Off Topic: Dr Robert Graves and the second hand

The time is out of joint.

When time grew close, I discovered time. Which is to say, I guess, that I emerged from the first lockdown tending a new fascination with mechanical wristwatches. It's shameful in a way - wrongly, I had always associated watches and the people who love them with a certain kind of sneering conservatism. Watches the size of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups glinting and twitching on huge wrists. But I had read an essay by William Gibson about his own discovery of watches at the same time that he discovered very early eBay back in the nineties. I was hooked by the magic of the watch word horde: escapement, movement, complication. I was hooked too by something he refers to as the "Tamagotchi gesture". This is the fact that a mechanical watch needs its owner. It needs caring - to wind, to reset the time, to spin the day date window through its lazy cycles.

Something else. I was fascinated by what Gibson refers to as a "medical chapter ring". This is a border around the watch face on certain watches, marked with indents that allow a person to keep track of a pulse - their own or someone else's. Around the time I learned about this I was becoming interested with a nineteenth century physician named Dr Robert Graves. Graves was the first to describe Grave's disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid. He was a friend of Turner and once saved a bunch of people on a sinking ship by fixing the pumps using leather from his shoes. Oh yes, and you know the second hand on a watch? The rumour is that he invented it.

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About the author

Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.


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