Will Watches Become Obsolete?

Telling the time is a timeless endeavour, but are you doing so in a timely manner?

Chances are you don’t use an hourglass or a sundial.

Those were both methods of telling time that were used across the globe to tell the time for centuries – but now are largely relics of those centuries.

Sure, some people may employ them for ornamental purposes, but chances are you don’t know anyone who tells time by hourglass or sundial on a daily basis.

So, might watches be headed the same way?

After all, it’s a smartphone world now, right?

We all have phones and they all tell time, and often just as accurately as our old-fashioned wristwatches.

What’s more, those wristwatches themselves took the place of pocket watches just as “Video Killed the Radio Star” – so might the smartphone be the wristwatch killer?

Some say yes, and some say no

Let’s look at both side of the argument.

The Case Against Watches

You simply cannot make a case for wristwatches being as essential as they once were.

Smartphones are affordable for most of the world, and they’re easy, accurate, and accessible for all the reasons mentioned above.

The least expensive wristwatch is still obviously way less expensive than the least expensive smartphones, but phones have been outselling watches for years and that trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

What’s more, sales figures a decade ago showed that inexpensive watches are actually the ones declining the fastest.

Arguably it’s high end watches (luxury brands and Apple Watches with smartphone features) that are doing best. Still, that leaves much of the market by the wayside.

History called time on the pocket watch – the wristwatch is just another inevitable casualty.

The Case for Watches

Then again, just because something isn’t on the cutting edge technologically doesn’t mean we stop using it.

On the contrary – despite doomsayers and technocrats’ predictions, tablets haven’t killed physical books.

There are plenty of aspects of paper and leather books that tablets can’t replace, from their historical sense to their battery-less convenience to the aesthetic, tactile, collectable beauty they bestow upon any room’s decor!

The same holds true for watches. Just because phones can tell time now doesn’t mean they can top the marriage of form and function that is a perfect luxury wristwatch.

As combo timepieces and jewellery that work for men and women, watches remain very fashion forward.

Watch batteries also obviously drain way slower, so you probably don’t have to worry about your “watch dying on you” and leaving you without the time.

What’s more, while sales figures or less expensive models have dipped, the luxury watch market has grown.

The Verdict

In Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris, the Archdeacon declares “The book will kill the edifice.”

It’s one of the most famous (and beautiful) sections of the book, ruminating on how for millennia societies expressed their big ideas and dreams in collective works of architecture, but post-Gutenberg and Humanism, books do that.

Notre Dame is the product of another time – but after all, aren’t we reading that very idea in Notre Dame de Paris, which is a book?

So, far from one killing another, old and new mediums can coexist and complement each other, and that’s true of wristwatches and smartphones.

The Apple Watch is already a combination of the two.

It combines the form of a wristwatch with much of the functionality offered by a smartphone.

As this technology becomes better, the blend between not just form and function but the aspects of both offered by wristwatches and smartphones will get better.

Far from killing the wristwatch, the phone and watch may have just given birth to their own hybrid successor item.

Notre Dame itself is still around, thanks in part to Hugo’s novel inspiring a 19th century revival of interest and restoration.

Technocrats be damned, sometimes old things are beautiful and awe-inspiring in part because of their age.

The firefighters who defended Notre Dame against the 2019 fire did so in part because they realised they were fighting to save a precious part of their history and world culture.

Like old collections and books collections, vintage and new fashion forward wristwatches retain a huge following today.

More than just telling time, they tell us something about our own time and times past – and that’s what makes them timeless.

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