[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

A watch is a piece of jewelry that keeps track of the time. This is a watch’s most basic prerequisite, though many watches do more than this, and for this reason watches belong to a category of thing we call “timepieces.” Watches are jewelry for two reasons:

One, these particular timepieces are unessential to day-to-day life. The time is given to us on the TV and on our phones—two items that never leave us throughout the span of the day. Plus, in any place where there happens to be no screen or restricted access to one, like your classrooms, the clock—the greater timepiece, the father of all watches—proclaims his revelation, making sure everyone present hears the time.

Two, watches are jewelry because their style is as important as their function. The straps that keep watches on our wrists can be leather, silver, gold, and many other colors or materials. Watch faces too can be circular, squared, thin, thick, analog, or digital. Watch styles are as diverse as human personalities, and people who wear a watch do so to match their inner style. Watches can be statements of decadence and pragmatism, athleticism and intelligence, masculinity and femininity. These wearable messengers of time are often the most expensive and most constant outward representation of our inner self.

Watches, then, have two purposes for their life: to reveal some truth about time to the wearer and to reveal some truth about the wearer to the world. In the latter purpose, we would never suppose the watch could reveal everything about us, and so we should not assume the watch reveals everything about time. Watches have been made in time’s image, but they are only messengers. They err, they delay, they are prone to reduce mysteries into palpable half-truths.

We should listen to them always with a greater allegiance to time himself, who we know is bigger than any one watch.