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Saturday, 19 June 2021


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I find it more convenient to.look at my wrist when I want to check the time than to pull out my phone.

When I retired, I started wearing a watch again.
No longer being in an office where there were clocks everywhere, I grew tired of having to dig into into my pocket and pull out the brick, just to read the time.
I looked around and found an inexpensive Fossil Smartwatch which has a nice analog style dial displayed every time I tilt my wrist. And it gives me a succinct preview of texts and e-mails, so I don't have to say "Excuse me while I whip this out"* to my compatriots.
Plus, I take pride in being different from the herd.
Think I'll go to the shelf and feed my Nakamichi Dragon a tape...
*Gratuitous "Blazing Saddles" reference.

No one needs a mechanical watch to tell the time just like no one needs a Leica to take a photo. It all comes down (at least for me) to an appreciation of the thing itself—a little machine, often crafted largely by hand, whose design can be traced back for generations (hmmmm . . . just like a Leica). A display back, that lets you see the intricate details of the movement at work, is just icing on the cake.

I love watches. I appreciate a watch’s ability to save me from having to look at my phone. I find the phone too intrusive in my world so thanks to the watch, I know the time without it. They’re stylish, attractive, and are a fashionable accessory for men and women. They have hands that glow in movie theaters and other darkened rooms. They are analog, like a good film camera. They do one thing well. Simplicity on my wrist.

As you probably know, all watch ads are with the hands set for 10:10. Makes for a nice look cradling the brand.

When your premise is wrong, your conclusion has no choice but to follow suit.

I wear a watch to know what time it is. I bought a watch long before smart phones were a gleam in Mr. Jobs eyes. After they showed up, dragging a phone out of my pocket and tapping on it to see the time is 1) way too much work, 2) annoying to me, and 3) annoying to people who are with me. Even if my phone isn't in my pocket, I still have to tap on it and shift my focus to it to see the time, and that's still all three of the above things.

You can see the time on your watch without even looking at it, peripheral vision being what it is.

I do agree on the insanely priced watches. I've had a lower-middle-class Movado for almost 25 years, and it still looks like it's brand new (it's my every day watch). No complications, no numbers, nothing but a gold button at 12. I wear it to tell time, but there's no reason it can't look nice while it's doing it. (Some of those conspicuous consumption watches are just ugly, if you ask me, including that Patek Philippe you pictured.)

That's why I bought, and still wear, a watch.

Why do I wear a watch?
Nothing is as convenient as a slight inclinination of the head and the wrist to get that time check when out and about and the phone is in the pocket or on the sideboard or in the car.

Many situations when it is rude, inconvenient, dangerous, or impossible to look at your phone.

Believe it or not, there are still places “off the grid” where smart phones soon become expensive bricks. In those cases, if you really care about what time it is, an old fashioned mechanical watch comes in handy. I’ve got an old mechanical Wall Engineer watch that I love for such infrequent occasions. But not as much as I love my Apple watch/calendar/heart monitor/weather forecaster . . .

"...if you're buying a watch for style or status—because there can logically be no other reason to buy a watch..." There are actually at least two other reasons. The one that appeals most to me is simply a love of intricate mechanical things that work. The other might be that you're going somewhere where you need the time, and won't be able to charge your phone regularly.

However, if you want real status, measured in accuracy, why not go with something like this: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/14830 and wait 4000 years for it to gain or lose one second. Or this: https://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-05/smallest-atomic-clock-ever-now-sale/. For under $2K you get accuracy that Rolex can only dream of, and at a far lower price.

Of course, to make these atomic clocks real status symbols, they'd need to be encased in custom jewelry, and fitted with mechanical hands. I'm sure that could be done for well under $150K.

It’s a pleasant sensory experience to feel a well-made, precise, dynamic instrument in constant contact with the body.

So, is this (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1469203-REG/garmin_010_02064_03_instinct_outdoor_gps_watch.html) a watch? I mean, this is it on my wrist right now (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1evAq-WqxaHphqmTaS9mvZpxzfQlc8iTt/view?usp=sharing) . I find it pretty useful, even just this face (an analog of an analog watch, if you will), in addition to all the heart-rate and daily-steps measuring and GPS functionality that syncs with my phone that is in my pocket and which I don't have to take out of my pocket just to see what time it is.

I wear a U$20 Casio fake analog watch. I don't have a cell phone, and my cameras aren't so great at telling time. grin. I guess I could just go by the church bells (there are lots of churches in Pamplona) but church holidays kind of mess things up. And since they keep changing the closing times for the bars, I can't rely on that to tell the time at nite anymore. Hence the watch. Although I don't have a job or or watch TV, so there is real no need for a watch either, I guess.


I am not exactly a “watch guy”, for years I thought exactly like you. But then, I stopped having a car, so, in a crowded bus, it’s easier to take a look at your wrist than to reach into your pocket, fish the phone out, and show to everyone around you which pocket has your phone, credit cards and a little bit of cash. I have a couple of them though, none more than a 100 dollars. I am fairly active, so using a watch is better than swimming with a phone!

Your smartphone is only as good as the battery charge? A solar, radio sync'd watch is good for years.

I'm not a watch aficionado or collector—in fact I just have one (1) watch—but since you're curious, I can give you my perspective on why I wear it (as opposed to just relying on my phone). The watch in question is just a simple quartz device, made by an Indian company called Titan. My aunt gave it to me as a gift in 2010 when I graduated and got my first job. I think it cost the equivalent of around $60 at the time, and has served me well ever since.

I wear it partly because it's faster (OK, by a few fractions of a second) to glance at my wrist than to take my phone out of my pocket. But mainly because sometimes I just want to know the god***n time without being distracted by friends' messages, Duolingo reminders, weather updates and the sundry other notifications that my phone visits upon me every time I glance at it. Sorry if I sound cranky; I do still appreciate my phone (I used it to take the photo of my watch).

