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Untimely watches

November 4, 1983



America's been back on standard time a week now, but lots of us still wear untimely watches. We're the ones with new-fangled digital timepieces that have numbers but no hands: Trouble is, we can't figure out how to set them back.

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It always used to be so simple: Just pull out the watch stem, and whirl the minute hand back one revolution.

No longer. Many modern watches have neither hands nor stems; you set most of them by pushing little buttons in some mysterious pattern. Usually it doesn't help to read the instructions, evidently translated from Japanese to English by someone who speaks neither.

One fumble-finger we know tattooed every button but still couldn't change the hour. But he did unwittingly cause his watch's alarm to go off at 7:05 the next morning when his spouse was trying to sleep in. The watch - and very nearly he - was instantly banished to the garage.

In exasperation he stowed the timepiece away until next spring's start of daylight-saving time, and now wears an old Mickey Mouse watch. That may be the ultimate answer: Own two watches, set an hour apart.

Of course, while some of us are perplexed, a few are smiling. They're the ones whose watches have been an hour off since April 26, when daylight-saving started. For the first time in six months they're right on time.