Charamand: A Timeless Piece

Wahib Charamand, Op-Ed Contributor

Sharp edges. Ceramic bezel. Sapphire glass. Intricate blue dial. Blue subdials. Subtle sweep second hand. Open back exposing intricate caliber. Titanium bracelet.


Sept. 3, 2008, 3:54 p.m. I was five years old. I found myself no longer on the playground, but staring at the ceiling of a speeding ambulance, remembering only that instant I toppled from the monkey bars. My vision was blurry, but I recognized my mother by my side, her cries piercing my ears. Then, darkness. As I lay in my hospital bed days later, I noticed my grandfather slip a cold solid mechanism into my hands, admiring its gentle glisten contrast against the harsh ultraviolet light. It was his treasured pocket watch, purchased at the Khan El-Khalili souk on his 1973 trip to Cairo. He had been inseparable from his watch for nearly 35 years.

May 27, 2018, 9:37 a.m. I rediscovered the watch 10 years later while packing for my family’s move to our new home. I viewed it with newfound appreciation — as more than a simple “get well soon” gift. I was intrigued; it ignited in me a curiosity and respect for timepieces.

From there, my passion for watches was born. I delved deep into research, studying the development of the modern chronograph and the evolution of automatic watches into quartz watches. I dissected the caliber of a watch and analyzed the mechanics: the way the rotor supplies a watch’s mechanical energy by winding the mainspring, or how each position of the crown can have a completely different use like winding the watch or changing its date or time. I came to understand how the escapement of a watch ensures its precision and learned to appreciate its technical complexity and elegant fluidity.

Aug. 4, 2020, 6:07 p.m. The largest non-nuclear explosion in history rocked the capital’s port. The house was a wreck. Glass shards littered the floors and blinding clouds of dust filled the room. I desperately tried to feel my way around the walls to find my father. Time stopped. Everything froze. The concept of time dawned on me. To me, time had always been a quantitative entity, constantly increasing in value. But time was no longer objective, organized and absolute. It became subjective, chaotic and undefined. These few seconds changed my life.

Before this devastating event, I thought a watch’s value was defined only by the quality of its components, reflecting the personal worth of the individual. Sharp edges and a ceramic bezel symbolize strength under pressure; sapphire-coated glass, class and elegance. A blue dial means creativity and limitless possibilities; the titanium bracelet, resilience; and an exposed caliber symbolizes candor and transparency. I thought if I were a watch, that would be the type of watch I’d want to be because those were the characteristics I aspire to emulate.

Time is infinite. I realize now that the true value of a watch comes from its original purpose and its steward. It is not a reflection of its components but of its functionality and its owner. A watch is a timekeeper, a reminder of the memories and events that have shaped one’s life.

If I were a watch, I would want to be the watch passed down from one generation to the next as a proud reflection of my life and legacy. I would want to be the watch that survives the hardships of a country repeatedly shattered by crises. I would want to be the watch that instills the hope that Helen Keller once said, “sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.” I would want to be the watch that carries the wisdom of the past and the vision of the future. Most importantly, I would want to be the watch that endlessly inspires future generations to be their own watches. A timeless piece.

Wahib Charamand is a McCormick School of Engineering sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.