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Ding Dong, the Watch Is Dead

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A recent business trip with a coworker half my age uncovered a cultural sea change of which I had been unaware. After repeated questions concerning the time while we were on planes, I finally blurted, “Don’t you have a watch?”

I was not annoyed by her inquiries; I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be without a watch. But that’s why she was asking; her cell phone was turned off on the plane, so she didn’t know what time it was.

Looking into this further, I realized that the Millennial generation’s all-digital DNA has made the modern watch nothing more than an accessory. When we returned to the office, I asked another coworker, who sported a decorative watch, if she used it to tell time. “Of course not,” she said. “It takes too much time to tell time on a watch.”

RIP, you analog dinosaur. Check out No. 28 on The Beloit College Mindset List of characteristics of the Class of 2014: “They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.”

Now I understand why it’s so hard to find an analog wall clock with a secondhand for my kitchen. No one even knows what a secondhand is. Children don’t learn to tell time on a clock with a face anymore. In fact, when confronted with a clock with a face, they can’t process what they’re seeing—and if they could, it would take too much time, as my coworker noted.

In the 1980s watchmaker Seiko ran a popular ad campaign featuring a woman boasting that her Seiko lasted longer than her marriage did. That resonated with the much-divorced baby boomers—my first watch, given to me as an 18th birthday present by my dad, was a stainless steel Seiko with a red face. It lasted easily another 18 years and was always one of my most prized possessions.

But that was then. Ironically, if the wristwatch goes by the wayside, it won’t have lasted even a millennium. In the Aug. 29, 1915 New York Times (which of course I accessed digitally), a short article about the convention of the National Retail Jewelers Association noted its controversial decision to embark on an expensive promotional campaign to promote the “pulse timepiece” vs. the pocket watch. The pendulum has swung.

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About Wendy Schweiger

  • I’m sad to see the wristwatch going the way of the film camera and paperback/hardback books. Those are some of my favorite favorite things.

  • Nice article! Great title.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Actually, if you’ll check with nurses, they are normally required to wear an analog watch – for it makes it much easier to check the pulse of a patient.

    But then I had my pulse checked by a Navy Corpsman the other day. She was using an analog watch…which was nothing more than a display of an app on her iPhone.