Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 19, 2021

If you’re noticing more bare-wristed kids who are compulsively looking at their cellphone displays, there’s a reason: As wireless phones become more ubiquitous and individually indispensable, more users are using them as their personal timepieces, leading to a decline in watches as always-worn accessories.

Yet another societal trend that indicates that I’m either way ahead of the curve, or else hopelessly stuck in mental/behavioral adolescence. Fact is, I’ve used my mobile phone as my timepiece ever since I first started carrying a wireless, some eight years ago. And before that, I never wore a watch, and didn’t own one for long stretches (right now, I don’t have one, aside from some giveaway trinket or two stuffed into a junk drawer). So, at 34 years old, I’m with the youngsters on this one.

I think the last watch I wore with any regularity was a “Six Million Dollar Man” model, circa third or fourth grade. When it expired, so did my use for an everyday personal timepiece (until the cellular networks were up).

I guess I’ve always eschewed watches, even while growing up. I’m not completely sure why. I guess it was just one more thing to have to put on and take off, plus have to worry about losing or breaking. I also figured that I’d be compulsively looking at my wrist every two minutes to check for the time, even when it absolutely didn’t matter whether or not I knew it at that exact second. In fact, I tend to do that every so often with my current phone — made more maddening in that I’ll often check three or four times in a row, because I manage to forget the time the instant I put the phone back into my pocket (one of my more annoying habits, at least to me).

The other factor in going watch-less is that, indeed, unless you’re going hiking or something, it’s hard to find an environment where you don’t have a clock on hand. Right now, where I sit, I’ve got my computer monitor displaying the ever-present time of day in the lower-right corner; and beyond that but well within my line of sight, there are two traditional clocks (wall and table models) that clearly show the time. It’s probably the same for most people: In the office, in the car, or in the mall, there’s pretty much always a clock around.

That covers the practical use. There’s also the fashion function of a watch, with gold and silver and bejeweled models worn more for showy purposes than anything else. This probably influenced me too: I don’t wear any jewelry, and a watch pretty much qualifies as an accoutrement in this instance as well. However, this also influences the choice of cellphone, too: Lots of people pick out their phones on the basis of how it looks (including, to a degree, me).

But the article I referenced (which, frankly, is a little weak overall) indicates that this usage is a generational thing: Younger people who have mostly grown up with their mobile phones practically fused to their hands are more likely to forego watches, while older folks are more accustomed to go with their wristwear. I can see that, and also see why watch manufacturers might start worrying and start counteracting this trend now, before their products become relics.

I’d like to get a better idea of how common or uncommon this is. I think I have a fairly broad cross-section of visitors here. So tell me, in the Feedback box below: Do you use your phone or your watch to check the time? (Or do you already know what time it is?)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/19/2005 12:22:35 PM
Category: Question Time!, Society, Tech
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7 Feedbacks »
  1. No watch for me — always got my cell phone with me, and as you pointed out, there is a wide range of time devices everywhere I go: wall clocks, some TV channels, the DVD player, the oven clock.

    Comment by david — 12/19/2005 @ 05:38:40 PM

  2. I use my phone most the time, I’m lucky to work in an enviroment mostly devoid of clocks so I rely on the phone hanging around my neck to tell me what time it is.
    From a young age all but metal watches straps have caused my wrist to comeout in a rash so I only tend to wear a watch for a short time when I’m in enviroments were my phone is switched off like in church.

    Comment by Mark — 12/19/2005 @ 06:15:58 PM

  3. I wear a watch - in fact, the same watch I have worn since 1980.

    It keeps lousy time, but my cell phone (Nokia 3390) actually keeps lousier time, and the network’s time signals are always about two or three minutes off.

    Comment by CGHill — 12/19/2005 @ 08:28:40 PM

  4. CGHill, I was born in 1981, so I have no chance of beating u there. I used to wear watches, but after loosing a nice one jumping a fence, I havn’t bought another (just use my phone instead).
    I feel watches are better than phones for both style and function, but I can’t justify the cost of a decent watch at the moment.
    PS: I think watches will eventually swallow phones, not the other way round. Btw, interesting topic.

    Comment by the new normal — 12/19/2005 @ 09:37:37 PM

  5. I like the idea of wearing a watch (it seems very sophisticated), and have about seven cheap ones to choose from. I never remember to put one on, and don’t miss it. The phone is the time-keeper, but that matters not to a musician (have you ever seen a concert start on time?)

    Comment by tommy — 12/20/2005 @ 09:58:08 AM

  6. Related to this, I’m one of those types who can’t abide to go anywhere without my cellphone in my pocket or in my hand. And I’m talking anywhere — a business meeting down the hall, the bathroom, whatever.

    Naturally, I’ll turn the ringer off at appropriate times, and almost never answer the phone while engaged with someone/something else. But still, I like to keep it at hand.

    I have friends and acquaintences who leave their mobile phones in their car, or at home during a night out, etc., and I cannot fathom it (isn’t it the point of a mobile phone that you can use it anywhere, anytime?).

    Comment by CT — 12/20/2005 @ 03:13:44 PM

  7. As a kid, we’ve been told to wear our watches every time we go out, but ever since I got my phone, I have been wearing my watch much less frequently. I just rely on my cell almost all the time. My skin got rid of the watch marks, too.

    Comment by geri — 01/12/2021 @ 01:42:20 AM

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