Watches are more of a fashion accessory today than an instrument to tell the time. The watch showrooms in the city are clocking in time with the fashion meter, finds JETHU ABRAHAM

If time flies like an arrow then the device that facilitates it should definitely benefit a second look: And rightly so. The story of the watch that hugs your wrist today began countless centuries ago, and is as old as the history of the human race. Nature was the timekeeper then but as time itself rolled by small pieces of leather and steel took up that task.As the Elizabethan period dawned, the instrument, which told time, took an ornamental twist. A classic example: "I frown the while," says he; "and perchance wind up my watch, or play with my rich jewel" - The scene in Twelfth Night, in which Malvolio gloats while imagining his coming luxury when he would marry the heiress and enter upon a life of wealth and leisure. Malvolio's watch was a piece of jewellery, an ornament indicating wealth and splendour.Centuries gave way to people with different priorities and interests. The 60's and 70's saw the emergence of the "No nonsense" and "Value for money" watches, promoting one's individuality without setting the pocket on fire. The watch almost got its "only to look at time" synonym back. But style, like time can't be contained...

Style watch

One passing glance at the wrists that elbow their way through the bustling M. G. Road and you'll definitely think likewise. From snazzy fuchsia pink bare thread ones for that right jive at the disco to the intricate elegant ones that spell sophistication, they are all there.One can clearly see that the basic purpose has gently slipped into the background as fashion and events have fused together to conceive unique and innovative dials. So when did people actually stop looking just at the time?Says Mini, Surya TV Anchor, who owns an assortment of watches, "Earlier on, we had to settle for limited variety from companies. With brands like Esprit and Omega setting forth an expansive array to choose from, it is but natural that we would also want to change our look."Perfectly attuning to this, Indian Watch Companies today vie with each other in offering an assortment in formal, casual, party wear, luxury, economy, technology and so on. They flirt with the customer's senses and accentuate their desires in the shapes of small metal and leather-patterned dials. "It is this variety", feels Poornima, HR executive, "that has made wearing watches an expression of sorts and made it the most elegant ornament that can adorn any person's wrist". Perhaps what one notes with a bit of surprise is the raging hit that watches have become amongst the college going crowd. "We have lots of students coming and asking for the latest in watches. Big dials with thick straps are popular amongst college girls to the extent that some of them actually purchase gents' watches for the dial size." says Manju, sales person in the Titan showroom at the Penta Menaka complex. Titan's Fast Track watches cater exclusively to this trend with their sporty watches.

Big dials

"Big dials look cool and trendy. We also get to exchange watches with our guy friends and wear them." says college-going Eunice, in with this trend. The biggest promoters of snazzy watches in the city are ladies outlets like Goodwill in Convent Junction, selling watches that run easy on the pocket, ranging from Rs. 200 and above but designed in unbelievable shapes and sizes from steel twirls to fabric cords. And watches no longer come by themselves. Shops also sell trendy watches with matching belts, rings and so on.Watch showrooms offering: `Buy one watch and get the second one with a 40 per cent discount,' adds to sales. "This promotes the practice of gifting," as one-showroom personnel says.And with stars endorsing them it's definitely adding sheen to steel. One look at Aamir Khan and you'll realise that each outfit, style, colour and even pose looks exclusively designed for the watch he sports, to add on to that final look."Brand ambassadors actually give you ideas and then you feel like you want to have that look," says Mini in accordance.Be it a Brand Ambassador's style, elegance or trend, watches no longer remain `that thing you forgot to take' before leaving home. It imparts that touch to one's image that says it all - a transformation strongly attributed to either change in perspective or change in fashion or the timely market response to both.