Cheap watch’s user’s manual rich in ridiculousness

By Jayson Jacoby February 01, 2013 09:32 am

I recently received, as an extra special gift for subscribing to Motor Trend magazine, a digital watch of spectacularly shoddy construction.

I mean this timepiece could cause widespread suicides if you brandished it in the fine shops of Bern and Zurich.

But it’s not the watch itself, which I expect will stop working properly along about St. Patrick’s Day, that intrigues me.

It’s the one-page owner’s manual that came with it.

At least I think it’s supposed to be an owner’s manual.

This publication, which is printed on the kind of flimsy paper that lines tins of Altoids mints, combines illiteracy and bad translation in a way that is both frightening and hilarious.

Its mistakes are so frequent and so outlandish that I wonder whether the whole endeavor is intended as a joke.

If so it’s a devilishly clever one.

The watch, I should mention, was made in China. Probably you figured that out.

The lunacy starts with the very name of the thing: “Waterproof Cold-Light Sportwatch.”

The waterproof part I understand — although I doubt the watch could survive even a heavy dewfall.

But I’m clueless as to the significance of “cold-light.”

The watch’s LCD digits do indeed illuminate at the push of a button. But I can’t detect any change in the temperature of the watch, or of its immediate surroundings.

Apparently the makers of the watch consider the cold nature of the light a valuable attribute, though, because the manual uses the adjective consistently.

In one instance it’s the “cold night” button but I suspect that’s just a typo.

And it’s not the only one.

A sampling:

• “moreng” for “morning”

• “lighr” for “light”

• “agarn” for “again”

These misspellings are as nothing, though, compared with the tangled syntax and at times incomprehensible diction that permeates the manual.

I am, for instance, cautioned against wearing the watch “in broiling or freezing environment.”

I try to steer clear of broiling environments as it is, whether I’m wearing a watch or not, so no problem there.

But even in the more temperate environments to which I am typically exposed, I sometimes sweat. Including my left wrist, which is where I normally attach a watch.

Unfortunately, “the resin-made watchband may ageing crack or break when bear sweat or damp.”

I take this to mean that my sweat could foul up the watchband, or at least its constituent resins, whatever those might be.

Except what if the watchmaker means, literally, “bear sweat,” as in ursine perspiration?

I don’t know if bears actually sweat. But I imagine that if they do they’d have to get pretty riled up first, and I don’t want to be anywhere near a bear that’s so agitated it’s sweating. I’ll bet the sweat’s erosive effect on the watchband would be the least of my worries in that case.

In fact the manual says “any rough use or hard shock may cause damage” to the watch.

I’m afraid a sweaty bear could get pretty rough, and administer quite a lot more than a hard shock.

It turns out, though, that even if I’m scrupulous in avoiding sweat and bears and the like, that watchband, and specifically those mysterious resins, could give me trouble.

“If you find any white powder in the watchband,” the manual tells me, “wipe them off with cloth, the powder would not cause any burt to your skin and clothes.”

I’m not comforted by this, and not just because the watchmaker writes “burt” when it must have intended “hurt.”

Frankly I’m suspicious of any watch that, in the ordinary course of usage, produces white powder, no matter how benign the white powder is supposed to be.

The possible presence of powder also complicates the task of disposing of this watch. And I might need to do this even before it expires, because the thing sounds a chime at the top of every hour, a sound that annoys my wife and which I can’t figure out how to turn off, if indeed that’s even possible.

The manual, needless to say, is no guide, offering as it does such crystalline statements as: “Different types have different patterns, but have same functions and operation ways.”

For the time being I’ve stuffed the watch beneath a stack of summer shirts in my dresser. The layers of cotton and polyester effectively block the hourly beeps, although I confess that I worry about the fabrics’ resistance to resinous white powders.

Whatever happens with the watch I intend to hold on to this manual. It tells me to do so, for one thing:

“Keep well the operation instruction and other attached files for necessary use in the future.”

The manual was not accompanied by other files, attached or otherwise, but keep it well I will.

I might want to tell someone about this slip of paper years from now.

And I’d much rather be able to refer to the genuine article than to try to dredge its amusing incomprehensibility from my memory, which lately is about as reliable as, well, a Chinese-made Waterproof Cold-Light Sportwatch.