. There was a compensating temperature sensor inside the back plate to take into account my body heat. I had access to accurate temperature measuring equipment at work in those days and I checked my watches accuracy one day. It was accurate to within 0.1 C at 21 C. Not bad for a wrist watch. I am still trying to remember the make, no I've got was a Casio. Not I suppose rated as one of the best makes but they certainly knew how to make the model I was wearing! That watch was given to me eldest son I think but I've not seen it since but you are right about cheap watches, they are often best value for money. I don't think the Casio was that expensive but maybe a tad more than one would normally pay for a reasonably priced timepiece. I had that watch for a number of years. After my transition I bought myself a watch very similar to your TAG one but nowhere like as expensive. It is an electronic watch and very feminine and slim. However it ceased working about8 years ago but I am not sure if it has any major problems but it stopped working one day. It might just need a battery. In any event I stopped wearing a watch then, 8 years ago and I don't miss them. I can always find the time from my mobile phone if I need to. As for bags, well I don't have anything expensive but I do have one or two nice ones, nothing I could put a pair of shoes and a raincoat in as well as all the other stuff I normally have in my bag. I imagine the Prada is a very nice bag but it must be quite large to accomodate what you carry. I only carry a large bag on rare occasions.

    Shirley Anne x


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