Many digital wrist watches that are normally accurate to within a few seconds a year have been off by about 3,600 seconds during recent weeks.

This is especially true of the complicated watches that tell you the day, the date and the hours, minutes and seconds in two time zones, while at the same time beeping an alarm when it's time to take a pill and serving as a stopwatch if you want to find out -- to the hundredth of a second -- how long it takes to swallow the pill.

The problem, I am told, is that watch owners lose or mislay their instruction booklets. When I noticed that a friend's fine watch was an hour early, he explained, "I wanted to set it back an hour when we went back to standard time, but it's just too complicated, even when You've got the booklet in front of you, and I don't know where my booklet is. I figure the hell with it. In April when we go back to daylight time my watch will be right again."

When I got to the office, I ran into Herblock at our favorite water fountain. I said, "Herb, would you believe that some people who own digital watches are still on daylight time because they don't know how to reset their watches?"

Herb didn't say a word. He just held up his wrist so that I could see the time on his watch. He was precisely one hour fast.

"All you have to do is remember to subtract 3,600 seconds," I noted.

"Right," he said. "Then multiply by 1.8 and that gives the time in Fahrenheit, except for February, which has 28." Plus tax, of course.

I still have my booklet and can occasionally figure out how to reset my watch. My problem is that after a year the watch needed a new battery recently, but Chafitz hasn't had my size in stock for almost a month.

I finally found a battery in a hardware store, but I can't install it because I don't have the special wrench one needs to unscrew the back of a Texas Instruments watch.

Frankly, life was simpler when I carried an Ingersoll watch that sold for $1.

I think it had a lifetime battery. You recharged it by twisting back and forth on a little knob on the top of the watch. THE CHILDREN ARE DEPENDING ON US

Scott Chase is doing his level best to continue this page's long tradition of helping Children's Hospital, but thus far this year's campaign hasn't developed overwhelming momentum.

If our campaign can come to life as effectively as Dallas awoke after drooping through its first quarter against the Redskins, the hospital will end up with enough money to provide one more year of medical help for needy children. I hope you'll pitch in and help Scott reach that goal. The children are depending on us -- and if you and I let them down, there is nowhere else for them to turn.

For 110 years, Children's Hospital has been dedicated by its charter to the service of needy children of every race and creed. Has mankind ever undertaken a project more worthy of support than making sick children well? What would Our Town be like if you and I failed to raise enough money to cover the built-in deficit, and Children's Hospital could no longer help the poor?

Before something distracts you, please get out your checkbook and write a tax-deductible check to the order of Children's Hospital.

Send it to Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

The strike threat is over for the hospital's loyal supporters at the Telephone Company, thank goodness, but inflation continues to frighten many of us into retrenchment. Most charity campaigns are failing to meet their quotas this year.

We simply cannot permit that kind of fear psychology to rob our children of the health care they need and deserve.

When people ask me, "How much should a person give?" I reply, "Until they've given enough to feel good about what they've done." Few things I've encountered recently have warmed my heart as well as Scott's recent report of the arrival of the "widow's mite" of $5. I wish I could give that wonderful woman a hug of appreciation, but I can't. My wife doesn't let me hug any females over 12, which happens to be the age of the World's Greatest Granddaughter. WHEN DO THE STUDENTS STUDY?

Bob Orben mourns: "I have stocks that have gone lower than the attendence record at an Iranian school." OH, THAT'S MEAN!

W. M. O'C. writes: "Did you see the little news item that Cleveland is $74 million deeper in debt than the mayor thought?

"Who the hell has been running that town -- Chrysler?"