Traditional Watches vs Smart Watches - Why We Still Prefer Traditional

When is a watch not a watch? When it’s a smartwatch. This may seem like a somewhat glib comment, but rest assured there’s more than a small element of truth to it. The fact that smartwatches are called smartwatches at all is more of a linguistic accident than a comment on their actual function. As anyone who loves ‘traditional’ watches will confirm, the watch they wear has one primary purpose above all others – to tell the time. Of course, over the years many millions of watches have been produced which do much more than tell the time. They give the date, they tell the time in multiple time zones, they might even include a thermometer and a compass. These added complications only ever detract from the primary purpose of the watch, however, as well as producing timepieces which tend to advertise themselves more than somewhat ostentatiously. Here at Luco Charles we think of ‘bling’ as being the subtle luxury of a gold plated case complimenting a real leather strap, rather than a watch which is the size of a dinner plate and weighs as much as the average laptop.

Besides its primary function, a traditional watch of the right type does serve an additional purpose of a kind – that of sending out a very strong set of signals about the person wearing it. All of this is why, as stated above, a smartwatch is not really a watch.

When considering the vexed question of traditional watches vs smartwatches it may prove instructive to take a look at how popular smartwatches currently are. A ‘smartwatch’ in this instance, is a computer in much the same way that a smartphone or tablet is a computer. It just so happens, in the case of the smartwatch, that technology has advanced to the point at which the computer in question can be made small enough to wear on the wrist. The word ‘smartwatch’, therefore, is a combination of shorthand and clever marketing – when persuading people to invest in a computer which has been made so small it can actually be worn, the companies realised that the association with something as timeless, traditional and reliable as an actual watch would help to deal with any resistance.

The fact that smartwatches still represent a relatively new form of technology means that those who have purchased one thus far are likely to be the kind of ‘early adopters’ who tend to be first in line to get their hands on each and every new technological breakthrough. This means two things; firstly, that the average smartwatch wearer probably has a plethora of devices to which they can turn if they wish to tell the time and, secondly, that the recent drop off in the sales of smartwatches can be put down to the saturation of the early adopter market, and a hiatus while the average consumer waits for the inevitable bugs and glitches to be ironed out.

This decline in the global smartwatch market was reported in July this year by the Internet Data Corporation (IDC).This found (at least according to preliminary data) that sales of smartwatches had dropped, on a year-on-year basis, by 32%. Although the number of units actually shipped was still 3.5 million, the fact that it had dropped from the previous 5.1 million represents quite a cooling off. As happens with most new technologies, the market for smartwatches will probably level out over time, bearing in mind the fact that devices such as wearable fitness trackers will also be aimed at the same demographic, and that leaves us with the question of whether we prefer smartwatches or the more traditional competition.

As stated previously, a smartwatch is a wearable computer, rather than a watch, and as such it offers a continuation of the kind of functionality currently served by smartphones, tablets and laptops. Since most people now spend a considerable portion of each and every day interfacing with devices of this kind, the question needs to be asked as to whether we genuinely need yet another. Of course, the fans of smartwatches will contend that they offer all the features of other devices but in a more convenient form. Is something which you have to wear on your wrist actually more convenient if you need to consult it constantly, however? Much like Google Glass, which appears to represent technology offering solutions for which, as yet, there is little or no demand, wearable computers might actually turn out to be less convenient that the versions which you can prop up on a table, slide into your pocket and clip to the dashboard of your car.

On the convenience front, a traditional watch will leave a smartwatch standing each and every time. When you want to know the time, there it is, accurate to seconds in days, weeks or even years. The right traditional watch, what’s more, sends out a signal about the person wearing it, as, indeed, does a smartwatch. The difference is that a well-designed, minimally styled traditional watch will continue looking fantastic for decades to come, whereas the very latest technology, almost by default, tends to date remarkably quickly. Of course, that might not end up being an issue, since emerging technologies tend to be replaced by new models – either through obsolescence or malfunction – on a frighteningly quick cycle. Try to think of anyone you know who is still using the same smartphone they had five years ago, for example. The right traditional watch, on the other hand, will not only last the lifetime of the person who purchased it, it will still look fantastic and still keep good time when the decision to pass it on to the next generation is reached.

Nor will the battery of a traditional watch need recharging every few hours. ‘Maintenance’ will consist of winding the watch occasionally, if that, whilst it will never freeze, crash, stop to update itself, require a reboot or nag you about how many calories you had at lunch. Whilst you may be able to shop and make phone calls on your smartwatch, that also means you’re carrying around a lot of data which unscrupulous individuals might like to get their hands on. If you lose your traditional watch you’ll naturally be upset. Misplace your smartwatch and you’ll have to start freezing bank accounts, resetting passwords and looking out for signs of identity theft.

You’d expect us to be in favour of traditional watches, of course, but we honestly feel that there’s simply no competition. Do you want to spend lots of money on the latest tech ‘toy’, one which might be worth owning in five years’ time but will probably have to be replaced in three, or do you want to invest in what amounts to a piece of wearable art, a testament to good taste and craftsmanship, and an investment which is never going to date? We know what our answer to that question is….