The Tale of The Watch: A True
American Odyssey, er, Oddity


Once upon a time many years ago people concerned about minority programming in public broadcasting met at the offices of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It was the summer of 1978 and they settled in for a long day of meetings.

The group included Dr. William Mason, a scholar in the somnolent sciences; Dr. Thomas Hardy, a specialist in oracular circumnavigation; and Richard Gingras, a prodigious curmudgeon well known for knowing much about very little. The group was guided by Daniel del Solar, Esquire, a graduate of Harvard College, a compulsive conspiracy theorist, and a descendant of a long line of South American revolutionaries and ne'er-do-wells.

The six pound Seiko Datamatic, a jewel-encrusted masterpiece of chronographic functionality and elegance.

Daniel, while fretting fearfully about the "radioactive waves" emanating from the Russian Embassy next door, bravely focused on the day-long meeting on behalf of "good intentions." That and the promise of lunch. At the close of the morning session, we made a quick exit to a local Chinese restaurant.

As the group sauntered along M street enjoying the warm summer sunshine, Daniel spied a swarthy gentleman sitting in a car parked at the curb with the door open. As the group passed him, Daniel, while deep in animated discussion with himself, heard the the gentleman say, " Hey meester, you wanna buy a watch?"



The group laughed and kept walking, unsure whether Daniel was engaged in a meaningless encounter with a street vendor or completing a quick rendezvous with his longtime Agency handler. Unnoticed by his associates, Daniel stopped and hastily went over to consider the vendor's wares. As the group entered the restaurant, Daniel was nowhere to be seen. Concerned or not, hey proceeded to order. A short while later Daniel ran in and exclaimed excitedly, "Look at the bargain I just scored! It's a Seiko Datomatic! And it was only $15!" We sympathetically advised that you can't buy a watch of that caliber on the street but Daniel quickly countered, "It looks genuine to me!"

As he struggled to pass the watch around the table, we couldn't help but notice its heft. It seemed far more than a watch, possibly an Incan idol, a talus from the Taj Mahal, or the missing prize from a very large box of Crackerjack?

The close group of friends rallied to Daniel's side and many supportive comments ensued: what are the watch seller's store hours? Does he take exchanges? How do you arrange to meet this rolling dealer of fine chronographs? Does he handle repairs? How about routine maintenance?

With the thoughtful support of his friends, Daniel kept and wore The Watch proudly, though now he walked with a list, had difficulty shaking hands, and ironically, seldom knew the correct time.

Daniel left the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and took a position in New York City for several months. As time passed, Daniel began to feel that the burden of the watch was more than he could carry -- both figuratively and literally. He sent a message to Dr. Mason guiding him to pick up a package from one of Daniel's "friends". Sure enough, the package -- which was only slightly smaller than a global shipping container -- contained The Watch. Mason was now its new keeper. He was to cherish and protect it for until death, unless he could pass it on to another of the Four Watchmen of the Apocalypse who would do likewise.

Several years later The Watch was passed on to Mr. Gingras in California, who maintained and honored The Watch for over a decade, adopting a long term responsibility that no others would even consider. The Watch lived well in California, maintained good time, ticking its way through to the new millenium. At that portentious time, Dr. Hardy accepted the crucible of Watch oversight.

With a mixture of relief, reluctance, and a rash of resignation, Mr. Gingras removed The Watch from its sacred resting place and arranged for cross-country transport. With the capable support of the Dutch airline KLM, and at considerable expense to Mr. Gingras, the watch was mounted on the back of a 747 and flown to Washington. There, on the evening of May 16th, 2001 in a candlelight ceremony infused with sacred beverages it was honorably conveyed to Dr. Hardy.     

The Four Watchmen, or at the least a majority quorum of the Four, will meet in May of 2002 to determine the next in the long line of successive Watch bearers. It is an honor that many desire but few can righteously accept.

The Four Watchmen