I do not mourn the wristwatch but I cannot help but note its slow passing.
Like many accoutrements that once seemed costume de rigueur in my youth, the wristwatch is quickly becoming as au courant as a top hat and tails.
One Christmas, when I was still but a wee lad, my parents purchased a costly wristwatch each for my brother and I. I was delighted, because it was a sign I was “becoming a man” and thus presumed to be capable of taking care of something as valuable as a fine timepiece.
Let me tell you, this watch was a state of the art piece of craftsmanship… or at least “state of the art” for 1982. It had a modern digital read out, a calculator, a stopwatch, and could tell the time in four separate time zones at the same time. Full of other esoteric features and coated in a high-gloss black brushed-metal casing, it was just downright cool looking.
Of course, in retrospect, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Just a trifling piece of electronics. It didn’t “make me a man” as much as it signified that my parents were tired of buying me action figures for Christmas.
Now, in our current technological epoch, a wristwatch is, at best, a mere piece of jewelry. One’s cellular phone is just as accurate with the time and often easier to read and access.
As an unintended consequence, I’ve noticed that many of this generation of students often struggle to read a watch with hands. No doubt to many such youngsters a watch without hands may seem as the inverse of a smartphone. Verily, a wristwatch only does one thing and it doesn’t even connect to the Internet.
Few of the young people with whom I come in contact wear a watch, and only a few more professionals and businessmen do. For them it seems the sort of jewelry that one can wear without seeming “metrosexual” or just overdone.
Men in our culture have little chance for conspicuous consumption when it comes to style, so a good wristwatch is one way of doing so.
Watches, like prominently displayed encyclopedias, are no longer useful, but still quite lovely. As lovely objects, they are eccentric, but acceptable. As symbols, they can be potent.
I believe only a few professions still have a need for a wristwatch, like nurses perhaps, but I imagine the rest of us are no more likely to wear a watch than we are to gild a stethoscope and hang it about our necks.
Eventually I’ll probably pass it to one of my own descendants, along with whatever stories or memories I can summon. Hopefully my children will appreciate it for what it is, a relic of a bygone era.
But I doubt such affectation will be attached to any smartphone.
Not entirely unlike the curtain call of the printed word, as digital reader and electronic books are clamoring for the limelight, the wristwatch grows increasingly out-of-date.
But were they able to voice a lament, no doubt they would caution the appliances of our modern era to have a care.
For anything that is not timeless is eternally out of date.