At 3am, the world can seem like a bleak place. Staring at the bedroom ceiling unable to sleep, I find myself wrestling with a familiar stampede of anxieties. All the usual suspects are present and correct: the financial headaches, the career regrets, the mounting horror that my “double crown” is, in fact, a nascent bald spot. It seems as good a time as any to properly confront my mortality by agreeing to review the Tikker “death watch”.
Because while these moments of nocturnal angst have a tendency to flare up from time to time, tthey’ve become way more frequent of late. The second round of lockdown in Victoria – where we are back in Stage 3 and largely housebound for another six weeks – has proved a vicious kick in the metaphysical knackers. COVID’s capacity for screwing up everything that I’d looked forward to this year has plunged me deep into the doldrums. Increasingly, I catch myself feeling disappointed about the past and pessimistic about what the future holds.
The chance to review the Tikker death watch did not exactly present as a very cheery pick-me-up. Essentially, the watch provides an hourly countdown to when you’re going to die. It does this by a simple calculation that takes in a range of factors including your country of residence, stress levels, weight, exercise habits and history of smoking. Its diagnosis is not very reassuring.
As a relatively healthy 43-year-old, I discover that I have 37 years and 10 months left to live.
Monday morning – the unboxing
It’s the start of the week when I strap on the Tikker watch for the first time. As a wrist-bound reminder of my impending doom, its significance is conveyed by its size. This is a big watch — 46mm wide and 10mm thick — presumably to incorporate all the miniature Grim Reapers doing their death sums inside.
With its rubber strap and case, it looks like a bulbous running watch with multiple rows of digital readouts on the dial. The first row displays how long you’ve got to live in years/months/days, the second shows your remaining hours/minutes/seconds while the third displays the local time. This info is encircled by two shiny rings in white and black that are, in turn, framed by the rubber case. The overall effect is like a target with your dwindling lifespan as the bullseye.
Monday afternoon – malaise strikes
The day is relatively uneventful as I work away in the garden shed that I now euphemistically refer to as my “office”. Sadly, I’m not filled with seize-the-day vigour to complete all my tasks with superhuman efficiency – a lack of motivation is a key symptom of my general malaise. But to try to get into the spirit, I put Prince Buster’s version of Enjoy Yourself on repeat.
Perhaps inspired by the song’s message of reggae-inflected hedonism, I find myself cracking open a bottle of red wine that evening, despite it traditionally being one of my booze-free nights. My wife also has a glass and, after the kids are finally in bed, we sit down for dinner when she notices the watch. I explain the general concept and break the devastating news that I am, in fact, one day going to kick the bucket. This precipitates a fairly involved discussion that encompasses future plans, collective goals and my heartfelt desire for Prince Buster to be played at my funeral.
More wine is drunk. Emboldened by the alcohol and my ever-decreasing time left on the planet, I somehow persuade my long-suffering wife to engage in conjugal activities. Given the moribund nature of our sex life, this is nothing short of a miraculous achievement on a school night.
Tuesday morning – hang on, do I even have life insurance?
I wake up with a vague hangover and strap on the watch. I’m still not used to wearing such an oversized timepiece on my spindly wrist and don’t find it especially comfortable. But if that’s the price to pay for boosting my chances in the bedroom it’s definitely worthwhile.
With my mortality winking at me from my wrist, I’m jolted into taking care of some long-overdue admin. I sort out my life insurance and speak to someone from my super fund about upping the payments. Encouraged by this heady sense of “death momentum”, I even Google “how to make a will”.
Tuesday afternoon – the calming effect of mortality
Instead of freaking me out, considering my existence from this broader perspective has a strangely calming effect. Admittedly, it’s a pretty facile realisation, but being confronted with the finite nature of your life makes you appreciate it a whole lot more.
In particular, this manifests in me being more patient with my hooligan kids. When my two-year-old comes into my office “to visit Dadda” for the sixth time that morning, rather than shooing him away, I left him sit on my lap and watch Digby Dragon on my iPhone, while I hammer away at the laptop with one hand.
Wednesday – it’s my birthday
It’s my 44th birthday and I’m slightly taken aback to realise that, according to Tikker, I’m already over the halfway point of my life. Moronically, I’d somehow associated middle-age as something that happens in your 50s.
Arrangements had been made for dinner with my wife in the city before spending the night at a nice hotel (only our second child-free night together in the last three and a half years). Lockdown, however, has once again sabotaged our plans. Yet armed with the knowledge that I have only a mere 37 birthdays remaining (fingers crossed), on a whim, I decide to take the whole day off.
Despite the rainy weather, we go for a long afternoon walk along the coast. We take turns carrying the two-year-old in the Baby Bjorn while bribing the three-year-old onwards with strategically paced Jelly Beans. At a lookout point over Sorrento, Sarah surprises me by producing a hip flask filled with Scotch (she’s a good wife). We take a fortifying nip or two in the brisk sea air until our three-year-old’s mood swings and a sudden downpour force us home. Dinner is an Indian takeaway with a bottle of red to round off an unexpectedly nice day.
Thursday morning – a change of approach is needed
Thanks to the Tikker watch (with a little prompting from Prince Tubby), I’ve had an enjoyable week. The only snag is that I’ve hardly got any work done and, if I continue in this vein, will soon find myself a bankrupt alcoholic.
Researching the tradition of memento mori (literal translation: “remember, you must die”), I realise that I’ve responded to the prospect of my death with “the eat, drink and be merry” approach. The Stoics, on the other hand, also encouraged keeping death at the forefront of your mind but reached a more sensible conclusion. Life is precious and fleeting, they believed, so rather than squander it on vacuous pleasures and over-priced Indian takeaways, you should live it with a greater sense of purpose.
Thursday afternoon – pure as the driven snow
Annoyingly, this killjoy mentality does seem a bit more sustainable for a man trying to support a young family. So I decide to rein it in a bit and knuckle down. I go for a run at lunchtime, put in a solid eight hours of work and have a night off the booze. That night, instead of mainlining Netflix while tweaking my Fantasy Football line-up, I FaceTime an old mate who I haven’t spoken to for ages.
Feeling particularly self-righteous that evening, I change the Tikker’s watch strap from black to white – a symbolic gesture to denote my purity of spirit.
Friday – the verdict is in
The Tikker watch isn’t perfect. There’s no denying that it operates from a flawed premise with its statistical estimate of your lifespan offering a vague approximation at best. Personally, I found the size of the watch a bit overbearing and clunky, too. And yet, while it might not become my everyday watch, I know for sure that I’ll continue to wear it on a regular basis, particularly when I feel a bit flat.
That’s because the Tikker somehow gave me a much-needed blast of impetus and positive motivation. As watch features go, that beats any split-second chronograph hands down.
Starved of physical contact with friends and colleagues, lockdown was beginning to feel like some dismal half-life. Essentially, I was wishing the days away, longing for the time when normal service could be resumed.
Yet by flagging my limited time on earth, the Tikker watch served as a practical reminder not to take everything for granted. The overall experience was a bit like having a gratitude journal on my wrist that also sharpened my life priorities. It also sharpened my appreciation for the other watches in my collection, when I returned to them – my gold Vacheron has never looked more buttery and golden, the eggshell dial more delicious than ever.
For me, it’s actually helped to shake off my lockdown torpor. I’ve realised that being marooned at home with my wife and sons isn’t such a bad place to be. In fact, viewed from certain angles, it’s actually pretty agreeable. The Tikker watch has brightened my outlook by reframing my sense of perspective. And, in these desperate times, you have to cling on to anything that helps.
The Tikker Watch is US$59.99. Buy one here