It also has a bit of sentimental value, being a gift from my aunt as I mentioned. Some years ago I dropped it on a hard gym floor in London. The glass shattered and some of the numbers flew hither and thither. I carefully collected all the bits, and gave it to a repairman the next time I was in India (in London, such a repair would likely cost more than the watch). He put it back together, but he used a glue which turned amber over time. I don't mind it though; it's part of the watch's story now, and a reminder of the accident. So yeah, sentiment plays a part too.

You can get a perfectly adequate nice looking watch for nearer $20 than your $100 I think but the elephant in your room is the Apple Watch which can be in the same price bracket as your preferred Seiko. It’s a better watch than your iPhone particularly because it is your iPhone but more conveniently at times on your wrist not in your pocket. Very useful for timers and glancing at messages to see if they can be ignored or need replies and a host of other things. The main inconvenience as the daily charging but that can be worked into your routine and you can charge them without taking them off.

Maybe I’m not the best one to school you but I can share my experience.
It is frequent to see one watch on each of my wrist (plus the smartphone on my front pocket).
Technically, on the right wrist, I have my “sport/activities/sleep” measurement thing that syncs to - wait for it - my phone. It is the cheapest quality device I could find (Garmin Vivoactive 3 on a NATO strap - your online viewing of watches should teacher you what it is). I bought it to measure/control my sleep and later to measure my cycle rides during pandemic. I would not say it saved my life, but really helped improved my well being. I would like to replace by a Apple Watch (really nice design and have more features, but can not track sleep as good).
So on the right is not a watch, is a thing to track activities - that is what I say to people who was why I have two watches. (During winter no one sees that because of my long sleeves - I don’t wear to show off.)
And then I explain that on my left wrist I have the proper watch, the mechanical watch, the one I like to wear.
1. It is a piece of minute engineer to admire.
2. It tells me time (not as accurate) in a different manner: the way I learned to see and think: in hours and how much % of minutes are left for the next hour
3. Chronometer - a mechanical one is infinitely more practical than my phone. How many taps -after unlocking- you need to start timing? More than one for sure.
As a guy-who-likes-watches is the first that moves me and make me search for some “perfect” watch. The famous rabbit hole. In my case is not for status is for function.
Then you learn your tastes and that there is not such thing as a perfect watch that covers your needs. You have many functions (plural) for your watch.
In my case is (by order of my needs):
1. Dress
2. Tool / everyday wearer (wrong naming, if is everyday you don’t “need” another one!)
3. Chronometer
4. A watch to suffer misuse (think a tough quartz Casio G-Shock to wear when you are doing bricolage or using a drill - It could be a hardened steel Sinn, but you would never be relaxed)
A phone cannot replace categories 3 and 4.

(I think) I’m price conscious, so I have a value for each watch based on its merits and for my wallet. I’m also discreet - no precious metals or shiny stuff. Having said that, most of my watches costed me more than a phone.

You may figured out I have more than 4 watches in less than the above 4 categories. I cannot be your teacher. What I can teach you is too make your watch wearable, if is not comfortable, beire buying/trading for another one, source a good strap.


So then, who is not satisfied with using a phone to tell time, such that they still want a mechanical wristwatch?

Personally I want a wristwatch for the same reason people originally wanted them instead of pocketwatches (and what is a smartphone if not a very ‘complicated’ pocketwatch?): it’s just more convenient to have the time available all the time on your wrist, rather having to dig it out of your pocket.

As for the ‘mechanical’ part, we’ll, there’s no practical reason for that, they’re just cool.

Why would anyone buy a watch? What a silly question - to look at and reflect on one's photography of course! Here's an illustration (sorry I don't know if this will work):

I know the images are small, but they act as both a way of thinking about the compositions (there are 24 images, the maximum the OS allows) and to the memories they represent - from left, the sky on the south coast of England on my 50th birthday holiday, flowers on a grave in the Pere-lachaise cemetery in Paris and a view of part of the beautiful Iron Age earthworks of Maiden Castle in Dorset.

Actually I bought the watch a few months ago to get me to do more exercise during lockdown here in London. So that would be the first reason. Third reason would be to reduce attachment to my phone, which is in fact a reason Apple gives for its product. It's also really useful for timers and as a remote control for the TV.

The Apple Watch has replaced my previous watch given to me for my 50th birthday by my wife and children, it's a lovely Junkers chronograph with a cream face. I hungered for the Junghans Max Bill-designed chronograph, but much too expensive! They're both beautiful objects of design, so much more focused and delightful than the iPhone in my opinion. I sometimes wear it on my other wrist.

After my retirement I drove cars for lease companies, rentals, dealers, etc.
Most of the times it was the bread and butter kind of car here in Europe: VW Polo, Renault Clio and so on. I remember once having to drive a Mercedes Benz G 63 Biturbo, the Uber Bling Bling version, leather upholstered dashboard, alcantara roof, 21 inch wheels and the lot. I have seldom been that embarrassed when driving that very car. Bad taste. Zum Kotzen. The expression goes like “I wouldn’t like to be found dead in this car”. TBH I feel the same for all those overpriced luxury goods. A Rolex watch is on the top of my list in that department. I was therefor a bit shocked when my son in law, who I like very much, told me he really would love to own a Rolex.

In 1978, I bought a Seiko, a moderate priced kind similar to the one you refer to as “Seiko Classic”, on a plane tax free. Wore it for years, lost it and bought myself an identical Seiko. Ten years ago I bought a Casio Pro-trek, a solar powered gadget watch.
Last week the Casio stopped doing its gadgets tricks, so I dug up my trusted old Seiko, went to the jewellers’ shop to have the battery changed. Turned out it too stopped working. So I asked them to send it for repair. Fortuitously, now my favourite blogger does a piece on watches :)
I like having a watch on my wrist. For me it’s more convenient to move my wrist and direct my head in the direction of my wrist, the I want to know the time, than to go looking for and then pick up my iPhone, put my thumb on the homebutton in order to unlock it, and swipe to the right screen. You’ll understand that I therefore totally disagree with your statement that “it's totally unnecessary in the first place”
A smartphone does indeed do the job, but in a clumsy manner.
And don’t get me started on the superfluity and clumsiness of items like electric powered windows in modern cars. I could rant on that subject for quite a while, but I should consider my blood pressure instead.

