This Lexicon Minute is about time. No, not time travel – I only have a minute and I’d be crazy to try and tackle time travel in that short time, although technically if I could manipulate time I could make that one minute last as long as I needed it to, but I digress. Today I’ll be talking about the more mundane instrument associated with time – the humble watch – and specifically, Harry’s mysterious acquisition of them.
Mrs Weasley tells us that it’s traditional to give a wizard a watch when he comes of age. Ron is given a magnificent gold watch on his 17th birthday, reminiscent of the one we see Dumbledore with in the first chapter of the first book. Later, Mrs Weasley gives Harry a similar watch on his 17th birthday, although it’s a little dented because it previously belonged to her brother Fabian. So no mystery there. But how does Harry manage his time-keeping needs before that?
Ten-year-old Harry does not own a watch. We know this because as he was lying in his cupboard where he’d been banished after the boa constrictor incident, he wished he had a watch, so he knew whether the Dursleys were likely to be in bed or not. Incidentally, that same day, Dudley had received a gold wristwatch (PS2) as one of his numerous birthday presents. Later, Harry kept an eye on Dudley’s watch to count down the minutes and the seconds until he turned 11, as they spent the night in the hut on the rock.
So, as our story opens, we have it on good authority that Harry does not own a watch. And throughout Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets there is no mention of Harry having a watch [with the possible exception of this line in CS12: “‘We’d better get going,’ said Harry, loosening the watch that was cutting into Goyle’s thick wrist.” Does that mean that Harry’s watch didn’t fit that Goyle’s larger arm? —SVA], although both Ron and Hermione check the time on theirs occasionally (PS9 et al.). Then suddenly, as Harry is waiting to take his Divination exam in Prisoner of Azkaban, he checks the time on his watch! Where did this watch come from? How did he get it? Later, during the Sirius and Buckbeak rescue, Harry checks his watch again. I guess it’s appropriate that he would have a timepiece during a time travel episode, but where did it come from?
This mysterious watch continues to serve Harry’s time-keeping needs into Goblet of Fire, until it stops working after he wears it into the lake for the Second Task. After that, he continued to wear it out of habit for a while, but at some point he discarded it and reverted to using Ron’s watch to check the time.
But then, in Order of the Phoenix Harry obviously has a new watch, as he checks it during his detention with Umbridge, and again during a DA meeting. Again, where does this mysterious new watch come from? He still has it in Half Blood Prince as he checks the time to make sure he’s not late for one of his sessions with Dumbledore. We’re given an exhaustive list of Harry’s birthday and Christmas presents and a watch is never mentioned – until he turns 17 – so where do Harry’s mysterious watches come from? Are they Dudley’s cast-off’s? Did Harry buy them in a Muggle shop during his summer holiday, and if so, how did he pay for them? Is there a watch-conjuring spell we’re unaware of? Leave your ideas and theories in the comments.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License