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May 31, 2019

The Times, They Are A Changing

Charlotte, one of our Sensory Inspirers in Dumfries & Galloway, tells us about the changing face of accessible timepieces.

Years ago, when I could see and had a job, I loved gazing into the windows of jewellers’ shops. It wasn’t the bling; what fascinated me was those windows full of watches. Basically all the same but all so, so different. 

I myself used several watches, depending on what I was doing. An ancient, digital Casio for when I was gardening or out on the boat; a classy wee Swatch for work, stark, white face and black strap and numerals. For anything posh, either my Mother’s gold watch, delicate strap and tiny numerals or my own 21st birthday present, brushed steel and rectangular, electric blue face. Very seventies! If I’d had the money, I would have had more - like Elton John and his specs!

However, when things began to deteriorate, I had to admit the only option was a talking watch. Well, not quite. First of all, I bought what the RNIB catalogue called a ‘braille watch’. Except it isn’t, it’s a tactile thing; with the glass on a hinge, allowing its wearer to tap the hands to discover exactly what the time is. 

That’s the theory. It disnae work. Every time I tapped the hands, I knocked them off the correct time and I couldn’t see well enough to readjust it. Not only that, the opening glass made the innards susceptible to its surroundings. The whole shebang bunged up with dog hair. Making it suitable only for someone using a white stick who had good eyesight. 

This left me bumbling around with only the haziest notion of time. Fair enough if indoors with the radio or listening for the kirk clock when out in the garden. Totally useless if attempting any semblance of normal life. Remember, this was back in the nineties. Not a talking mobile to be heard.  I capitulated and bought my first talking watch. Now, these are great. The model I used not only shouted out the time, in a clear, androgynous English accent, it also had a normal dial. Anyone who hadn’t noticed my Guide Dog would assume this was how I told the time. However, the wee buttons which adjust the time being easy to adjust, are equally easy to knock. I was frequently resetting the time or the alarm. No sighted assistance necessary. However, I couldn’t sort out the hands and eventually, they would be showing what was probably the time for Valparaiso, totally useless for Wigtownshire. 

Anyway, there’s a big disadvantage with a talking watch. No, I don’t mean when the thing becomes elderly and starts buzzing like a demented wasp. No, it’s the fact it well, talks. 

Maybe it’s my age but I consider there are many situations where it’s downright rude to check the time in an obvious manner. Especially if everyone within several yards will hear a disembodied, wee voice making the announcement. 

So, I bought a Silent T. A watch designed so a business man can check the time during a meeting without drawing attention to the fact he has become bored. Press the winder and the glass vibrates. All the wearer has to do is run a finger around the face. 

It is a fiddle to adjust the time; the ideal would be two; one set to BST the other to GMT. And, it isn’t cheap, not compared to the standard, shouting versions. I don’t mean the cost is in the stratosphere of Rolex but it is into three figures. Much the same as any good quality timepiece. Being silent, no one knows you’re becoming bored at some interminable meeting. A stylish, good quality watch and there is a great kick from telling others the correct time, leaving them puzzled as how you did it. I let them think it’s my Guide Dog!

Another solution is the Bradley. A similar price but again, totally silent. With a range of straps and colours. Some might resist it because it so doesn’t look like a watch. With its silently whizzing ball bearings. For me, that’s part of its appeal. I just wish I could see others squinting at it and their expressions as they try to work out what it is. Well, I suppose everything has to have one disadvantage.

Image of Craig MacLagan
Written by
Craig MacLagan

Area Co-ordinator for Stewartry and Wigtownshire, See Hear project