One last note on the subject of watches. You refer to them as ‘watches’ in stead of ‘wristwatches’.
Could it be that in your mind you put this obsolete item against a modern contraption like a smartwatch and therefor compare its function? If one would compare the form-factor it would be between the watch on a chain and the one on a persons wrist, hence: wristwatch.

If a wristwatch is obsolete, a thing of the past, then can someone explain why Apple spent millions in R&D to squeeze their iphone into a... watch?

And by the way the analog display is inclusive, not a ridiculous $1.99 extra.

You make a lot of trouble over nothing really. I've been wearing a watch since I was 12 years old, now I have a 200 euro Casio, a nice watch that runs on light, that is set right a few times a day by a German atomic clock, that warns me 3 times a day to take my medication, that is not connected to the god***n internet that is always spying on me. And another thing ... I just don't have an internet phone.

A watch is a lot more convenient than a phone for checking the time. When I'm out and about I don't want to have to spend 30 seconds struggling to get my phone out just to check the time. Especially, if the checking needs to be done repeatedly.

But I'm more than happy with a £20 Sekonda. Or these days a Xiaomi Mi fit.

A good watch is a work of industrial art that you get to wear on your wrist and appreciate throughout the day. Just a quick glance will tell you the time. Fishing a fingerprint stained brick out of your pocket to tell time is such a barbaric move. You could even say its a regression to the era of pocket watches.

Even a smartwatch is a million times more convenient than a phone for time telling. I often leave the iPhone at home when using my cellular enabled Apple watch.

Be warned that watch buying is a slippery slope, much like camera lenses or guitars. You may first get a sensible watch, but soon you will start to notice it is sadly lacking compared to some more expensive watch, and so the collection starts. Maybe the date window throws of the symmetry of the dial, is not colormatched or has the wrong typeface. Maybe you read around on the forums and realize that the Seiko 5 sports is a fake diver since it hasn't got a screw down crown and only 100m water resistance. And the movement only makes 21600 vibrations per hour, so the seconds hand is a bit choppy (a trait of most low- to mid price Seikos).

Worse, it is also a pastiche on the legendary SKX. Better get the original.

The "classic" Seiko design on the other hand finds its ultimate expression in the Grand Seiko. Once you have handled a Grand Seiko with its Zaratzu polishing and flawless dial work you cannot abide the execution of the low end Seiko.

By the way, the entry level seems to start at around $4000 according to Hodinkee.


Dear Mike,thank you for yet another interessting read!

So, how about the Eykt watch - giving time with the vikings name for the eight time periods a day, and only one hand, to reflect the not so much pressure of time as we have today (disclosure, Helge the designer is an old philosopher friend): https://svalbard.watch/pages/about_viking_time.html


Men in western tradition don't wear jewels: woman who is very wealthy can show that by wearing a diamond necklace or a ring worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other people will understand what this means. For men is harder: can wear beautiful handmade suit, shoes which other men will recognise (can't fake clothes that are made to fit you). But that is perhaps five or ten thousand dollars only: any pleb can afford that. How to tell person is real person not faker? Watch: a bespoke suit and the right watch shows that someone has enough money to be a player. Fake watches are a problem in this field of course: perhaps mean someone with only ten thousand dollars to spend can look like someone with ten or one hundred times that.

There are other reasons to like mechanical watches of course: some people like beautiful mechanisms. My friend has a Synchronome: an electrically-driven pendulum clock with an ingenious escapement. He dreams of acquiring a Shortt free pendulum clock: a clock which uses the Synchronome to time the escapement of its own, far more accurate pendulum. How this works is not obvious and very clever. And these are quite accurate clocks (is evidence they are the most accurate pendulum clocks that can exist on Earth as are limited by geological and astronomical factors). Once these were useful: now they merely are beautiful.

Finally you have missed smart watches. Some people have these! Also step & activity trackers which overlap with smart watches but not always: Withings for instance make quite pretty activity trackers which mostly are just watches. All these keep atomic-good time and will tell you your heart rate, how you sleep, if you get enough exercise etc.

There may be another reason for a nice watch other than "for style or status". For me it's an appreciation of a well-engineered and finely-made mechanism. A tool to last a lifetime. It's a Leica M3 on my wrist :).

As for Rolex, I always assumed they were basically just over-priced jewelry. That may be partially true, but there's more to it. You might enjoy this Hodinkee article, "Going Where Few Have Gone Before – Inside All Four Rolex Manufacturing Facilities": https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/inside-rolex

(PS: I don't own a Rolex)

I think it's actually pretty simple. A watch on your wrist is instant access to what time it is right now. You can check again 15 seconds later with no effort at all.
My smart phone, on the other hand, lives in my left front pants pocket. To check the time I have to dig it out of my pocket, which takes, oh, 5 seconds or so, and half the time turns my pocket inside out, thanks to the soft cover I have on it. Then I have to stuff it back into my pocket. Which makes me wonder how much I really want to know what time it is right now.
So a watch is a hedgehog that knows just one thing, but knows it perfectly. The smart phone is a fox that knows many things fairly kinda sorta well.

Do not know this until very lately “*Do not adjust the calendar when the watch is reading between 9:00 pm and 4:00 am, otherwise the movement may become damaged and the calendar may not change correctly”.

You don't have to take a wrist watch out of your pocket to look at it. Unlike a pocket computer aka phone.

Expensive watches are not timepieces they are jewellery.

You can get a perfectly reliable watch for a lot less that $100 - like under £20.

