I’ve always loved technology because it’s done so much to make our lives better. But when smartwatches started taking off, I was less than impressed. Even today, I do not wear a smartwatch. Instead, I wear mechanical watches, a technology that was superseded by battery-powered quartz watches and now smartwatches.
For me, smartwatches don’t solve a problem. The main reason people want a smartwatch is to deal with the overwhelming number of notifications they get on their phones. A smartwatch makes it easier to act on or dismiss notifications but it’s not solving the problem of notification overload. To be able to do that, the watch will have to be smarter, only showing relevant notifications to you at the right time. Technology just isn’t there yet.
I consider myself a fairly connected person. I have Pushbullet send my phone’s notifications to my desktop and laptop so I don’t miss anything. On top of that, my Moto X has a feature called “Active Display,” which shows me notifications with a wave of my hand. It seems silly to me that Motorola created such a useful feature for its phone, only to tell you to buy its Moto 360 smartwatch that solves the same problem. OK, the Moto 360 does a lot more than just show notifications like track your fitness, but a stand-alone fitness tracker will do that for a fraction of the cost.
Notification overload is a big issue for me, and that’s why I use Inbox instead of Gmail. Messages are grouped for easy reading and archiving/deleting and I’ve set it up so I only get notifications for important messages. Wearing a smartwatch makes me anxious and compelled to act on notifications right now. By moving notifications from the phone in your pocket to the watch on your wrist, notifications are more distracting than ever. As much as I like being connected, I also value disconnecting, like having a conversation with a friend without glancing at my phone or watch.
When I do wear my Moto 360, I’m always excited to switch back to a mechanical watch. Smartwatches just don’t have the soul of a mechanical or quartz watch. I look down at the Moto 360 and it’s just a dead screen. You have to raise your arm just right for it to wake up and show you the time. I want to know the time immediately without having to make an exaggerated gesture but it’s impossible to keep the screen on at all times because of battery life.
With a normal watch, you get to build a relationship with it. But with a smartwatch, you change its face, install new apps and morph it into a tool for your needs at that moment. You don’t build a relationship with a smartwatch like you do a normal watch. When your smartwatch becomes obsolete, will you hesitate throwing it out?
As silly as it sounds, I’m attached to each and every one of the normal watches. Each one has a soul and a story. I still have my Casio G-Shock I bought fourteen years ago that refuses to die. I wore it every day and to the pool to time my laps during swim class. It sat dead in my drawer for years until I replaced its battery and it worked like new again. I’m certain this watch will survive the apocalypse.
My Omega day-date was passed down from my uncle to my father, then to me. My uncle wore it to his contracting jobs and beat the crap out of it but it still ticks. I polished it up, put a new band on it, and it looks like new. It sat firmly on my wrist as I made a speech at my sister’s wedding.
When it came time to see my friends get married in Maui, I decided to take my Steinhart GMT Ocean 1 dive watch since I knew I would be snorkeling. Its ability to keep track of different time zones and its 300 meter depth rating made it the perfect travel companion, ready for any adventure. When I saw my friends share their vows in front of the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, the Steinhart was on my wrist. When I saw a sea turtle for the first time, the watch was ticking away on my arm. These are memories I’ll never forget and looking at that watch brings back those memories.
Lately, I’ve been wearing my 1977 Seiko 6139-6002, AKA “Pogue,” nonstop. This is the first vintage watch I purchased for myself because it has such a cool story. Back in 1973, astronaut Colonel William Pogue bought his Seiko 6139 on the Skylab 4 mission. At the time, NASA astronauts were given flight-approved Omega Speedmasters to use in space but Pogue wanted to bring his Seiko because he was familiar with it. He used it to time engine burns but relied on the Omega for extravehicular activities (EVAs). According to Pogue, the Seiko worked flawlessly in zero-gravity and is now considered the first automatic chronograph used in space. Now I have that slice of history on my wrist. How cool is that?
Will people have such fond memories and stories of their smartwatches? I don’t think so. A smartwatch is like a computer or smartphone; just another piece of technology that will be forgotten when something new comes along. A good watch will last many lifetimes but a smartwatch will only last as long as its battery works and its software is supported.
I wake up in the morning excited to put on my normal watch. Looking down at my watch throughout the day is like seeing a good friend who is always there for you. You have memories together and are making new ones every day.