If you have ever leafed through an issue of The Economist or any other glossy magazine meant for the upwardly mobile as they wait in first-class airport lounges, you have seen a Patek Philippe ad: a blond father and son, usually on a boat, are laughing sternly at the sea, while the tagline reminds you that You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.
And yet the father never looks quite ready to hand his beautiful rich man’s watch off to his smug, soft son, does he? A Patek Philippe is not relinquished that easily. You can almost see the brutal fight for mastery simmering just below the surface, certain to erupt as soon as the camera’s watchful eye withdraws.
“Give you my watch? Give you my watch, boy? Look: I will hold it out in front of you. Tell me what you have done to earn this watch. Tell me, and I will listen.”
“So never kick a dog/Because he’s just a pup/We’ll fight like twenty armies/And we won’t give up/So you’d better run for cover/When the pup grows up.” The father will get it, in the end. His elbow patches are a clear sign of weakness. Look at the boy’s calculating eyes. He will abide. He is too small to press his hand now. He will wait, and grow strong, and take the watch that is rightfully his.
Look at the father’s calculating, unsmiling eyes. He will leave the boy — perhaps in the woods, perhaps in a park. He will leave him and let the cold finish him off. The boy is an idiot. He is not prepared, and his wool hat will not save him from winter’s searing kiss.
The boy is already learning how to cut the brakes on the car in such a manner that it is not clear that anything has been tampered with. There will be suspicion, of course. There always is. But suspicion is not the same as a conviction. The only trouble would be making sure the old man was the only one in the car when it happened, if the old man ever let anyone else behind the wheel of his precious machine. He will die with the car, the one thing he truly loves. The boy thinks of this as an act of kindness.
“It was an accident,” he maintained for the rest of his life. “I couldn’t hold on to him. His little hand just slipped out of mine…the wave came out of nowhere and he was gone.”
He rowed back from the island whistling.
Neither of them are worthy of the watch. A surprise upset: they are both killed by the boy’s mother, who takes to wearing men’s watches for the rest of her long and interesting widowhood.
Look at this disgusting, insipid boy. He will fall out of the window like a stone. He is not a worthy adversary. His father will forget his name in hours.
This one will be a masterful struggle that merits our interest. But the man has made one key mistake: he is not wearing a life jacket. When the crucial moment comes, the boy will simply fail to toss him a life preserver. “What’s that?” he’ll shout merrily over the wind, “I can’t hear you. What do you need?” as he steers back to the mainland.
The old man will go out the window. Goodbye, old man.
The son on the left has carefully highlighted hair and a provocative mouth. He is too indolent and given over to sensual pleasures for his own good. His father has the hair of a lion and a murderer’s hands. The pair on the right will be an interesting match. The boy has clearly killed before, and killed efficiently and well. The father is perhaps a year or two past his prime — but only one or two. He may have blood in him yet. Outcome unknown.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.