I tutor High School and college prep, and during a session we have the students put away their smartphones, because they're too distracting. Of course I do the same. To keep track of time (which is important to get the most out of the session) I wear an inexpensive Timex. I've noticed that glancing at my wrist doesn't give the impression of impatience that it used to; probably for the same reason no one notices when I'm taking pictures with my Rolleiflex: it's not a common gesture any more, like looking down at the ground glass. Of course this isn't a reason for you to wear one. . . I would probably have one anyway, because as a navigator at sea in the Old Days, I needed an independent, reliable timepiece, and the habit sticks. Even though I haven't shot a sunline for years.

In a way I think the answer to your question is akin to the answer to the question why shoot film? Watches are not only utilitarian, at their best they are small, exquisite wonders, being both stylish and reminders of a long technical and scientific history (for the latter “Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time” by Dana Sobel is a great read).
And just like shooting film has had a revival, so have mechanical watches (https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/four-revolutions-introduction ). And while there are certainly extremely expensive watches, and Rolex as the Leica equivalent , there are also affordable ones like Seiko or Hamilton or Longines, where you can find watches that are also quite special (like Fuji). (A good place to start exploring is HODINKEE - https://www.hodinkee.com/)
And if you want something really special The Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch L2.678.4.11.0 | Longines® might be for you (there are many different versions, some more expensive, others less so, you can find it for around $1500, again HODINKEEE has an interesting article - https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/the-history-and-science-behind-the-lindbergh-longines-hour-angle-watch. )

I love my watches: 1) a silver 30yo Fossil that looks much like the TAG above; 2) a blue-faced Citizen Eco-drive that’s a variant of the Citizen above; 3) a black Luminox; and 4) a Timex Marathon. Got #2 and #3 used from a friend. I’ve had 3 of those Timexes over the last 40 years. Definitely have them as jewelry but also…because they’re watches with a band that I wear on my wrist. I’m 59yo and I’ve worn a watch every day, 24 hours a day, since I was in 2nd grade. Wearing one is like wearing a shirt. It’s just something I do. Each one of these is easy to read in the dark and also run forever (or a close-enough-for-me approximation, anyway). I also have had a mobile phone for nearly 20 years, but I carry that in my pocket. So: convenience and some amount of interest in them as jewelry.

“Why a Watch?” Because a nice old Hamilton would look nice on the shelf next to your Wista. And you’d probably use the watch more:)

A watch, to me, is a totem of sorts. Momento Mori. The creation of a finite mind to compartmentalise that which must be given back eventually to the infinite mind. A device that hints at something we know, or knew, but seldom grant appropriate consideration. Like a hint. I think that's why we like them.

Ming Thein has the answer.

Reasons I wear a watch as opposed to carrying a cell phone:

It doesn't interrupt what I'm doing with calls from people I don't want to talk to.

It doesn't require large monthly payments for a "contract" to look at it.

It doesn't pretend to be a camera, or pretend to displace a "real" camera.

I don't have to carry a small awkwardly shaped box in my pocket that demands constant care, attention, and recharging.

The ones I buy cost about a dollar per year of use and keep more than sufficiently accurate time.

It isn't considered obsolete and unable to upgrade in three years, forcing me to buy a new watch for hundreds of dollars.

It doesn't constantly track and report my location, activity, and personal information to corporations and marketers.

Advertizing doesn't pop up on it.

It isn't a status symbol, and doesn't automatically, annoyingly, and constantly remind other people that I'm wearing a Timex or Casio.

I don't have to repeatedly block unwanted people from accessing it.

Usage is "hands free".

Its functions aren't slowed down by the manufacturer over time.

It has a very simple, clean user interface.

It's wireless.

I doesn't occasionally burst into flame on a plane, or anywhere else.

It has no forced licensing agreement.

It doesn't repeatedly prompt me to upgrade its timekeeping function.

Have you ever studied the movement of a mechanical watch . . . one with a so-called exhibition case back (i.e., transparent)? It's a thing of wonder. It just keeps on ticking (assuming your wrist keeps moving or you keep winding it). One can observe a watch movement at work for many minutes (or longer if one is retired). It makes you lose track of time.

I love watches, but as functional tools, not as fashion statements or status symbols. I literally feel so naked if I don't have a watch, that I keep one in my car just incase I run out the door without donning one. Number one criteria is accuracy, otherwise what's the point? Number two, and only a fraction of a point behind one is durability. Lastly, in my old(er) age, size... I have to be able to read it without putting my reading glasses on.

My watch for the last year? I saw an article online saying that Bill Gates wears a 50 dollar watch, and then had the watch displayed in the article. It was a Casio dive watch, and sure enough it was 50 bucks on Amazon. Bought it, replaced the strap with a 20mm NATO band (all of my dozen watches have NATO bands), and it has not been off my wrist in a year.

I'm sure many will be bringing up high end watches, but I doon't know why I would need to spend much more to meet my minimum criteria.

Speaking as someone who has been badly, badly bitten by the Watch Bug, it's a terrible affliction, avoid it if you can. It makes Leica ownership look financially sound. It's not useful from a utility standpoint, and it's not useful from a status standpoint outside of a narrow community of watch collectors.

That said, if you want to get in and out of the I'd Like A Mechanical Watch And I Don't Know Why game in one fell swoop for less than the cost of a tried-and-true 50mm F1.8 DSLR lens, go to the website Island Watch and search for "SNKL23J1". Or if you fancy something more classical, search the same site for "Orient". Anything in that category could be your one-and-done watch, and a source of much enjoyment and practicality.

I want to echo what several others have said, that a wristwatch is a superior time-telling device to an Apple Watch or an iPhone *because it doesn't distract* with push notifications, alarms, or the promises of other functionality. Unless you are building your activity routines around its health and fitness tracking capabilities, the Apple Watch exacts a hidden toll of distractions and context-switches and remembering-to-charge-it and general fussiness. I wear mine when running, and occasionally when travelling, but that's it.

I wore cheap watches as a kid and in high school. Then I got a job where I occasionally had to put my hands inside things, and it was a messy job at the best of times, and we weren't allowed to wear a watch anyways. I got used to not wearing one. It got to the point I knew what time it was within a few minutes without looking at a clock.

