Old clickthings always have a story attached to them, and if we're lucky, it's revealed to us. The story of my great-grandfather's watch is exactly this way. I first met the watch when my sister and I would rummage through my mother's jewelry box. Here was this large, heavy railroad watch with some brassing on the case sitting in amidst the bracelets and necklaces. It didn't work any more, but it was still a family treasure, and thus too valuable to part with. I loved this watch, even though it was more inert than functional. I loved its spindly arms and delicate numerals, and the unfufilled promise of the small second-hand dial sitting where the "6" belonged. If you knew the secret, you could remove the back and admire all the intricate detailing inside the works, and the luxurious promise of a "nineteen jewel movement," (whatever that meant.)
Years later, The Watch (now capitalized in my mind) was restored and given to me for a college graduation gift. The crystal had been replaced, the setting/winding mechanism reconnected, the entire thing cleaned and brightened, and now it made the most subtle tick-tick-tick as the second hand swept through its miniature dial. The Watch now sat in a small cloth bag inside a bracelet box supplied by the jeweler who repaired it, and inside the box was a typed note that spelled out in a few sentences the life of the owner.
Born in Ohio, my great-grandfather moved with his family west to Kansas to homestead, but were driven back east but dust storms. He met my great-grandmother, and took a job as the switchman and telegraph operator on the railroad junction near his home. I imagine his thumb wearing the finish away from the case as he checked the schedules to know when to throw the switches to keep the lines running on time. The Watch passed through the family, landing in my care. Since that time I've carried it for two graduations, my wedding, the Christening of my children, and briefly as an everyday watch. It's since lived in three states beyond Ohio, had its mainspring replaced once, and its crystal replaced one. It's been neglected, then cleaned, then worn, and then dropped (argh!), and now just kept safe in a drawer, wound daily so that my children can share in the same whispered tick-tick-tick that a man four generations distant used to measure out his day.