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Why Wear a Watch?

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Few men these days need to time the start of a battlefield attack, and technology has come a long way since the Battle of the Somme.

We’ve now entered an age where a man can check the time by pressing a button on his smartphone, which begs an obvious question: “Are there still any reasons to wear a watch?”

It’s a fair question, and wristwatch sales did in fact start declining in the early 00s, thanks in part to the increased use of smartphones. But after reaching an all-time low in 2009, wristwatch sales have been increasing at a steady clip year in and year out and will likely continue that upward trend.

What’s going on there? Every man has his own reasons for sporting a wristwatch, but here are a few as to why you might consider joining their ranks:

Wristwatches are functional and convenient.

When I got my first smartphone, I was one of those people who dumped their wristwatch. Why carry an extra piece of equipment, I figured, when there’s a clock built right into my phone?

But after a year, I found myself getting annoyed at having to pull my smartphone out of my pocket whenever I wanted to know the time. I had unwittingly traveled back over a hundred years, burdening myself with the same inconvenience soldiers had discovered during the Burma War; in everything else my smartphone was light years ahead of anything from the early 1900s, but as a timepiece, it was essentially an old fashioned pocket watch.

With a wristwatch, on the other hand, telling the time just requires a glance at your arm, and both of your hands remain completely free and ready for action.

What’s more, with a traditional wristwatch you don’t have to worry about the power going out on your timepiece or recharging it regularly. A quartz watch can go months without a new battery, automatic watches almost never lose power, and a mechanical watch only needs to be wound to keep it ticking — no power plug needed. The power factor is a big reason I dumped the smartwatch (they also don’t look very good) after a few months of use. I had to charge the thing all the time. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Bottom line: nothing beats a classic wristwatch when it comes to convenient, hands-free, at-the-ready timekeeping. 

Wristwatches look good.

 

Wristwatches, while functional, are also designed with looks in mind. They’re one of the few pieces of male jewelry that can easily be worn every day.

When matched correctly, a stylish, well-designed watch can add a bit of polish, panache, and visual interest to any outfit. It’s a subtle detail, but people notice it. When I’ve got a solid get-up on and I’m rocking a watch that goes with it, I usually get more compliments on the watch than my clothes.

And the beauty of watches is that because they come in so many varieties, you can develop a collection that you can draw from to put the finishing touch on any ensemble, no matter the occasion. Business formal? Rock your simple, but elegant dress watch. Casual first date? A dive or field watch will look handsome.

Wristwatches signal status/personality.

One of the key developments in human development was the adaptation of social signaling. Instead of relying solely on embodied characteristics, like height and physique, to determine status, our human ancestors started using things like clothing and jewelry to size each other up.

When pocket watches came on the scene a few hundred years ago, they quickly catapulted into one of the West’s most powerful social signals. Early watches were expensive, so only the very rich could afford them. Owning one signaled to folks that you had indeed arrived. When pocket watches transformed to wristwatches during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was typically high-born British officers wearing them. Even as mass production drove the price of wristwatches down, quality pieces continued to maintain their status signal cache.

Now, the easiest way to signal status with a wristwatch is, of course, to procure the high-end luxury variety. Nothing announces “I’ve made it big” like sporting a $30,000 vintage Rolex.

Yet even if such displays of conspicuous consumption understandably rub you the wrong way, and you opt for something in the far less expensive range, a wristwatch still represents a potent clue to your personality and interests. Fancy yourself a sporty guy? A racing or diving watch can showcase that. Pride yourself on plain practicality? A rugged field watch can convey that.

Yes, watches are about timekeeping, but thanks to their powerful social cache, they can be used to express your values, tastes, and likes to others. Choose wisely.

Wristwatches are timeless.

While the wristwatch as we know it has only been around for a century, it’s gained a timeless distinction in the world of style. A well-designed classic wristwatch is like a well-designed suit — it will still look good decades from now. There’s a reason 60-year-old Rolexes are still selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Even if a watch costs you a lot, it’s an investment that will continue paying dividends in enjoyed use for years to come.

The timelessness of the wristwatch also makes it a fantastic heirloom. If you’re lucky enough to inherit a watch from your father or grandfather, every time you wear it, you’ll have a tangible reminder of the men who made your life possible. If you don’t have a family heirloom watch, begin the tradition in your own life by acquiring a nice timepiece that you can someday pass on to your son or grandson.

Wristwatches feel good.

Wristwatches not only look good, but they feel good too. Because of their historic associations with war and adventurous pursuits like racing, flying, and diving, no male accessory is quite as romantic and evocative as the watch. Not only do these associations signal things to others, but they signal things to yourself as well, about who you’d like to be and what you’d like to be doing. If the watch is an heirloom, it may remind you to carry yourself in a way that would make your forebearers proud.

It may sound silly to think a physical object like a wristwatch could alter your mindset a little, but it’s no different than the totems and talismans our primitive ancestors outfitted themselves with for luck, protection, and courage.

Man has always tried to master the elements, one of the primary ones being time. A watch gives you the sense of being in control of your precious hours and minutes; strap one on and you feel ready for your appointment with destiny. Or at least a meeting or date, which, hey, could very well change the course of your life.

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