Time might be leaving the wristwatch behind. According to a recent CNN.com article entitled “E-mail is too slow and wristwatches are pointless for college freshmen,” the class of 2014 prefers smart phones “which they use for telling time rather than strapping on a watch.” In some ways, the observation is simply a measure of progress, but in others it is a sad commentary. I just hope the class of 2014 understands that watches aren’t just about telling time.
First, wristwatches are a fashion accessory. For women, they are an extension of jewelry. For men, they are often a personal statement. On a simple level, my Gametime Team Watch expresses my support for my alma mater. On a more complex level, military style watches like my Timex Expedition or diver style watches like my Relic “Wet” Multi-Function Sport Watch evoke a sense of adventure. Skeleton watches like my Walmart Automatic or Invicta Men’s Mechanical skeleton watch express an appreciation of the mechanical precision and engineering skill of the past. While digital watches offer a more futuristic look at technology and purpose. My Armitron Square-Faced Digital Sports Watch looks like something from a science fiction movie. On the other hand, my Casio Men’s Digital Watch (W-201) is a throwback to my formative years as a nerd.
Second, wristwatches can have meaning. My watch box still contains the University of Florida collegiate Seiko that my folks gave me for graduation. Other watches are gifts from other family and friends. I have a tanker style dress watch from my uncle. My Relic analog watches with LCD faces were a winning gift from my mother-in-law. One of my favorite watches is an old mechanically wound Soviet Submariner’s watch that a friend picked up on a trip to Russia. Other watches evoke memories. For example, my Timex Atlantis 100 is completely worn out. But, I remember using it as a recreational sailor and counting down to many small boat race starts. While smart phones come and go, wristwatches really can last forever and are a tangible reminder of people, places, and experiences.
Third, watches are status symbols. While I enjoy inexpensive watches that look neat, higher end wristwatches are serious status symbols. A quick look at Watch Times magazine shows that wristwatches are available across a broad spectrum of price points. Watches highlighted in the magazine can run thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. A high end wristwatch can quietly communicate the social status without a word being said. Of course, the cheapest of watches from Walmart can also communicate that you are a practical person who rises above such flashy displays. Every man needs a sophisticated watch for job interviews and my Armitron Diamond men’s analog dress watch fits the bill.
Finally, watches are practical. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine took a dive into his condominium pool to play with his kids. Unfortunately, his cell phone was in his pocket at the time. Unlike most wristwatches which have at least some degree of water resistance, his cell phone stood no chance. Wrist watches are also practical at work, in classes, during exams, during presentations, and in social situations. When the Class of 2014 gets to work, they’ll find that pulling out a fancy phone during a business meeting is a privilege reserved for supervisors. There are a thousand subtle ways to steal a glance at a wristwatch that avoid the highly disrespectful move of pulling out a cell phone in a social or business situation. In an emergency, a wristwatch will keep working long after a cell phone battery has died.
The Class of 2014 and future generations should reconsider consigning the wristwatch to the dustbin of history. If time really is leaving the wristwatch behind, many will be sad to see it go.
Ed Payne. “”E-mail is too slow and wristwatches are pointless for college freshmen.” CNN.com, August 18, 2010.