Then digital took over, and if there's something all digital devices do, it's display time. I didn't need a watch. Then I started traveling out to the boonies and needed to be sure of the time, so I got a cheap watch, and wore one for a while.

Somewhere along the way my wife gave me a big clunky man-watch. It has all sorts of secondary dials, and I never understood what they did. It's huge. For a big guy I have fairly small wrists, and I never got it to fit right. This huge weight sloshed around on my wrist. I wore it to work and to nice occasions. Then the battery died, (I never wound it and just assume it's the battery) and I never bothered replacing it. The watch sits on my photo editing desk along with some other knick-knacks, gathering dust.

Now, as you say, it's often the iPhone, or laptop, or camera, to find out what time it is. My most common use to look at a clock is when editing photos to be sure which 3 photos are the same HDR image, which doesn't happen all that often.

And, I still know the time to within a few minutes even before I look, and now that I'm retired that's good enough.

Well, great publications must think alike. Todays NYT has this article about a guy who tracks down stolen watches.


I no longer wear a watch, but I understand why people like Mechanical Watches. They represent mechanical precision evolved to the highest order. They can be beautiful objects as well. I think it is the electronic watch that is in trouble. Apple has made those irrelevant . The Apple watch answers the 'time on your wrist' preference, as well as being a Dick Tracy communicator. But Apple's focus one health care has made it a life saving device. Take a look at those features, -all kinds of monitors and even fall detection that can automatically call for help.

Some consider a nice watch the only jewelry a man can wear. I was sitting on a plane next to a young couple many years ago, and I noticed and complimented the beautiful vintage Rolex the man was wearing. He thanked me and told me it was a a wedding gift from his wife, a symbolic gesture to thank him for her engagement ring. A few years later, when I got engaged to my wife, I decided to buy myself a nice watch. I wear it almost every day. I love its looks and craftsmanship. It is one of my most used possessions, even if only for its appearance. The icing on the cake is that it has increased in value since I bought it quite a bit, which isn't something I can say for many other purchases I have made.

I tossed my watch the day I retired, along with my ties. I can live without both these things.

Being tethered to the clock and schedule is something I don't miss. If I need to know the time it's easy enough to figure out, I don't need a constant reminder on my wrist. But that's just me.

I bought an Omega Speedmaster as a retirement gift but my everyday watch is a Vostok Amphibia. I don’t think any other brand of watch has a better back story: in 1965 the Soviet military went to Vostok and ordered a new military diver with these specs:

Reliable, cheap, waterproof to 200M, and an original design that does not infringe or require royalty payments to western patents.

Vostok succeeded big time. For about 100 bucks you can own a watch with an in-house 31 jewel movement, is reasonably accurate, and has a stated service interval of 10 years. And you can buy them off Amazon. Feel free to insert an affiliate link.

I have one and I love it. Mine is slightly fast; it gains about a minute every 4 or 5 days. There are many videos about Vostoks. Well worth a viewing or two. A watch geeks watch.

Count me with those who prefer the intuitive simplicity of glancing at your wrist to the process of pulling a phone out of your pocket and activating the screen.

And as for accuracy, there are many good and affordable "atomic" wristwatches available. Here's the one I purchased several years ago:

"Solar" powered so it never needs winding, and accurate to within some fraction of a second. I've worn it 24/7 for six years - it's scratched and slightly battered, but has never needed repair - what's not to like?


Many years ago when I was an impoverished student I read "Living Poor With Style" by Ernest Callenbach. Among the advice he gave was to buy a $15 Timex, wear it until it died and then buy another. His logic was that Timex watches were pretty reliable and if you bought a 'good' watch it would likely need cleaning and/or repair around the same time the Timex would die and a Jeweler would charge you $15 just to pop the back off the good watch plus whatever other work the cleaning/repair cost so you would be ahead by just buying another $15 watch. Although prices have gone up since he wrote that, I think the advice holds.

Regarding the question "Why a watch?", I wear a watch partly because I'm 'old school' (76 YO) and although I carry a cell phone I find it easier to simply look at my wrist than to pull the phone out of my pocket. Lazy I suppose but, there it is. BTW you can still get a (now digital) watch at Walmart for close to $15.

Is this your inner Michael Reichmann coming out.

A mechanical watch has a soul, reminds you of special occasions, and can be passed on to your children. 50 years from now it will still work, and can be repaired if needed.

A mobile phone is a disposable object you have to baby-sit (protect it, feed it, remember where you put it). Mobile phones and the way people use them sometimes remind me of the Tamagotchi.

I am thinking of getting a Casio to use while scuba diving, but then I will need to learn how to swim.

Every time I look at my phone I lose 10-30 minutes to your so called ‘dementors,’ so it actually doesn’t make a very good watch. That’s my experience.

Does anybody really know what time it is...?

By the time I read this post today, you already had many good answers to your questions. So no need to repeat. The quartz watches can be just as fascinating as the mechanicals. A good quartz like Grand Seiko has incredible levels of finishing, aningenious movement, and keeps time to better than 10 seconds per year, without any external interaction.

I would add that watch buying c an easily become addictive. Last year I owned 16 watches, many of which were very expensive (Rolex etc). I realized that I was spending a small fortune on servicing as a service is generally required about every 10 years or so, whether the watch is worn or not, and costs about $1000 and up (sometimes WAY up) for the more expensive items. So if anyone has any tendency to addictive patterns, stay well away from watches. Your bank account will thank you! (BTW. I am now down to seven watches with a couple more out for sale.)

Why drive a car with a stick?

People like what they like.

I have a "smart" watch. It does all sorts of fancy things. But most importantly, I can look at it to get the time and not start reading things online. I could get it to tell me what texts I am getting, but I prefer not to.

Ditto the practicality of quick, hands-free time checking.

When I was 12, I received a Timex as a birthday gift. It had the then-new “indiglo” light up feature, which was pretty cool. I wore it every day for 15-20 years, when it stopped working (the indiglo gave up the ghost a few years earlier). I bought another Timex (also with indiglo), which I’ve been wearing ever since. At most, I figure I will live about 3 more Timexes.

