I made an unwelcome discovery after the clocks changed at the end of March, when I tried to reset the hands of my Mondaine Swiss railway watch and the little knob for adjusting them wouldn't engage with them. I fiddled with it gently, and all that happened was that it fell out of the watch entirely. I felt highly aggrieved, since I loved the red second hand of the Mondaine without reason. How dare it break when I'd had it practically no time at all, and just after I'd forked out on a new battery?
Trying to work out how long I'd had it I checked my Amazon account, and found that I'd ordered a new strap for it in August 2011. That made it older than I remembered, and suggested I'd bought it some time in 2010. I wondered sadly how much it would cost to repair, and decided the answer was probably a lot, and not necessarily worth it given that the strap needed replacing imminently as well. And I don't think there is a Mondaine stockist in Colchester. It had to be admitted that it was an expensive watch to run. The batteries never lasted more than a week beyond their one year guarantee, and the Mondaine straps cracked so quickly that after I'd bought the first branded replacement I switched to just choosing a red one that fitted. I put the pieces away in a small box in case I ever did decide to get it repaired, while still feeling disgruntled that Swiss branded engineering ought to be good for more than six or seven years.
Meanwhile I needed a watch for wearing out of doors, so that I would know when I was supposed to come in again. This will be an unfamiliar problem to modern people who carry their smart phones with them at all times, but I do not take my phone with me when I'm gardening. It certainly wouldn't last a quarter as long as the Mondaine had. The Systems Administrator suggested I follow his lead, and buy a cheap watch that lasts a couple of years until the battery runs out, at which point the SA replaces it. It is a sad indictment of our culture that it is much cheaper to buy an entire new watch than have a new battery fitted to the one you already have, but that's how it is.
I ordered a Ravel ladies watch on an elasticated metal bracelet with a very plain and legible face for less than a third of the cost of replacing the battery in the Mondaine, and was delighted with it for about a month, until I looked down at my wrist and discovered that the Ravel had water inside the glass. Not just a little mist, but great drops of water. I had not submerged it or done anything more aggressive than wear it while washing my hands or out in the garden, and was rather cross. Then followed a couple of tedious weeks of leaving it in the airing cupboard to dry, moving it in and out of the airing cupboard to encourage air movement in and out of the watch as it warmed and cooled, and shutting it in a snap top box with every sachet of silica gel we possessed. Nothing seemed to shift the water, and I took to wearing the watch anyway because it was so inconvenient having to refer to the muddy face of my gardening digital radio each time I wanted to know if I were late to lunch. After washing my hands one time it seemed to have even more water in it than it did before.
I gave it a one star review on Amazon, and ordered a unisex water resistant Casio. Casio is what the Systems Administrator always buys, and the SA swears that the batteries last two years. It is slightly larger than I'd like in an ideal world, but very plain, with a black plastic strap that seems comfortable enough, and all of the Amazon reviews were three stars or above with nobody saying that it leaked or broke after a month. It took so long to arrive that I thought that I or the Amazon vendor I bought it from ought to be paying to rent warehouse space from the Royal Mail, but cost less than a third of the price of a Mondaine battery, and provided the battery does last two years I'm guessing I'll be able to keep myself in Casios for a decade for less than the cost of getting the Mondaine repaired. It's a shame, though, as I did like the red second hand and the red strap.
It goes to show that there is an implicit bias in online reviews. I panned the Ravel when it filled with water after only a month, but I won't know for two years whether or not the Casio performs up to scratch, and even if it does will I remember to post a five star write up after all that time?