Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Naomi Zeichner writes about the Swatch Flik Flak.
The Swatch Flik Flak is a "teaching" watch, born in the year 1987 (like me) to forward the idea that learning to tell time can be amusing. For me, it really was. Growing up in northeast Georgia, I had no good sense of how long things should happen for. Between agenda points you’d always run in to someone, stop, and stall out. The city bus ran on god’s whim alone. In June of 1998 I went with my whole family to Zermatt, a mountain town in Switzerland where my parents hiked glaciers and camped out in the '70s, before they had kids. My dad is always too early to everything, but on that trip, he was at peace with the flow of things. No matter how urgently we needed to be anywhere, all the trains came and left exactly when they were supposed to. There was no need to feel rushed or worried that you might miss something that was meant to be.
After a week of long hikes, I took a day off from family vacation. I wrote in my journal about what CDs I should get for my birthday party when I got home ("The Boy is Mine" single) and then got out in the streets. My parents remembered Zermatt as a rugged-romance village with few visitors, but in the boom '90s it was full of luxury boutiques and Japanese tourists. People ogled over windows full of heavy-metal Patek Philippe watches and I was overwhelmed by the values those objects expressed: precision, certainty, control. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would every want to weigh themselves down like that. I looked at my vinyl Winnie the Pooh mini-purse and thought deeply, “not everything that looks good is expensive." I’d never worn a timepiece before but I wanted the power that comes with knowing what point in the itinerary you’re at. So I pointed my vacation cash towards product that honored ease, comfort, and adventure. My first watch was called “Happy Days”, with a sun on the face, Mario clouds on one side of the band and a starry night sky on the other.
Flik Flaks have glass that can’t scratch, light aluminum casing, and forgiving fabric straps. They don’t bust in the water so you can spill beer and coffee on them and its no problem if you forget to take them off in the shower or the sea. They’re analog but easy-as-digital to read because the minute times are written around the edge of the hour numbers, and the hands are color matched to the appropriate ring. People collect Swatches, but I don’t know why you would need more than just one. I wore my original for years, until the babydoll look of it didn’t feel right anymore and my first chunk—Nokia became my timekeeper. Now I have an iPhone and I touch it all day long. It's way more serious than my first battery-pack cell, and I hate pulling it out just to see how long past schedule I’ve been waiting for the bus, if it got late enough to go to the party. The new Flik Flak I picked up late this summer, my second-ever watch, helps me stay more hands-free. It’s a minimalist, adult-era version with a plain, bright scarlet strap that matches everything. Featherweight, I only notice it when I need its help so I can keep it moving, adjust and relax.