I like having a watch, but I don’t really care about watches. I still think the indiglo is pretty cool, though.

I just smile reading your post. You could have substituted "watch" for "camera" and it would work pretty much the same.

I found myself in the same spot you are now four years ago, after a piece on The New Yorker, then I found Hodinkee web magazine, then the youtubers, and I ended up buying 10 sub-500 bucks watches in the next two years (of course, all mechanical).

On hindsight, I now know is all about nostalgia. I'm 50, so I grew up reading books and watching movies about the 50s and 60s the heyday of mechanichal watches. One of my biggest heroes, Costeau, used Rolex and Blancpain, the Apollo astronauts weared Omega speedmasters, Yuri Gagarin used a Sturmanskie, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary used Rolex and Smiths on the Everest (both makers claimed Hillary used theirs). Decades before, the first really practical aviator, the brazilian Alberto Santos Dumont, weared the first pilot watch made, amazingly, by Cartier.

And you're gonna love the unanswered question about the more famous watch on photography history, the one featured on that famous Koudelka masterpiece. Or the search for the watch model that features so prominently in Pulp Fiction. And did you know that one of the royal brands of watchmaking, Jaeger LeCoultre, once made what is probably the must exquisite camera ever made?

It's also about the nostalgia for that mechanical world, for an incredible little machine that can get energy for your wrist movement (take that, solar and lithium batteries) and beat as high as 36,000 beats per hour without falling apart for years. I always tried to get my watches with the exhibition display on the back, to enjoy the view of the movement.

As you will see, there's also the nostalgia for the design of that long gone first decades of the XXth century. Must of the recent "new" models of the big brands are really reissues.

There's also the nostalgia when viewing at the higher end watches that I could never afford, of that rare thing, a beautiful hand made object. Of course, they are a mark of social injustice, like almost all of the great art in history.

I think I'm past my watch fever now, but I enjoy swimming in those shores for awhile, as I'm sure you will. After all, photography is mainly about nostalgia.

We have two grandfather clocks. (You know those things with pendulums and heavy weights that have to be wound once a week.) Visitors who do not know us often ask if we can sleep at night with the bells striking every (half) hour. In fact my wife can't sleep if the clocks do not strike. And I like the regular tick-tack sound.

Whatever….that [the Citizen —Ed.] is the exact watch, and band, that I have worn for years. Great choice.

Why a watch? Can check time when can’t pull phone out, for example on bicycle. Watch works when phone would run out or risks running out of battery, for example on multi-day hiking or skiing trip. Weighs less. (Those requirements are very niche, I admit.) Always there, never have to look around for it. Also habit.

I have a watch with a quartz movement, a thin titanium case and a sapphire crystal. It’s perfect. It was not expensive.

But all your reasons for why not a Rolex—exactly. I would not want to be taken for a member of either crowd. Now how does that fit in with my Leica? Problematically, I think.

Why I wear a watch:
1. I can check someone's pulse while looking at the sweep second hand (I am a physician). No buttons to push.
2. I can set the bezel and know how much time has elapsed just by looking at it. Again, no buttons to push.
3. I don't have to remember to plug it in, so it's always working.
4. I can get water on it, even swim with it on, and not worry about damaging it.
5. It is a form a jewelry. It doesn't have to be expensive to be attractive. For example, check out the Bulova "surfboard" reissues. They are fun and unique designs. Swatch and Fossil have specialized in affordable yet attractive designs.
Other points worth mentioning:
1. Luxury goods are often purchased as a reward to oneself, a kind of a treat. They also make great gifts, as they might be something that the recipient desires but would not personally spend the money on.
2. Some might live a bit vicariously with a watch, as with other purchases. A person might be stuck with the old 9 to 5, but wearing the same watch as an famous explorer, athlete or other celebrity provides that person with a link to someone extraordinary. It's a common advertising point.
3. A watch repairman that I know, who makes more money buying and selling watches than repairing them, told me that the only watch that you can make money on is a Rolex. (I don't own a Rolex, and I don't miss it.)
4. Finally, some people develop a GAS-like compulsion to collect watches. Kenneth Tanaka is onto something there with his reply about parallel universes!

Watches are great. The quick glance is convenient. That being said, when I regularly wore a watch (years ago) I was known as someone that was regularly late. When I gave up wearing watches, I became good at guessing what time of day it was, and making sure that I was on time for things. I became a person that was early or right on time. Go figure.

Even so, I have a lot of great stories about seeking watches, losing watches, ruining watches, fixing watches, and many of these are very much related to travel and adventures getting lost in foreign countries. A watch is a thing marking an era of living (much like a tethered phone; 70s TV; etc) that I'm glad I experienced. They are a singular piece of technology, and they our a source of stories and memories and meaning for those that have had them, and for those who have passed them down. (e.g. that goofy Christopher Walken interlude in Pulp Fiction)

I buy my fake watches from the Chinese in São Paulo.

I stopped wearing watches a very long time ago. I found myself teaching in classrooms with no clocks (because who would possibly want to know what time it was in a classroom, right?) So I took to asking students what time it was. After one class, a student said to me, "Here, take this watch. The person you were asking about the time was lying to you the whole term and it was always early." It was a nice $2 child's watch, the straps of which I removed so I could carry it in my pocket. It gave up the ghost after staying in my jeans for a wash, so I went back to relying on untruthful students.

Sorry for double dipping, but I just have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable reads, most every post, and you could almost forget this is a photography site.

Very nice initial query, Mike and terrific replies, all.

Remember my story about the $4million watch and photo I posted on Jan 6?https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2021/01/a-photographers-home.html

I swim with a masters team. I use a Casio dive watch to keep track of split times and use the bezel to count repetitions. If I need to leave practice early I can time my exit with the watch. I tried to strap my iPhone XR to my wrist but it wreaked havoc on my arm stroke recovery. And it kept failing from water immersion. A $20 dive watch beats the heck out of a phone in swim practice. I can tell you that.

