HERE AT THE FAST-BREAKING POP

Trend Desk, our crack staff is constantly scouring the streets for the absolute latest. And this is it: The All-Purpose Professional Electronic Alarm Stopwatch, sometimes sold as the Sports Professional Timer.

Made in Hong Kong, sold mainly by street vendors and at flea markets, this is Washington's hot item of the summer. It comes in all kinds of bright colors and weighs next to nothing. Its cheap plastic casing features three udder-like protrusions surrounding a standard digital display. All this hangs from a snazzy string around the neck.

The stopwatch craze started with the kids at Fletcher-Johnson Educational Center in Southeast, or so say Eric Dunmore and pals. "It's the thing right now," Eric, an eighth grader, reports. "This is the style coming out of Fletcher-Johnson."

The electronic stopwatch sells for anywhere from $2 to $5 on the street, tells time, emits a sick little alarm sound and -- assuming you can figure out the incredibly complex configuration of necessary movements -- even acts, as its name implies, as a stopwatch.

None of which makes the slightest difference to the kids at Fletcher- Johnson, nor to thousands of others who have the things dangling around their necks this summer.

"We just wear them for style," Eric says, which we here at the Trend Desk should have known.

Our investigators have uncovered these Stopwatch Trend Facts:

They are popular because they are popular. "Things go up and down," says Bert Greenberg of United Wholesalers, which doesn't truck with these particular things. "No one had the wildest idea that it would get hot. It's word of mouth. Who's to know?"

Somehow, the city's Korean import companies knew. They're the folks who brought in the stopwatches. They buy them for anywhere from $1 to $2.50 each. Song Nam Young, a Northeast importer, distributes thousands of the things to vendors downtown, in Georgetown and at markets around the city.

"This is the best thing ever," he says. "But soon they will be no good because everyone has them." The importer says he first discovered the stopwatches last winter at a wholesaler's New York showroom. He thought the vibrant colors might help the trinkets catch on as a teen fashion. He was right.

One last fact, which the Trend Desk admittedly is reluctant to divulge: D.C., while surely a town on the crest of your better fads, may have been a tiny bit behind on this one. Kay Kim of J&C Wholesale in Baltimore just laughed and laughed when she heard about Washington's latest craze.

"No more," she said. "Stopwatches very popular last month. Used to be. You're too late. Dead now. Finished."