Whether or Not to Wear a Watch

After twenty years or so of daily use, my watch died. It was an inexpensive Swatch of a simple but practical design, black characters on a white face, which was unambiguously easy to read in most conditions. I grew fond of wearing it, comforted by its reliable presence, so I was reluctant to believe that its ticking time was up – even as it started to become unreliable I made excuses, hoping it would get better. But then I began to turn up late for appointments (something I abhor) so I accepted that something must be done. I bought a replacement, a beautiful blue and silver job, but I had to put my reading specs on to see what position the hands were in, so it lost its allure and now languishes in a drawer while I pine for the old one. But before diving in to buying another replacement, I felt obliged to answer my partner’s perfectly reasonable question. Why does anyone need a watch? Here are some of his reasons why you don’t.

  • It’s just not necessary. The time is displayed everywhere you look – on your phone, your computer, your microwave, the bus stop, the town hall…I could go on!
  • Clockwork mechanisms are not as accurate as digital readouts, which means they can’t be reliably synced with other peoples’ time pieces.
  • In any case, do you really need to know the exact time every second of the day?
  • Constant glancing at your watch can enslave you to it. You can end up equating time with productivity, to the point of obsession.
  • Wearing a machine encourages you to behave according to the machine’s rules, never being ‘off’ – never having ‘time’ just to be. “I don’t want to be bound by time.” (Steve Jobs – he died before Apple launched its smart watch.)
  • An hour here or there without a plan isn’t harmful. In fact, quite the opposite: being unbound by time can free your creativity.
  • Do you really relish the feeling of something attached to your wrist all day long?
  • Surely it’s a passing fashion – like pocket watches. Only ‘old people’ wear watches. They don’t know how to kick the habit.
  • Watches have obviously outlived their original purpose. They have become either fashion accessories or status symbols. Do you really want to compete with show-offs who spend thousands of pounds on redundant wrist technology?

 Of course, not every decision we make can be decided strictly on logical or practical grounds: we are human, after all. Here are some reasons we put forward for owning a watch. They include the irrational.

  • A watch gives you an alternative to your phone. It offers a degree of freedom from it. “My watch released me, gently, from my phone.” (Eva Wiseman, journalist.)
  • It’s convenient – you always know where it is, which makes it easier to consult than fishing your phone out from who-knows-where.
  • It does one job well, and offers no distractions in the process.
  • You don’t have to be concerned about re-charging it every day.
  • It gives you a solid relationship with time, a constant reference point and a sense of time passing – lest you be tempted to waste it!
  • There’s nothing wrong with treating your watch as an accessory to enhance your style.
  • Some of us just admire and appreciate a crafted item that looks and feels good.
  • Some people are simply watch afficionados.

 So, what did I decide in the end? Well, my conclusion, based on weighing up both the rational and the not-so-rational arguments, was that I need a new watch! Preferably one that’s just like my beloved, original, black-and-white Swatch.