I’m a Jew. I can’t get a tattoo. It’s not my call. But I have nothing but admiration for the beauty of a perfectly inked pocket watch tattoo, and respect for both the artist and their pocket watch-adorned human canvas. As you browse the following images, ask yourself a question: what is it about pocket watches that makes them so damn popular? I have a theory . . .
A tattoo is a permanent mark on an impermanent human. As such, it’s a FU to mortality. It says “I acknowledge my journey through time. But I can take a moment of time with me as I go. I can remember.”
Yes, yes: laser removal. All tats die with their canvas. And a tattoo wouldn’t help Joe Biden. Stay with me people! A pocket watch is still a perfect tattoo design for someone who wants to capture a moment of time.
Sure, it’s literal. Within the Venn diagram containing all the people who get tattoos, there’s the world’s tiniest circle, occupied by customers who told the tattoo artist “I’m only interested in a metaphorical image.”
The WYSIWYG ethos underlying pocket watch tattoos accounts for the fact that the majority aren’t set at “happy hands” (1:50 or 10:10).
Clients commission the displayed time according to a significant event. Given the memorial images near many pocket watch tattoos, I suspect that the hands are set at time of death. Or, hopefully, birth.
In that sense, the pocket watch tattoo freezes a moment of time precisely – as only a timepiece can. But why a pocket watch? Why not a wristwatch?
There are tattoos of wristwatches, of course. Surprising no one, Rolex is the go-to.
The problem with any wristwatch tattoo: the strap or the bracelet. It’s damn difficult to ink and where the Hell do you put it?
A wristwatch tattoo on the wrist? Well, it certainly fits under a shirt cuff.
But the above ink – so close to happy hands – is as good as it gets, technically speaking. It gets a lot worse.
A pocket watch tattoo is easier to ink and it has built-in nostalgia. The pocket watch timepiece tat connects the canvas to olden times – a bold statement that the customer comes from somewhere. That he or she is part of the neverending tapestry of time. That they have history.
Hey! We did get to metaphor! Which is a good place to leave our tour. Because this pocket watch tattoo post is nothing if not a metaphor for my desire to transcend time by writing. And, of course, collecting pocket watches.