The pocketwatch was a gift from my wife. It was a railroadman's pocketwatch, the type conductors would remove from their vest pockets to see if the train would be arriving on time in Chicago. It has large railroad-style numberals and a smal circle of numbers where the six should be that counts off the seconds. There is an engraving of a diesel locomotive on the reverse -- it appeas to be an EMD F-9 -- and the watch is attached to a gold chain to match its gold case.

I did not need a pocketwatch. For fourteen years I had worn a dull but reliable wristwatch that ran consistently two minutes late. Why buy another watch? You can only use one at a time. But my wife wanted to buy me something I did not need, something I coveted but would not buy for myself. And so it was that I came into possession of a pocketwatch.

At first I wore both watches. I felt naked without a watch on my wrist. But within several weeks I had weaned myself from the wristwatch and became basically a pocketwatch person. It wasn't long before I discovered that like other objects that belong to anothe era, a pocket-watch has both advantages and problems.

The major disadvantage cropped up at boring parties and long meetings when I wanted to know how much longer I had to suffer before being able to sneak out. With a wristwatch, a subtle stretch and twist of the wrist would reveal the time. There is no subtle way to look at a pocketwatch. I also found myself, through years of habit, looking at my bare wrist when I want to know the time. An embarrassing moment if one is not alone.

Since I'm not big on jewelry, it feels strange to have a gold chain draped across my vest or, more often, cascading down the side of my pants into my pocket. Also, I now have to make sure I buy pants that have a little pounch hidden inside the pants pocket so the watch is secure and protected from keys and loose change.

Then there are the days I arrive at work, still groggy from too little sleep, only to discover that I put on both watches. This was not the same as during the first several weeks when I wore both watches, the difference being akin to shaking pepper on your french fries because you like it that way rather than because you thought you had picked up the salt.

As mentioned, there are strong points to wearing a pocketwatch.

When one wants to really dress up, nothing can beat a pocketwatch for adding that extra touch of class. It is a conversation piece nonpareil. It's also extremely impressive to be asked the time and, with great ceremony, remove the pocketwatch, extend it the length of the chain, cup it in the palm of your hand, and say "It's a quarter to five." In fact, pocketwatch owners often maneuver other people into asking them for the time so they can go through this ritual.

And as for being able to wear only one watch at a time: it's not unlike having a pair of black shoes and a pair of brown shoes. There's a proper occasion for each. that like other objects that belong to anothe era, a pocket-watch has both