I used to have lots of Swatches

I used to have over twenty Swatches.

It was of course in those heady days when youth gave me the license to be profligate, but those artistic and inexpensive plastic watches did (and still do) have a lot of appeal to someone like me who went for style. For many years, they were coveted items for collection as well as speculation. I remember once a saleslady at a Swatch shop tried to sell me a watch. "This is a nice one and it is rare," she said. "It's from Japan." She was right. It looked nice, but I found the white flower on the face a bit too feminine and so left it. Some time later, in a shop that sold limited editions, I saw it again. Out of curiosity, I asked how much it was. The asking price for the watch with a big white flower on the face, which I could have bought from the Swatch shop for HKD300, was a staggering HKD1,500! I kicked myself for not listening to the saleslady.

However stylish those Swatches are, they are plastic electronic watches. Prolonged wearing damages the straps, which are mostly irreplaceable. The watches are also sealed in such a way that they do not lend themselves to be repaired should they be found not to be working. Credits to the company, some are still working well even after twenty years, but down the years, one after the other of my prized items have stopped ticking. No matter how good it looks, a watch that does not tell the time precisely or at all is rubbish. And in time to come my other Swatches will inevitably be having the same fate.

This is one big change that the modern generation has with the older ones. Before we entered the electronic age, consumer products like watches and cameras operated mechanically. When something went wrong, these items could and would be repaired. This, coupled with the fact that back then it took much longer for technological breakthough to happen, meant that the products had a fairly long lifespan. With the people generally not being very well off, it was not uncommon for a camera or a watch to be passed on from the father to the son. It is not unlike these days when product manufacturers just have a way to make you go for a new model every three years or so, even if your "old" one is in perfect condition.

Maybe that is part of what makes Hong Kong the world's largest garbage producer. And I am a culprit too, because included in the garbage are some of my old Swatches.

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