What makes a watch, a watch?

Posted by Phill Farrugia on 21 May
Phill Farrugia

1. a small timepiece worn typically on a strap on one's wrist.
synonyms: timepiece, chronometer, small clock, timer.

Time is a notion that precedes the invention of the watch. Clocks tell the time. A sundial tells the time. A watch offers something far more useful and worthwhile, it provides timely information. Until recently this idea of timely information has only ever been considered in terms of the measurement of time itself.

Think about the word ‘watch’. Your immediate visual association is one of a traditional clock face. It has an hourly hand, a minute hand and a second hand that is constantly moving. This is so ubiquitous a connection that it goes without saying, and for good reason. Timepieces have been around for centuries and have only ever had a single use - measurement of time.

Swiss Railway Clock

If you’ve ever seen a Swiss Railway Clock in action you’ll know it is a huge, bold and unwavering statement. Its stark red hand sweeps endlessly. The clock need not serve any other purpose than to make you aware that time is moving. It communicates in only one language, a language woven throughout history.

Ancient Egyptians heavily depended on the cycles of seasons. Obelisks acted as sundials casting a shadow that marked a distinct time of year. Time played an important part in dictating the fluctuations of climate and tides on the Nile River, the centre of their spiritual universe.

In the 18th century the Industrial Revolution introduced the concept of the 9-5 workday. Time was money. It became intrinsic to the economy and to culture, productivity and innovation. Henry Ford’s greatest accomplishment was efficiency. By introducing the assembly line he reduced the time it took to produce the Ford Model T.

Throughout their existence watches have been manufactured in many forms, shapes, sizes and colours. Some are more sophisticated; others find beauty in simplicity. And yet travel anywhere in the world and you will always be greeted by that same familiar watch face.

But we now live in a digital world. Time is more important than it ever has been and yet it is readily accessible everywhere and on everything. Time on its own is no longer timely information. By removing this element of time from the equation, the traditional watch’s intended purpose has become irrelevant. It lives on as a symbol of culture, fashion and style. A token of remnant value that has since passed.

iOS Notifications

Individuals touch much more valuable information each day than just the time. Messages, reminders, calendars and alerts all make up a constant feed that drives day to day life. These small blips of information are insistent on our immediate undying attention. It contributes to an ever growing tension between the digital and the physical.

By shifting the notion of timely information away from time itself and towards these emerging forms of interaction the entire definition of a watch has been re-defined. A watch now has the potential to counteract the imbalance of technology and reduce the tension. It brings the essence of a watch into the modern day, taking on an entirely new purpose as a purveyor of digital information and a mediator of its influence on human behaviour.

All the watches

Apple Watch introduces new, useful and exciting ways to provide access to information that live up to its potential as a truly modern experience. As a watch it plays an intimate role in our daily lives, but as a piece of technology it communicates a whole new sense of timely information. It has been carefully and deliberately curated by a wearer's own personal taste to be so prevalent it is worn as clothing.

The nature of wearing technology on our wrist allows timely information to surface in less demanding ways. Haptic feedback provides a physical element beyond the bounds of the screen. A wearer can feel different types of information without effort. Glances encourage micro-interactions that provide a broader overview in less time and with less demand for immediate attention. Digital touch paves the way for a more intimate and exciting relationship between a wearer and the people they love. Nothing provides a greater emotional connection than the sense of touch. It’s always on your wrist, on your mind and within reach.

Sales data, limited to US shoppers so far, reveals that an estimated 957,000 people bought the new Apple Watch on Friday, according to Slice Intelligence.

Demand for a watch that is more in line with the capabilities of modern technology is well and truly here. People are buying watches and are living in a world where the distinction between physical objects and digital technology has blurred together. This is where technology is right now.

Watches are a more relevant access point to information than they have ever been before. Wearers connect with the digital world in more subtle, deliberate and refined ways. There is no longer a tension between the immediacy of the digital world and the resistance of the physical. You might ask ‘what makes a watch, a watch?’ and no longer is the answer just ‘a timepiece’.

Topics: Apple Watch, Apple, Wearables