Russell gave me a gold O***a watch for a wedding present, back in 1973. I had my portrait painted as a present for the man who had everything.
I used to get it cleaned and serviced at the excellent jeweller in Norwich that R’s family always used and they’d done some repairs to the gold strap over the years too. I wore it every day and – I was young in those days – didn’t always bother to take it off to wind it up, which put a strain on it. And then, after a decade or so of this, I realised it was costing me some £60 or so a year, apart from the strap repairs, and I bought a new watch for about that much and just brought out the original one for special occasions.
After a couple of years, the new watch broke down. So I took it back to the jewellers and it was repaired and then, soon after the guarantee ran out, it happened again. So I said, stuff it and bought a cheap watch instead, reckoning on simply throwing it away once it stopped working. This was fine, I replaced the battery when needed and it kept on going. Then I lost it.
It’s still a mystery. I took it off in the bathroom one night, forgot to put it back on after my bath and, the next day when I remembered, I couldn’t find it. And I’ve never seen it since. The bathroom has been redecorated and refurbished since then, there’s nowhere else it could have gone, but it vanished. I can only blame it on the Borrowers. My mother then bought me one from a second-hand shop – I was coming down and down in cost by then, i didn’t seem to do too well with watches. And then I bought an iPhone and, when that watch finally packed in, I didn’t bother to wear one again.
Then, last year, I wore my gold watch for Ro and Dora’s wedding and thought it would be nice to wear it again. But suddenly, a few months ago, it started racing – gaining about 15 minutes in every hour. So I took it back to the jeweller for repair. It turned out that they didn’t do it in-house any more, O***a demanded that they send it to them in Switzerland. It was going to cost a packet. But it was of immense sentimental value to me, so I said yes. Then, a few weeks later, I had a phone call from an embarrassed jeweller. O***a said that the strap wanted some work done on it too, at a cost of a further couple of hundred pounds. Plus VAT. I said, I know the watch is a bit fragile but I’m okay with that. Er, O***a insisted. They wouldn’t do the repair without it.
My fury was considerable, but they had me over a barrel. I said I’d think about it and let them know. And I decided I’d have to bite the bullet. Very reluctantly, I okayed it.
A few more weeks passed and the jewellers rang again. O***a couldn’t repair the watch and so were sending it back. At this point, I realised that this was the reason they’d insisted on doing the strap repair, to save themselves from admitting they didn’t know how to repair the watch itself, and they’d hoped I wouldn’t have it done at all.
The jeweller said that their own chap would have a look and that’s how it’s been left until a couple of days ago, when I was out and LT took a phone message to say that it’s ready. I don’t know how much it’ll cost, but I’m fairly confident it will be less than O***a. So, if I have any advice for any of you, it’s to think long and hard before buying an expensive Swiss watch. Because they’re not just mean and overpriced, but they can’t even repair their own products.