Carrying a cell phone means always having the time in brightly lit digital exactitude. No wonder that younger folks who never developed the wristwatch habit don’t wear them. They check the time by reaching into their coat or pants and looking at their cell. In a way, it’s almost a century-old throwback to pocket watch days.
Regardless of convenience, I haven’t surrendered my watch. It’s not out of affection for a particular timepiece or mere habit, but because my analog model does things no digital readout can. Even though my watch is ordinary and inexpensive, it has a beauty to its heft, numerical display, and movement. There’s a certain human aspect to its face and hands. A Timex executive I spoke with recently acknowledged that it’s hard to design a digital watch that’s handsome because they are naturally two dimensional and black. Expensive watches are generally analog because they can be works of art.
Digital watches also suffer the psychological disadvantage of giving only the current time. What we really want to know when glancing at a watch is not just what time it is, but what time it is not. We often want to see how much of the day has elapsed or how many minutes before our next appointment. A traditional watch enables us to visualize time past and time forward in the divisions of hours and minutes on its face. With hands in motion, the passage of time becomes almost palpable.
Inasmuch as the tools we use frame our perception of the world, I think I’ll stick by my analog watch. Knowing the time at any given moment is not enough.