I started wearing a watch mostly because of my time in the USAF. My preferred watch nowadays usually involves either a Casio Databank Calculator or the Casio circular slide-rule watch. Both are great conversation pieces and with the slide-rule I can do some calculations faster compared to my iPhone.

Warning - mildly risque.
I'm an incurable techie and my early history of watches proves it. While in college the early 60s, I bought myself a Bulova Accutron watch. It cost as much as my used Leica M2! (https://www.accutronwatch.com) I wore it for more than ten years until...
I was a high tech marketing guy and my PR guy's father ran a jewelry store. The Pulsar, the first digital watch, had just been introduced. I had to have one and "he got it for me wholesale...". Still a techie, I was driving a Mazda R2 Coupe - the first rotary car in New England - the Boston dealer opened a year later than NYC where I purchased it.
The Pulsar was a stunner. (http://www.oldpulsars.com) It blew people's minds - carved from a solid block of stainless steel with red LEDs that lit up through a ruby-colored crystal showing the time. It cost about $750 then, equivalent to $5000 today.
Unfortunately, the LEDs took so much current they could only be on for a few seconds when you wanted to know the time. There were two ways to turn the display on, push a button or quickly flick or twirl your wrist and a sensor would light the display.
That feature was what everyone wanted to see, and after a while it became tiring.
Except for one time. I was visiting our rep in Italy. He had seen the Pulsar on a visit in the US, so when we walked into the office the first day, he called all his staff around and had me demonstrate the wrist movement to turn the display on. Everybody had to get close to see it. One tall, beautiful lady who worked in the office laughed loudly and said something in Italian that made everybody laugh loud and long. When the laughter died down, the rep told me what she had said: "The only problem with that watch is that when you give yourself a hand job, you run the batteries down!"
After that watch, I switched back to mechanical Heuers until I quit wearing a watch around 2005.

Perhaps the watch that originally peaked your interest and led you down the first step of this rabbit hole is a Ginault? Made in the U.S.A, no less.

I have one. I bought one of the very first ones they made. I wear it every day. It's what watch-folk call a 'beater'. Meaning, the one you wear in daily life, that cops a beating because you don't baby it.

It was the cheapest way to buy a watch with a metal band that you could adjust without a special tool to hand. As luck would have it, I happened to have had a lazy US$1,000 at the time. A great discount on it's usual price.

And it cured me. I no longer yearned for great watches after it arrived. It was beyond sufficiency to satiate whatever it was within me, that had seen me examine near 20,000 watches over the years. At the time I owned over 30 exquisite watches. The Ginault keeps perfect time. Not good. Actually perfect time. Neither gaining nor losing a second over the course of these last three years. Not bad for a knock-off :-)

So I sold off all bar four of the other watches. Made a very tidy profit which I parlayed into a couple of guitars, which I play every day.

So, why do I wear a watch? An amalgam of the reasons put forth already by my fellow commenters? No. Just to know the time at a glance, is all.

Well,my then-girlfriend/now wife gave me a nice Hamilton as a gift about fifteen years ago (before iPhones). Never bothered to find out what it cost, it was a thoughtful gift that still suits my style. I enjoy wearing it, although I don't always, and she likes seeing it on my wrist. The only part about it that I don't like (and this is minor) is that a few times strangers have complimented me on it...

Watches are an obsession of mine too and have 10 fairly expensive ones (not totally insanely so though - just moderately lunatic). Why? Because they are beautiful little machines that require frequent admiration - and they happen to tell you the time when you need it as well. Accuracy has nothing to do with it although clearly desirable.

Nice to see Nomos getting a mention. I bought one a couple of years ago with some money from my dad's legacy. It was something to remember him by. Beautiful Bauhaus-inspired design, but also a maker that few have heard of. Mine is a mechanical Metro which looks a bit like the Tangente in the linked review, but without the numerals and with the same exposed mechanism at the back. It is something "real", a genuine bit of German craft.

I wear a watch because I am used to it since I was a teenager. Because I find it a useful tool to check the time. Really.

I like mechanical things and during lockdown when the battery changing kiosks and jewellers were all closed my wife and my mother both had watches which no longer worked whilst I still had my mechanical watches.

To those of you who use smartphones, how many smartphones will you have over a 40+ year period? Obviously smartphones do more than just tell the time but anyone not interested in them could make the ecological and sustainable choice and buy a cheap watch and if looked after it'll still be working decades later. Maybe 40+ years later. Mine are.

"Haven't we been able to buy a perfectly good watch for a hundred dollars...".

I'm staring right now at my $35.00 Armitron Day/Date, going on 22 years....!

Had a friend once that had a Rolex chronograph, and he kept taking it in for adjustment because he was livid it didn't keep as accurate time as my Armitron Quartz! He was told that a mechanical chronograph loses or gains "x" amount of time a day, within a certain scale of accuracy, BUT, that doesn't mean it keeps time as well as an actual quartz watch, even a cheap one!

BTW, the watch was created so that you could check time without stopping to take your pocket watch out! First made for women, and adopted by soldiers so that they could check the time when they were "busy". Taking your cell phone out to check the time is regressive thinking! People with cell phones see the watch on my wrist and ask me the time, all the time. Too much of a bother to take their cell phone out.

Sounds like you need to delete your browser cookies.

I loved watching this little video from twitter about a broken Tissot watch being refurbished:

I bought a watch to keep track of time while shooting. If I'm on a job in an office and I have 6 hours to shoot 12 locations I have to watch (no pun intended) that I don't spend too much time at each location. I used to check the time on my phone but I became conscious that it might look like I was constantly checking my messages during the shoot. S I bought a nice Tissot for under 300 dollars. It looks stylish and it's so much easier and graceful than puling your phone out of your pocket.

xkcd has the answer to all philosophical questions like these:

To bring this full circle, close-up product photos of beautiful watches always get second and third looks from me.

