The Wristwatch Is Dead

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A man who is concerned about portraying a look of understated elegance has very few options when it comes to jewelry. He may choose to wear a ring, cufflinks, a wristwatch, or maybe a tie bar or collar bar. But I fear that the wristwatch, one of the more beautiful and interesting items of male adornment, is dying a slow death. I predict that one day soon the wristwatch will be viewed as quaint and old-fashioned, the same as a pocket watch is seen today. That may be difficult for us to imagine; however, it would have been equally difficult for our ancestors to imagine the demise of the pocket watch.

You may wonder, what evil force is at play that leads me to this dire prediction about the future of the wristwatch? It is the smart phone.

“Email is Too Slow and Wristwatches are Pointless for College Freshmen” was the headline for an article last week on CNN. The article discussed the Mindset List that has been annually published by Beloit College since 1998. The list “provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.” The list was originally created “as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each generation.” This year’s list for the class of 2014 reminds us that these college freshmen were born in 1992, that to them Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess, that Clint Eastwood is a sensitive director, not Dirty Harry, that they have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S., and that Nirvana is on the classic oldies station. The list also reminds us that “they’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day” and that “with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch.”

I feel old.

The wristwatch is dead. Long live the cell phone?


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Andrew Hodges is a small-town Southern lawyer and author of a-southern-gentleman.blogspot.com, a blog about classic style and culture in the American South

Comments

  1. Paul Walters says:

    Though cell phones do tell the time, there is very little in the way of men’s jewelry that matches the cool and expressive nature of a beautiful wristwatch. In the same way that a tube-powered McIntosh amplifier will always sound better than a digital one: the warmth cannot be matched. Long live the wristwatch, f- the cell phone.

  2. keithc2608 says:

    I work in a senior school (11-16) in england and next to no students wear watches. its a shame if the wrist watch does die out as a good watch adds so much to an outfit. mobiles seem to be taking the place of many things in society with all the things you can do with one. but I agree with Paul, above, f the cell phone.

  3. Jim says:

    “they’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day”

    BS. That’s the universal action for asking the time. Sure, young people don’t wear watches so much but they know what they are and where they’re worn!

  4. ted says:

    the pocket watch didn’t disappear it just got smaller and gained a leather belt
    second of all if anyone wants a watch which breaks is you drop it/has a 3 hour autonomy and you have to pay a monthly bill to use than be my guest.the wristwatch will not be surpassed by another device neither as an accessory or a useful item.

    btw this generation[my generation] is comprised by either brain washed teens that listen to pre-made “pop” music made by THE MAN or the jaded basement-dwelling 4chan dude who have seen every monstruosity and sick snuff
    god dammit i want to go back in time and kill the new kids on the block

  5. Gustavo Carreira says:

    Last time I had a wrist watch was about 15 years ago, before having my first cell phone. I never enjoyed jewelry of any kind and, being quite skinny (with even skinnier wrists) wrist watches never looked fine on me. I’m also left handed and using the watch on the left wrist (never got used to wear it on the right)was not confortable for writing and other tasks.

  6. Geoff says:

    I think it’s easy to say the wristwatch will never die but evidence seems to suggest otherwise. For my part I love wristwatches, but I don’t mind the idea that their function will be replaced by something else. I like the idea that the world changes, records are cool, but so are CDs and mp3s, even tapes were cool for a while. Looking into the past would be kind of uninteresting if it was always the same as now.
    That said I’m going to start saving for a Rolex Milgauss while I can still get one!

  7. Peter says:

    I am not sure if college freshmen not wearing wristwatches says a lot about the future of the watch industry. Looking at myself, I did not start wearing wristwatches till I was 30 but now I wear my Girard-Perregaux with pride. I think wearing watches, especially a well made mechanical one, is about the recognition and appreciation of things like artistry, craftmanship and heritage, something which has and will always be a coming of age thing.

  8. Paul Walters says:

    Here, here, Peter. My thoughts exactly.

  9. Mjuboy says:

    As a 20 year old, I have noticed that the majority of my peers do not wear wristwatches but me being one of the few people that do wear them, I do appreciate the value of a wristwatch and wear mine proudly.

  10. Charles says:

    I don’t think Rolex, Tag Huer and Omega are going out of business anytime soon. But I agree, there is nothing more elegant than an understated time piece on your wrist.

  11. Interesting comments. I was a little surprised and shocked by the article at first. Perhaps I am out of touch or in deninal. Having owned many watches over the years I now wear an understated Dunhillion Facet stainless steel wristwatch by Dunill. It’s querky and individual, like me, and I won’t be waving goodbye to the wristwatch but I will keep my eye out to witness this demise.

  12. David V says:

    About three years ago I was riding the train, a local, into work. We pulled into a stop and a man, looking to be in his thirties, was standing on the platform reading his paper and waiting for the express train. He looks up from the paper and reaches into his pocket and takes out his cell phone. Glances at it to see the time and puts it away. All done with the hand on which he is wearing a watch.

  13. I think the watch may be dead for a certain segment of the population. I stopped wearing one in college because the time didn’t matter much anymore. To this day, I ask myself what is the date far more often than what is the time. The phone has replaced the watch as today’s time-teller: it is far more accurate and dependable and bundled in with something you’re probably taking with you out the door anyway. The watch will always be relevant as a piece of jewelry, though. It is an accessory, by definition, as proven by the price it can command. Who can argue that a $5,000 watch is more functional than a $100 watch or perhaps even a $35 Timex? The difference is not function, but aesthetics, and that is the reason the watch is dead for high school- and college-age kids. They’re buying Blackberrys, not Breitlings.

  14. Luke says:

    I am very much in this age group you describe and I still consider a watch to be essential. I hate having to dig my phone out my pocket to see the time, looking at my wrist is so much easier.
    The wrist watch will never die.

  15. Ivan says:

    I’m currently a medical student in england where wearing wristwatches is banned on the wards as are ties and white coats (something most students except me are quite happy about). I have a watch which cost around £200 which is not particularly expensive in the watch world but for most students who comment on it they see it as a huge expense. This is maybe why they don’t see the need for a watch.

    I’ve always grown up wearing a watch and will continue to upgrade it when I finally start getting paid as I assume many of my colleagues will as well! I doubt the wrist watch will die even though I find myself using my watch more as an accessory rather than a timepiece.

  16. jen says:

    The wristwatch is mainly just an accessory now as it has been to women for years now. Since men are very limited when it comes to accessories, I dont think the wrist watch is going anywhere.

  17. jon says:

    just my opinion but I don’t think watch was ever a necessity , even before cell phones. they are only needed for specific jobs like military where it would be awkward to fumble around for your mobile device. People buy and wear watches for many reasons , as symbols of achievement, or to have something lasting that can be passed on to next generation, etc , etc, Telling time has never been the primary reason.

  18. Hosbo says:

    No need to ask students about professional life. Watches are for pros. Those of use who were students really only needed to know “when is the next class;” a watch-on-the-wrist is essential for any diver, telecoms operator, media producer/editor, doctor, astronaut, special operator. The mind reels when considering professional-use wristwatches.
    Also, and not to change the subject, Steve Jobs made a slight error (which he will correct) by not putting a loudspeaker on the new Nano (for alarms) the next Nano will change the watch industry much as iPod rendered obsolete walkmans.