Why My Beat-up Watch Has Become My Most Prized Possession Behind Bars

The Wild Word magazine
4 min readApr 30, 2020

By Ryan Moser — FROM THE INSIDE

If I look down at my right wrist I see a black Ironman Triathlon watch — robust, utilitarian, and reliable. The band is not the original, but is a Velcro strap crafted from the scraps of an old medical brace. I use the term “black” warily because I know that this particular timepiece has been hand-painted at least three different colors in the past, depending on the preference of its owner at the time. The chronograph and timer functions are hard to pull up because the buttons are stuck, but with persistence will reveal themselves. This $30 sports watch shows the day, date and will illuminate a warm neon-green backlight in the dark. There are two alarms — one is set for 4:30am chow time, the other for 10pm meditation. I cherish this wristwatch and have yet to replace the battery after two years of loyal service. Still it is nothing like the one I used to wear.

My silver Movado had a black face. It was sleek, expensive and sent a message to other men’s watches… you are not worthy. The last time I saw this gift was in a holding cell at the Alachua County Jail, when I reluctantly handed it over to an obese, rude intake officer who would surely steal my treasure at the first chance. Oddly, in the midst of my arrest and life-changing disaster, I still worried how I would tell time without my beloved watch.

For years, knowing the time was a fundamental to my happy, busy existence. Time was a fact that I could count on to plan my days. Pick up my son at 3:15pm from soccer practice. Meet the wife at Luciano’s for drinks at 6:00pm sharp. Don’t be late for the 9am meeting with the new client. Remember to drop the car for an oil change between 4pm and 5pm. So many people, places and things revolved around the minute and second hands on my wrist. At times, I wore a classic Nautica piece with a brown leather band that matched my loafers. Or a white G-Shock that kept track of my sets at the gym. I even wore a borrowed gold Rolex to my wedding. I didn’t check my watch once that day, the joy of my nuptials flowing uninterrupted through the day, unencumbered by the space-time continuum.

When I went to prison, after after county jail, I felt naked without a watch. Even the most monotonous details of incarceration…

The Wild Word magazine