Fading into oblivion: The case of analog watches

Today, I was watching a Malayalam movie depicting the story of a clocksmith, which took me through the thoughts and memories of having and wearing a wrist watch, especially analog ones. The broad question that popped up is: with the monopoly of smartphones and other electronic gadgets, what is the point in wearing an analog wrist watch in this digital age? Apparently, analog watches are slowly fading into oblivion, though some people argue that it is only the prime need of watches that has disappeared, but not the love for them as it appears that branded analog watches (if not, one with chronographs) have become a fashion icon. In fact, people don’t generally realize that analog watch is a piece of craft work. However, everyone embraces analog watches when someone wants to compliment. Similarly, wall clocks have merely become home decors yielding to digital clocks that show date, humidity and temperature in addition to time. At the same time, we must not ignore that the purpose of a watch has also been subjected to redefinition, as seen for smart watches showcasing technological advancements such as GPS navigation, call and text notifications, heart rate, activity tracking, and so on. Some people call it as a ‘device’ instead of ‘watch’; yet another example of how connected devices hold sway in our lives. Obsession of switching into smart watches also perhaps is emerging from the notion of FOMO: fear of missing out from latest trends. On the flip side, there is another hype going on; some people are coming back to analog watches as a part of ‘digital detox’ with the intention of reducing usage of digital devices. Many would agree that pulling out phone from pocket to check time eventually ends up in spending atleast 10-15 minutes on reading notifications, scrolling through news feed etc. Regardless, there is no doubt that both analog and digital versions have their own pros and cons in terms of aesthetic appeal, cost, legibility, convenience, dials and functionalities, and it is solely a personal choice to go for either one.

I am not particularly a fan of wrist watches, and I have only an analog one with a leather strap that I have been using over past six years. I am so much accustomed to checking watch for time, and I can’t be the only person doing so. For some reasons, I don’t like smart or digital watches and never had one. When it comes to mobile phone lock screen display clock, I don’t like the analog though.

As a millennial, I have several childhood memories related to analog watches that I always cherish. Before water-proof watches arrived, there were days where moisture and water were regular visitors of the dial. An immediate therapy for this was to bury inside raw-rice sack or to show under sun with crown pulled. In a worst-case scenario, it will be taken to a clocksmith. Clocksmiths were interesting personalities to me at that time as they were in possession of super tiny and cute repair accessories. I also liked their magnifiers. As a kid, I always wondered why all the clocks on the wall were set to time 10:10. From there, I saw watches having sweeping second hand dial unlike ticking and poor me wondered if the former was faster. Another type of watches I remember I had are one with changeable straps and bezels. The advantage is that one can choose any color of strap and bezel that suits their dress. It is still available in market. Having those types of watches was a ‘matter of pride and jealousy’ among girls. As a result, it did not survive for long.

Watches brought from Gulf countries had a special attention. Family members returning from gulf countries were supposed to gift watches as much as possible. Metallic chain strap (golden or silver) was popular among them. Wearing a foreign watch for occasions such as marriage was also something ‘special’. For this reason, people used to borrow watches from neighbours to attend auspicious occasions .Receiving a foreign watch was just like being honored with an award. Therefore, losing a watch was also heartbreaking. One particular instance that I remember is that my mother had a brand new black colored watch when I was five. While we were on our way to meet my grandma, she lost her watch in a KSRTC bus. The moment she got down, she noticed that the watch has gone missing. She was so disappointed and literally cried that she could not wear it at least once enough. Unlike now, matters like missing something like watch, pen or umbrella were never taken lightly. We did not give up; we got hold on that bus again during the next schedule and searched thoroughly, making all passengers to wait. It was in vain. The conductor in-charge also joined our agony. It might sound silly now, but at times I wonder the value we give for any commodity has gone too low than before, for which I don’t know the reason. The same is true when it comes to repairing of watches: whether it be analog, digital or smart watch, no one cares about getting it repaired, instead it just gets replaced by new and upgraded ones.

While the smart-age has mainly shook off youngsters, older age groups still prefer vintage analog watches, I think. People who are on a minimalistic route also tend to embrace analog over digitals. Concepts like ‘digital detox’ may pull more youngsters towards analogs to get emancipated from screens. One might change or upgrade any of their electronic gadgets every five years or so thinking the old one as outdated, but for an analog watch it is a different story; they are made to last .

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