Here's a cool thought: The basic mechanism behind a wrist watch is the same as that in a grandfather clock. We have simply shrunk the working mechanism buy two orders of magnitude and made what was once liner into a device that is circular.

But here's my sales pitch:

In addition, the mechanical watches I favor are user-serviceable after a fashion. It was part of my quarantine learning curve to start to learn watch repair. They are, withal, much simpler than a phone. They are also much more robust. My favorite watches are made of stainless steel and synthetic sapphire and ruby. They can survive environments and pressures that would KO a phone in under a second. Their technology is non-proprietary, so I can actually say that I own them -- and no manufacturer is going to try and "brick" them after a single digit number of years. Furthermore, I have my father's watch which is still serviceable after fifty years, and a couple of pocket watches that are still serviceable after 110 years. I'd wager most phones in service today won't still be around in 110 months, or anything like it. My watches don't track my habits, report on me to third parties, invade my privacy, try to sell me anything, or offer me as a "product" to shady, unnamed "partners" or "affiliates" (legalese for "whomever we say"). My watches don't come with click-box license agreements that waive my rights or rope me into arbitration clauses. My watch can't empty my bank account when I am not looking, or be used to track my location. My watch's crystal can't be scratched by anything softer than a diamond or cracked by anything other than a blow by a hammer -- and if the crystal does get dinged, I can replace it myself.

My watch doesn't cause "distracted driving" or routinely put pedestrians through a "Darwin's Choice Award" pageant when crossing the street, or disrupt the urban social contract among pedestrians. It doesn't separate parents from their children at the dinner table, seek to resolve bar bets, or try any funny business. It can't be made obsolete: heck it IS obsolete. And I must own thirty of them.

My sister once asked my why I owned that many, and I responded, "the same reason you own more than one pair of shoes: fashion." "Oh." She responded. "I get it."

Lastly: I think part of the appeal of a mechanical watch is related to the appeal of a Leica as a built device, or a fountain pen as a writing instrument. There are more modern and efficient ways to get your destination. But none more fun. That is, if you are susceptible. And if you aren't, that's OK too.

To save a jet?

Freezing Navy EA-18G Crew In Ice Filled Cockpit Navigated Home Using Their Smart Watches


I have tried to not replace my watch battery when it ran out, and just use my smartphone, or my computer (which I'm mostly sitting right at).

Those don't work for me; both of them require more action to get me the time than looking at my actual watch does. And are harder to surreptitiously peak at during long meetings (not so much a problem this last year).

(Part of it is probably also deeply-conditioned habits. In particular, when I first had a watch, in 1958 I guess, all the clocks around me were independent, and fairly inaccurate. So, trying to be on time to things based on clocks around me was fraught, likely to be late or early for things. Depending only on the watch on my wrist eliminated the issue of inconsistency of other clocks, and then being careful to keep my watch set accurately, worked hugely better; the really important outside clocks, radio network schedules and train schedules and school schedules, tended to be on the more-accurate side. And I probably acquired this habit and this justification from my father.)

The problem with all the watches you show in the article is that they've got those weird old-fashioned pointer things on their face, rather than nice simple numerals. I've still got the only two analog watches I've ever owned, but I converted to digital in the very early 1980s and never looked back.

I like watches. But I don’t like to spend money on them. When I was a teen, I saw a Rolex ad in Flying magazine, I think it was the Nov 1977 or 1979 issue. The watch was an Explorer 2. It was 550.00 u.s. in those days. I got the chance to buy it a few years later from a guy who hated it. I still have it, but feels heavy now. Never serviced it or cleaned. Now I switch from a Swiss Army plastic watch, bought years ago in the Chicago airport duty free, an IWC pilot watch that I use when flying, and a couple more old cheap watches that I like. I have also an Iphone 5 that is very damaged and can’t take pictures anymore because the lens is all scratched.

Since I read this blog, I dont look at people’s faces, only at their wrists.

Dammit, Mike! I didn't realize that one could procure an actual, classic mechanical wristwatch for a not-ridiculous amount of money! Now I am lusting over that Seiko. I've even got an excellent Citizen Navihawk that I bought (for more than the Seiko) out of my winnings from Jeopardy!, but which haven't worn in more than five years because I didn't like having a big, metal thing on my wrist. I do not need another watch, but now I want one. Sigh.

Fascinating article! I stopped wearing a watch six or seven years ago and have never missed it. We all have a natural sense of time and wearing a timepiece atrophies it. I usually have a good sense of what the time is and on the occasions I need split-second precision I’ll just use my phone. Our society is obsessed with micro-managing time. Many earlier societies would have thought this odd and likely pretty sad.

If you don't need a watch because you have a smartphone then you also don't need a camera, for the very same reason.

[Hmm, I might argue with that. The smartphone is better at keeping time than a watch; the camera in the smartphone is worse than a real camera. So the relative positions are flipped I think.

But I do take a lot of pictures with the phone and very much enjoy it. --Mike]

Re "perforce": My first encounter with the word was in a short story, "Smart", by the fine, fine writer Mary Robison (second paragraph):


An encounter I still remember 40 years later.

Interesting: according to Google Ngrams (which only looks back to around 1800), its use in print peaked around 1900, but when you look into it, the top hits are actually quotations from much earlier texts, mostly Shakespeare or one of the English Bibles.

The problem with mechanical watches is that they need servicing and the servicing is expensive, It is even more expensive if the thing is waterproof and needs pressure resealing and checking once it has been opened. If you want mechanical and have checked the service requirements and cost out-fine. Not servicing a mechanical watch is like not servicing your car. The big plus on solar watches is that they don't have to be opened, not even to replace batteries. I have a Citizen Automatic NJ2180 and love it for several reasons. Solar. Saphire crystal glass (it has never scratched. Any reasonable watch you plan to keep ought to have saphire glass) Titanium case and band=lightweight. And I like the look of the thing. I've had mine for quite a few years. It performs flawlessly and still looks as new.

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