Do You Wear a Watch? Probably Not.

Jonathan wrote this on January 15, 2011 in . It has 8 comments.

The other day in the office the topic came up: does anyone wear a watch anymore to tell the time? A cursory glance around the office showed a lot of bare wrists and we thought, why not use Verify to poll online and find out? So we asked people: Do you check the time by wearing a watch, or checking your phone?

The Trends

Watches, despite their relative scarcity, are actually a pretty bullish market. The watch market consistently and dependably grew from 2004 to 2008, when it suffered a hard crash along with the rest of the financial world. Mechanical watches especially have been growing quickly and account for roughly 3 in every 4 watches sold. The Swiss Watch Industry compiles a lot of great data on the market - expected, given what a large industry watchmaking is in Switzerland.

What this suggests is that watches are, in general, not on the way out. Our results, however, paint a slightly different pictures.

The Results

Overwhelmingly, respondents to our Verify test indicated they use their phone to tell the time — a margin of 4 to 1 in a sample of over 100 respondents. Their answers give some indications as to why:

Picked Phone: Female, Age 25-30

Because it's not just another gimmick I have to wear all the time. It's always in my bag. Declutter, people.

Picked Watch: Male, Age 21-25

It's classy, and it goes to the point. You're not distracted to check e-mails or play Angry Birds.

Picked Phone: Male, Age 40-55

I find it hard to type with a watch on so I don't often wear a watch, and besides my iPhone is synced with the mother ship in Cupertino.

Picked Watch: Female, Age 30-40

I always have on my watch, but as I have more than one phone line (including landlines) I don't always keep my cell phone handy.

The Reasons

The reasoning on both sides broke down into a few key points. In defense of watches:

  • They're easier to access
  • They're more focused
  • They're classy.

...and in defense of phones:

  • They're ubiquitous
  • They're accurate
  • They're a device you have to carry anyways. Why carry more?

There was not significant skew in the results in men vs. women - across the board phones are overwhelmingly more popular. Where there was an interesting shift was in two age ranges: 18 to 21, and 40 to 55. Both of those age groups were closer to a 60/40 split in favor of phones, indicating that with an older age group watches maintain some of their attraction; and that attraction may be being renewed in a younger generation.

These results are of course gleaned primarily from respondents on Twitter, so a strong technology bent is assumed. Within a test group of entirely investment bankers the numbers may be quite different, but with Verify we did learn that across men and women, watches are old news. Full disclosure though: I actually do wear a watch. Think watches are outmoded and dead? Still a proponent of what many are just calling functional jewelry? Sound off in the comments!


It has 8 comments.

Bryan (ZURB) says

Love this. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a resurgence in watches over the next decade- they seem like a luxury item. When I stopped wearing a watch 9 years ago, I alternated between 3 or 4.


Jeremy (ZURB) says

I actually purchased a nice watch last year with a stylish metal band, but had to give it up because it collided with the titanium casing on my laptop. These technology worlds were colliding.

I actually use wall clocks and my laptop clock more. It'd be interesting to test those and also to ask, 'how often do you get the time from other people?'


Tommskee (ZURB) says

I always have on my G-Shock! I cant always just whip out my cell phone, especially not just to tell the time.


Federica Sibella (ZURB) says

Interesting poll. I stopped wearing a watch when I was a teen: it was just kind of a "rebel" behaviour telling my parents that I wasn't going to respect their time for coming home :) Then it became an habit (even before I had my first cell phone): cities are full of clocks and you can always ask someone. Now with laptops and cell phones I really feel I would never wear a watch any more in my life!


Vlahn (ZURB) says

A watch all the way. Any job where I have to move around and/or don't have the luxury of pockets in my clothing, a phone is a liability. I only take my watch off to shower, and its been that way for 10 years. When I want to know the time, my brain has already instinctively bought my hand up towards my face.

I don't think I could trade that 'instant' watch experience for the awkwardness of pulling out a phone from wherever its stored and probably needing to press a button to wake the screen up.

Also remember there are places and activities where you don't want to be carrying your phone either. Swimming, Mountain Climbing, Cycling.. even driving for that matter! I daresay the proponents of watches are likely those who aren't bound to a desk for most of the day or have a need to always know what time it is.

I think I fit into both categories. :D


Anonymous (ZURB) says

There's a few reasons why I wear a watch even though hardly anyone in my generation does (at my desk though I use my computer clock since it's right there and atomic synced):

a) You can check the time off your wrist much quicker than off a gadget in your pocket (why I don't use a pocket watch as well).

b)People talk about looking tacky wearing a watch, but you really look stupid fumbling for a cell phone in your pocket/purse just to tell the time, especially in the middle of a face to face conversation with someone (hang on while I check the time in the most indiscreet method possible.)

b) If you work in an office environment with few clocks on the wall, it's inappropriate to pull your phone out every 15 minutes. You know you're checking the time, but everyone else that sees you thinks you're checking your text messages AT WORK. This same "inappropriate" factor plays in other locations as well.

c) Watches, frankly, can look quite sexy (as a secondary function to telling time). I wore a digital throughout my teenage years but now that I'm past that, I've tired of digital and wanted to go analog. Bought a nice $300 skeleton watch where I can see the intricate gearing and it looks gorgeous.



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