Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Watch Out For the Watch

Whenever I'm out and about and need to know the time, there's only one thing I turn to: my trusty wristwatch. With a time-tested analog readout and glow-in-the-dark hands, it's everywhere I wanna be.

It's also a relic of the twentieth century.

Yesterday/today - it's one of those weird time zone things - The Independent ran an article that asked, "Is time running out for the watch?" Because, to be honest, they can't do many things - tell the time, make comforting ticking sounds, act as the central timer of bombs on buses that have to stay above fifty miles per hour - and what they can do is done just as easily by mobile phones. My own observations certainly parallel Rhodri Marsden's - I just don't see many people wearing watches anymore. Certainly people like myself, who wear them purely for utilitarian function, are sufficiently rare these days to be freaks of a sort: someone of my generation who's wearing a watch will, more likely than not, be wearing it for style rather than a comforting reminder of that thing we have that keeps everything from happening at once.

This increasing trend toward form over function will, I agree, probably lead to the end of the line for digital watches. They've had their time and their dominance, but to me, they always seem inextricably linked to that time, the 1980s and 1990s. I don't believe they'll have as much relevance for future generations, whereas I feel analog has something more of a timeless quality - the soft clicking of the hands, the fact that it only does one thing and does it well. Nobody's going to text you on a purely analog watch.

I can imagine future watches that cram a lot of miniaturized capability beneath the comfortable, ticking exterior of an analog watch, something comfortable and familiar. ThinkGeek has sold a watch that's also a USB drive for some time now, and there's plenty of opportunity for people to keep going down that path. I don't think Dick Tracy-style video watches will ever really take off, but you don't need to have a video camera on your wrist to be living in the future. Perhaps the watch of the future will be packed full of monitors, keeping an eye on your pulse rate, body temperature, the surrounding temperature, local radioactivity levels...

The watch isn't obsolete. It's just no longer got a monopoly. There will always be people who prefer that form, and there will always be things watches can do. It would be a sad day if the last watchmaker had to close up shop because no one cared about the ticking and the gears.

No comments:

Post a Comment