Ted Lesley – "perfect Pocket-watch"

Ted Lesley
(Boretti/Ted Lesley)

Mr. Boretti has a magic mail-order-business in Neustadt/Germany and I was and still am very enthusiastic about the effects he sells, which are mostly his own inventions. One of his marketed mental tricks is “Perfect Pocket-Watch” and I’m very grateful that he granted me permission to share it.

With its lid closed, a pocket watch is set by a spectator to a time he doesn’t even know. The mentalist, with a kind of “out of body experience”, is able to tell the audience the exact time the watch was set at by the spectator! Sounds familiar? Yes! There is a very expensive “Stull type watch” on the market, which doesn’t withstand close examination by the spectators. So Boretti “hit” on the idea to do a similar effect with a normal, unprepared watch! Interested? Read on:

You need for the performance:

  1. Not one, but two pocket watches of the spring cover-type preferably with a chain. Both watches must look identical. It is essential, that the clockworks of both watches have run down. (If they are modern-day watches that only “look” old, simply make sure the battery is removed.)
  2. A small note pad;
  3. A normal grocery bag.

Open the cover of one of the watches and set it on a time, which you must remember. Put this watch, minus its chain, into your left inner jacket pocket. The second watch is attached by its chain to your pants or your vest in the time honoured manner. Have the folded grocery bag, a pen and the notepad in an appropriate pocket of your suit.

Approach a spectator in your audience and demonstratively detach the watch from its chain. Demonstrate how it works: Push on the button of the stem and the lid will open. Then pull out the stem and show the spectator and the audience, that the time can be set by turning the stem in either direction.

Hand the spectator the watch and ask him to turn the stem. This makes sure that he sees the hands on the watch moving. To implant this in the minds of the whole audience, you ask him if the hands move as he is turning the stem, and he will agree with a loud “Yes!”.

Now tell him he should close the lid of the watch and when he has done so, he should turn the stem to his hearts content and push it in. The watch is now set on a certain time, which nobody knows.

During this you take the grocery bag out of your pocket, unfold it and hand it to the spectator and ask him to drop the watch in it. It’s a good idea, to turn your head away when he is doing this. Take the bag with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand, go to the stage and set it on the floor.

Take the notepad and the pen out of your pocket, patter along an “out of body experience” or “X-ray eyes” theme and write the time you have memorized from the first watch on the top sheet, fold it and hand it to another spectator. Put the notepad and the pen into your left inner jacket pocket and grab the watch at the same time putting it into the opening of the left sleeve. The left hand is holding the left lapel to steady this move. This looks absolutely natural. The watch will slide to your elbow. Now approach the bag and straighten the left arm downwards and the watch will fall into the slightly curled fingers of your hand. Pick the bag up with the fingers of the right hand and plunge your left hand with the palmed watch into the bag, apparently taking the watch out of it. You bring out the palmed watch of course. This in turn is handed to a spectator with the request, to open the lid and read out the time the face of the watch shows. The other spectator is asked to unfold the piece of paper and read out the time you wrote on it beforehand. Both match! You have done the impossible! As all attention is focussed on both spectators in the audience, fold the grocery bag containing the other watch carefully and put it into a pocket of your suit.

As the effect is over take the watch from your assistant from the audience attach it to the chain and put it into the pocket in which it was at the beginning of the performance.

To enhance the routine it’s a very good idea, to do another experiment with the watch before you start the one described above. I use the age-old “Argamasilla” effect as an introduction. Argamasilla was, as you may know, a “spirit medium”. He became famous at Houdini’s time and he used a technique for “seeing through the cover of a cased pocket-watch”, which during a performance was discovered by Harry to rely on nearly the same method I use for the trick. It’s essential that the performer is blindfolded for this particular routine. I use a simple rolled hanky, always dark in colour, for the blindfold-part of my act. The “peek” is taken down the nose.

Detach your watch from the chain as already described in the first effect and hand it to a spectator with the request to set the hands secretly on a full hour and after he has done so, he is instructed to close the lid. In the meantime you have put your blindfold on (you must act accordingly, because presumably you can’t see!). Ask the spectator to hand you the watch back and receive it with your left hand. Shift it into the palm of this hand in such a way, that the button to release the lid rests against the end of the second joint of your ring finger. The thumb is held loosely over the cover. Take a few steps back to the stage and it is at this time, that you take your required “peek”! Thus:

Move your left hand near your tummy and at the same time the ring finger pushes on the button of the stem and the cover will slightly open. When you move your thumb away a little the lid opens a bit more and you are able to see the watch’s face. As soon as you have seen the set time, move the left hand far to the left and at the same time push the button once more as you close the lid again. This push on the button is absolutely essential, because if you don’t do it this way, the closing lid will make a clicking noise. For this reason the hand must be moved far to the left if an accident occurs in closing the cover. The hand holding the watch must be far away from your wireless mike which in fact will amplify the sound!

As soon as the cover is back in place mime “concentration” but seemingly you’re unable to see through the lid. Hand back the watch to the spectator who knows the set time. Go on with your “seeing with your fingertips” or “X-ray eyes” demonstration and after a couple of successful tries, go back to the spectator, who holds the watch. He is instructed to put it into his closed fist which he should move behind your back. Then, and only then reveal the time you have peeked. With proper showmanship, this can be an absolute sensation!

After the applause subsides, do Boretti’s routine, but blindfolded! Perform it a little bit “clumsy”! This will cover up a lot of the necessary simple manipulations and you don’t have to worry about them. If you do both tricks forget about the notepad and the pen. Do it as a “prediction”- or “control the spectator’s actions”-type of demonstration. Put the prediction into a sealed envelope, which in turn is placed with the watch into your left inside jacket pocket. Your prediction must be written with a broad marker on a letter size sheet of paper in bold print. Remember, the whole audience must see it when the time on the watch face is called out by the spectator!

I have an idea to present this with a railroad theme since these watches are common with conductors. The idea is just a spark, but the basic idea is that you start off with the fact that your father (or grandfather, uncle, etc.) was railroad conductor and left you this watch when he died. This relative used to tell you stories about how a conductor’s watch would always return to the last time of the last stop of the last train that conductor took before passing on. You get the idea. The prediction can be an old train schedule (a real one!) – you set the watch to the last time on the schedule. I also have the idea to use a conductor’s hat as “the bag” – it would have to be gimmicked somehow to retain the watch. Or some other piece of train paraphernalia. Obviously a lot more work to do, but I think this has potential as an eerie performance piece.