Welcome back to our third installment where we ask wristwatch industry professionals and enthusiasts if smartwatches are really watches. Last time, we checked in with Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte, general manager of Montres Journe America to get his insight. Now we pose this question to Dell Deaton, James Bond wristwatch scholar, and RT Custer, chief executive officer and co-founder of Vortic Watch Company.
“Wasn’t this question answered centuries ago?
“Watches are an accessory for women. The most important consideration is in the decoration and appeal, with any notion of precision in timekeeping function deemed irrelevant, if not impractical.
“Correction: That definition was updated more recently somewhere in response to management needs of the American railroad industry. At that point, if memory serves, a watch had to have a dial with Arabic numerals.
“Today, some very highly placed people in the watch industry insist that any timekeeper with a quartz oscillator is not a ‘real’ watch.
“Clearly, there is no universally agreed-upon definition of watch. And without that, there’s no definitive answer to this question. At best, we’ll probably just learn what the person who’s answering the question wants the answer to be. Maybe I’m with them.
“As I write this, I’m wearing my Rolex Submariner Date (James Bond watch, Licence to Kill). It is among those that do what I need a watch to do for me. If a smartwatch can do all that I need it to do without compromise, then in my book it’s a watch.
“I haven’t heard objection to mechanical watches that have additional moonphase complications nor quartz watches with pseudo-analog displays that animate chronograph functions. People seem to agree: These, rightfully, are watches. No worries.
“Then what’s the objection to a watch that also happens to communicate with my phone, TV, and computer?
“As long as it doesn’t mess with my car, that is.”
“The smartwatch is a watch. Anything worn on the wrist that tells time defines a “watch.” For that kind of thing, it’s “to each his own.” My friend Aaron Stark at WatchPonder.com put it best: The price you’re willing to spend on a watch depends on what job you are hiring that watch to do. The smartwatch consumer is hiring a watch to serve many purposes and most smart watches are toys or will be thrown away when they stop working. They are not investments.
An American Artisan Series watch is a piece of art, a piece of history for the wrist. Someday we’ll be able to claim them as investments. A Rolex or many high-end Swiss watches are investments and status symbols.
I think you get where I stand on the issue. I’m an open-minded millennial who will pretty much entertain any conversation you want to have, but when we get a bit deeper, I’m going to ask a lot of “whys.” Why do you need the watch? Why did you buy that watch? Why does that watch seem appealing? Why did your wife allow you to buy that watch? Why did you justify the price for that piece? Why exactly do you wear that one over the other ones you already own? Why did you need a fifth watch? Why did you need the first watch? Why do you need to even know what time it is?”