Home Editorial My First Watch Smelled Like Photographic Chemicals

My First Watch Smelled Like Photographic Chemicals


My first watch was a hand-me-down – and I still have it! Dad really didn’t remember the history of the Wyler Incaflex Dynawind but it didn’t matter. I had my own history with it.

Dad was entrepreneur before it was cool. His work was simple in the small town in which we grew up. He captured light on film and made images for people. We called this “weddings, kids and dogs” photography, and it was a big deal in 60s and 70s before the proliferation of picture takers we see today.

His watch was an important tool and just as important as his hand-held Luna Pro light meter and Safe-Lock tripod. He used the watch to time exposures, process film and print black and white portraits.

I first remembered the watch as I helped him process film in the darkroom. I couldn’t see anything, but the low glow of the Wyler as he moved his hand around the sink and chemicals. The watch still smells like D-76 and stop-bath.

Eventually, the watch slowed and lost time. It became harder to read in the dark and the beat up crystal made it difficult to see in the daylight. It had taken quite a beating.

Wyler marketed this watch to take a beating too. The “incaflex” balance supposedly provided more shock resistance, although I don’t know how. To prove its point, the company’s marketing guru dropped two watches off the Eiffel Tower in 1956. They survived the sudden stop from the 300 meter tower.

Dad’s watch wasn’t dropped off the Eiffel tower, but it was beat up by a guy could who worked most days of the week photographing high school events, weddings and small-town businesses.

He put it in a drawer and replaced it with a battery-powered Timex. The Timex was new and promised to be carefree.

I found the Wyler as a young man and wore it pretending to be older than I was. I was amazed that it didn’t need a battery. It served as a quiet reminder of the thousands of rolls of film and even more photographs that it helped create.

Last week, I got it out of the box in which it was stored. I put it on when John reminded me with his post here. I thought for a minute that the second hand would do another lap around the dial but it didn’t.





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