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Turning Back Time: Why Parchie Is So Much More Than a Kids' Watch Brand

Cara Barrett’s colorful timepieces may be aimed at the younger set, but their appeal extends to all ages.

kids coloring with parchie watches on wrists
Parchie

“I like to wear watches. I think it makes me look cool.”

I am Zooming with my niece, Izzy, who is holding in one hand her Parchie Pal wristwatch and in the other her hamster, Chips. The hamster is brown with black spots; the watch, pink, yellow and white.

Truth has been spoken. Izzy, who excels in martial arts and doesn’t care much about rules, is notably cool. I have hardly ever felt closer to her. I have been a watch nerd for over a decade, and now my eight-year-old niece is one, too.

Parchie’s founder, Cara Barrett, named the brand after an invisible childhood friend she played with on a family vacation in Italy. “Not the creepy kind,” she insists. “Peter Pan’s shadow. Or maybe kind of this blob that hung out with me.”

portrait of cara barrett
Industry vet Barrett founded Parchie in part to bring some fun back to watches.
Emiliano Granado

Specializing in colorful, affordable watches for kids, Parchie is Barrett’s first watch company. She started out as a cataloguer at Sotheby’s watch department, then took a job as a writer at Hodinkee, the world-renowned watch magazine, where she quickly became a notable voice in the overwhelmingly male world of watches.

“I think it’s an intimidation thing,” she told the New York Times in 2017 about male dominance of the watch industry. “Because some of the comments can get a little out of control.”

“I wanted to make something that looked like an adult’s watch, but mini, because sometimes kids want an adult version of things for themselves.”

Though Hodinkee’s readership hovers around 85 percent male, Barrett wrote with a universally keen eye and an attention to watches that could be worn by all people, not just men. Perhaps her magnum opus was an article titled “All Watches Should Be Unisex,” in which she dismantled the embarrassingly stuffy high-end watch custom of separating men’s watches from women’s. “‘Women’s watches,” she wrote, were “men’s watches that are simply shrunken, bedazzled, and quartzified for the ladies.”

Last year, she quit the magazine to pursue her decidedly less reverent approach to wristwear. “Watches became so serious,” she says. “Everyone’s all worked up over lug width, diameter, materials, logo placement. All stuff watch nerds love to get upset about! It became very exhausting for me.”

With Parchie, she set out to “make them fun again.” The result? A 32mm dive watch, made of aluminum, with a Japanese quartz movement, a toothed bezel and bright color schemes.

Izzy’s two-part appraisal? “It’s very neon. And it’s very shiny.”

kid holding ice cream cone wearing a parchie watch
Parchie watches are water-resistant up to 30 meters, so you can totally swim and shower wearing them. Most models cost $50, and they top out at $60.
Alexandra Rowley

The best part might be the super- skinny NATO strap, which fits wrists 4 to 6.5 inches around. No, it’s not pristine like your Orient Bambino’s Perlon, but the nylon-and-velcro closure offers a snug fit. “The strap thing is comfortable,” reports Izzy. Perhaps most important, the colors coordinate, in particular on some new purple and pale-blue-with-white-dial versions. The effect is incredibly ’90s and vibrant — a dive watch by Willy Wonka.

“There are lots of kids’ watches on the market already,” Barrett notes. “But it’s all Mickey Mouse, Disney movies, weird flower designs, or the watch is very balloon-like, too big or too small. I wanted to make something that looked like an adult’s watch, but mini, because sometimes kids want an adult version of things for themselves.”

Barrett also designed the watch to help kids learn how to tell the time. The hour numerals on the bezel are big and the same color as the hour hand. The minute hand matches the dial indices. “The larger five-minute markers on the dial became too crowded,” she explains. “We wanted to focus on just generally being able to read the watch.”

parchie watch
In a nod to classic dive watches of yore, Parchies come complete with NATO straps. These particular ones are made of nylon and velcro and fit wrists 4 to 6.5 inches around.
Alexandra Rowley

Izzy, who recently learned how to tell time on a clock, found the watch a good refresher. “I usually can’t tell the time very well,” she says. “But I did basically tell the time. Mom set it for me, but she accidentally set the time an hour late. I used it to not miss lunch at 11 a.m.”

Izzy has taken up wearing her Parchie every day and, like any true watch nerd, finds gazing at the watch itself pleasurable. “I like to watch time going by,” she says. “Digital and analog are completely different things.”

The watch is aimed at kids older than six — “or anyone young at heart,” Barrett says. She also knows her real customers are parents and grandparents: “Enthusiasts, fashion moms, grandparents — anyone’s game.” This market includes those adult, mostly male watch nerds who want to connect with their daughter or niece.

I tested a few different Parchie models around LA, where people carefully wear whatever the hell they want and look fabulous doing it. I found them to be comfortable and good-looking. Barrett is right — all watches should be unisex — and I would argue that all good watches should be ageless, too, from a Parchie to an IWC Portugieser.

At 32mm, they’re smaller than I’m used to — my current watches range from a 35mm Zodiac Sea Wolf to a hulking 48mm Seiko Solar Arnie — but a bright neon-purple dial has a certain pop that wears much larger.

They’re water resistant, too, and tested well in my tub. My extremely stylish friend Michael wore one and loved its color and subtle size. I wore mine playing basketball and found it unobtrusive and, frankly, a great match for my pink- and-blue Embiid 1s. It costs $50.

As far as I’m concerned, Parchie is a roaring success, and not only as a kids’ watch.

Sitting beside my massive black Seiko Solar Arnie, ’60s Zodiac Sea Wolf, militaristic MKII Hawkinge and Orion Hellcat in blue, Parchie is a candy pop of color, sharp in profile. A bit of fun with the time. That, as Izzy would say, is very cool.

Childhood Favorites

Check out the best kids' watches of all time.

Courtesy
Swatch Flik Flak
swatch.com
$55.00

This crowd-pleaser from the titan of affordable, youthful watchmaking has been around since 1987. It was Barrett’s first watch, in fact.

Courtesy
Disney Mickey Mouse
shopdisney.com
$49.95

Ingersoll made the first watch with Mickey’s hands telling the time in 1933. Disney and others still put out its descendants today.

Courtesy
Timex Time Machine
timex.com
$25.00

This kids’ line is versatile — with pandas, flowers and dinos. The brand also offers miniature classics, like the Expedition field watch.

Courtesy
Casio Baby-G
casio.com
$120.00

Once your kid becomes a tween, this more mature line has all the street style and function they need — in every cool pastel color under the sun.

gear patrol issue 18
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