Why wear a watch when I have the time on my phone?

As a “technology person” (ugh), people ask my why I wear a mechanical watch when I already have the time on my phone?

I love mechanical watches for a number of reasons – the art, the science, the ingenuity behind the mechanisms, the continuation of a craft dating back centuries, the look, the feel, the freedom from batteries and tethers and cords.

But lately it’s really come down to this: When I look at my watch, it gives me the time. It asks nothing in return. It’s a loyal companion without demands.

In contrast, if I look at my phone for the time, it takes my time. It tempts me. The time is paired with notifications. The time is paired with a big color screen. The time is paired with a temporary cure for boredom. It seduces. It’s a rare moment that you look at your phone and you only see the time. I don’t like that trade.

I use my phone when I need what my phone does. I use my watch when I need the time. I like being on time, I like knowing where I stand in the hour, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the day. I look at my watch a lot, and I just love that it doesn’t look back.


Thanks to Krys for the insight.

17 thoughts on “Why wear a watch when I have the time on my phone?

  1. Beautiful watch. It’s a piece of jewelry, too.

    I like the Apple Watch because I know just a _little bit_ more than the time. Oh, my dentist is calling. I don’t have to reach into my pocket and see who it us. I can just ignore that for now. I find myself using my phone throughout the day a lot less.

  2. If you have small hands, handling the ever-increasingly-large and thin and expensive slabs of technology all day means a hugely increased frequency of drops and damage. As Fred said, a smartwatch lets you leave it in your pocket.

    Also, I find the notifications more meaningful; reminders to stand, reminders to breathe, and of course reminders of upcoming events. In an odd sense it is more like the events are following me rather than vice versa, which means my time in between is more open and fluid.

    There’s probably an interesting study to be done of the perception of time and space by the generation that has always known smartphones. Many of our cultural precepts about time in the West are linked to a kind of Taylorist / Calvinist / capitalist thinking; your worth is measured in money, and time is money, wealth buys you time, time efficiency is often rated higher than, say, quality or satisfaction. Once time bends to us instead of the reverse, will those values change?

  3. I was pushed back into wearing a watch by having kids. Not just needing to know the time more often, but needing to find out the time while holding stuff. Seems like as a parent your always holding stuff/kids. And finally with kids, pulling out a phone can lead to demands.

  4. I’m with you on this one, Jason… but I’m not surprised by that. I happen to appreciate the unselfishness of my watch.

  5. Not just any mechanical watch, but an Alaska Project. Brilliant choice, sir. We share the same tastes.

  6. I am trying to guess the time instead of wearing a watch. It is a minimalistic experiment. I love the freedom associated to reducing the number of gadgets that need to be recharged, updated,…

    …by the way…nice strap…🤤

  7. Watches are bling too, and it’s OK to like bling. I have both my grandpa’s Omegas and plan on refurbishing them someday. In the meantime I wear a Citizen.

  8. Sometimes I look at my phone to check the time then I get distracted by something. I put the phone away and I forgot to check the time.

    It rarely happens when I look at my watch.

  9. Cannot resist commenting on this topic!

    I love my watch for much of the same reasons – looking at my watch centers me in the spacetime continuum. It is 12:09 PM on 6/5/2019 and I am in Mountain View California.

    My watch is water-proof – and I rarely remove it.

    My watch is atomic – mechanical watches are brilliant gadgets and well crafted, no doubt. But why get time from an approximation, when you can get it from the definition of time?

    My watch is solar powered – no battery replacements, no cords, it just works infinitely.

  10. Likewise, I’ve started carrying a pocket notebook next to my phone to jot down quick notes when I’m away from my larger A5 notebook at my desk. Both allow me to think without fiddling with my phone’s keyboard.

  11. Jason, I couldn’t agree more with your reasons for having and using a mechanical watch. I think it’s nice to have something analog in a world of digital devices, something that connects you with history, something that will outlive you (when taken care of), and something that you can pass on to your children.

    The thing with wearing a smartwatch is you’re always connected. You can think of that as either incredibly freeing (because you can get away with not using your phone anymore) or you can think of it as a leash (this is how I see it) that restricts you in some way, but it’s all a matter of perspective.

    Most executives I work with nowadays are wearing one smartwatch or another. They are always amazed to see me wear a mechanical watch. I also happen to be a watch collector, but that’s besides the point. Anyway, I shared some of my thoughts on the value of analog in a digital world in my recent piece, if y’all want to read more.

  12. I’ve given this some thought, long before reading this article. Yes, I still wear a watch. At work, it’s a fine analog watch.

    I have a number of good reasons, but the main one is that it’s always available, extremely easy to access, and it shows me the the time — at all times, instantly.

    “But when you’re at your desk, it’s you literally have three computer screens showing you the current date and time!” people might say.

    Yes, but I find that I often want to know the time when those “wonderful” technology screens are *NOT* showing the time. Like when they’re locked, or when the computer is rebooting. And I’m away from my desk on a regular basis.

    “But your phone shows the time.”

    Yes, but I’d have to get it out. My watch is on my wrist. All I have to do is look at it, and I can see the current time.

    (Smartwatch? Yes, I have one. And I’ve been known to wear it. But honestly, it’s not a very good watch.)

  13. Like pen and paper, the watch removes unnecessary distractions and has stood the test of time. We desire for more but we actually yearn for less.

  14. Once talked to a medical doctor, the head of a state U med school, about his efforts to get med students to wear and use watches for the simple fact of cleanliness. Medical personnel wash their hands but who washes their phone at the same time?

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